The Three Elements:
GET POSITIVE (YOU ARE NOWHERE NEAR SATURATION AND NO, THEY WON’T WANT MORE MONEY): 5 positive feedbacks to 1 negative (constructive) comment. The ratio: 5:1.
GET CURIOUS AS MUCH AS YOU GET GOOD AT ADVOCATING YOUR CAUSE: Ensure that for every act of explaining or defending you engage in an inquiry: ask questions and gather data. The ratio – 1:1
GET A PERSPECTIVE WHILE YOU ENSURE YOU KNOW YOUR STUFF: Discuss others (market, the stores, staff issues, recession…) as much as you discuss what you are doing. The ratio: 1:1[i]
Which skills do you need to hone?
The ability to give a clear message to different audiences and ensure it has been received as you have intended it. It also includes becoming proficient at seeking what’s good and works well and highlighting it. Practice being concise and precise.
The ability to listen well: ensure you received a message as the communicator meant it, without interpreting it (in other words: avoid selective hearing).
Curiosity and Advocacy:
If you feel bored and unmotivated, upset or angry, try replacing it by getting curious: what is going on? What made the person do that thing that seems so silly to you? Don’t guess: ask.
At the same time, become good at explaining what you need, want and are worried about (which is another name for advocacy).
Remember: people cannot guess what you need and want. They may, but they often do not know enough about what it is to be in your shoes. Ensure they understand by being clear on what it is that you need to be effective, what you require from them, specifically, and how it fits in with your core purpose, personal style and available resources.
Perspective Taking Capacity:
The ability to have a bird’s eye view perspective on life in general and on your core purpose in the business specifically can be seen as a developmental stage[ii]. Personal development is an ongoing process, requiring reflection: what are the rules you abide by – are they your own? Do they fit your value system? Are you constantly reviewing the facts you learned about life and adjusting your beliefs, or do you insist on adhering to a few truisms, rules and patterns that may not be in line with the changes around you?
Learn to look for your blind spots and challenge yourself. Which beliefs are still yours and which are just what you took on from your parents, church, society, bosses? Who are you when stripped of all your professional roles and titles?
Especially look out for feedback from those who know you which suggest you are not flexible, set in your ways, or not open to new ideas. Also seek for clues as to how well you are coping with conflict. Especially between entities that are important to you. Does it make you feel torn or very uncomfortable? Or can you see it as part of life, inquire what is going on, focus on solutions and always look to maintain everyone’s self worth intact and the relationship unharmed? Are you resilient? Can you live with ambiguity for a while without feeling anxious or unmotivated?
The more you invest in growing, adapting to change, taking a step back to ensure you are acquiring the bird’s eye view – the better leader you become. Ensure you leave time for those activities.
How to do that? Get regular feedback (360 Degrees preferably), have meaningful performance appraisals, have regular feedback sessions with your colleagues, clients, suppliers, and subordinates; engage periodically in executive coaching; attend workshops and lectures, and read, read, read.
Or, in short: Make curiousity your best ally.
[i] Losada and Heaphy in 2004 studied 60 business teams, checking their communication habits or patterns in 3 categories. Highest performance teams showed the abovementioned ratios.
[ii] Robert Kegan’s “Order of Mind” work on human development refers. These are the developmental stages, or Orders (they do not always follow a linear line: we spend time in all first three, not all of us make it to four, few of us reach five and even then we all slip back to lower stages at times).The First Order (UNREFLECTIVE) – early childhood – no ability to understand “durable objects”; no retention of rules, things seem to just happen arbitrarily. There is a need to constantly learn about the world. Second Order (NEEDS DRIVEN) – older children—seven to ten—and adolescents, but also some adults: People at this developmental stage are self-centred, i.e. see others as helping or disturbing their strive to fulfill their desires. They develop some OWN beliefs and feelings. They realise that other people have those too and that there are rules, but they will try to figure out how to bypass the rule if it stands in their way. They will try to get their own needs fulfilled first. Empathy isn’t possible for them yet. When rules are not broken, it’s because of a fear of being caught; or a fear of retaliation. Third Order (OTHERS-AUTHORED) “Socialised” or “Traditional” Mind (older adolescents and the majority of adults): People at this stage no longer see others as simply a means to an end – they can subordinate their own desires to the wishes of others. They internalise the feelings and emotions of others and are guided by those people or institutions (like a church, a corporate, or a political party) that are most important to them. They are able to think abstractly, be self-reflective about their actions and the actions of others, and are devoted to some things that are greater than their own needs. But the major limitation – when there is a conflict between important others, they feel “torn in two” and cannot find a way to make a decision. There is no sense of what I want outside of others’ expectations or societal roles. (Typical to teenagers, but, it forms a personality flaw in adults)Kegan (1982) noted, “When I live in this balance as an adult I am the prime candidate for the assertiveness trainer, who may tell me that I need to learn how to stand up for myself, be more ‘selfish,’ less pliable, and so on, as if these were mere skills to be added on to whoever else I am. The popular literature will talk about me as lacking self-esteem, or as a pushover because I want other people to like me” (p. 96). Kegan goes on to point out that, the very notion of “self-esteem” is inappropriate at this Order because self-esteem implies an internal source for feeling good about oneself. Those at the Third Order don’t have an independently-constructed self to feel good about; their esteem is entirely reliant on others because they are, in many ways, made up of those around them. As long as they have someone whom he respects to help him make difficult decisions, he can do nearly anything in this village. Fourth Order— (SELF-AUTHORED) or “Modern” Mind (some adults): Adults here achieved all that those at the Third Order have, but have created a self that exists outside of its relationship to others. The opinions and desires of others are expereinced as distinctly outside of them. They have an internal set of rules and regulations—a self-governing system—which they use to make their decisions or mediate conflicts. They feel empathy for others, and take the wishes and opinions of others into consideration when making decisions. They don’t feel torn apart by the conflicts of those around them because they have their own system with which to make decisions. These are the people who “own” their work, who are self-guided, self-motivated, and self-evaluative. They can easily be the leaders. The Fourth Order leader may not be an excellent diplomat, however, because when other people don’t understand or see the need to follow his or her rules, he may be so invested in his or her own way of doing things that he cannot easily see connections between his ideas of what is Right and more foreign ideas of what is Right.Fifth Order—(SELF-TRANSFORMING) or “Postmodern” Mind(very few adults): These adults have learned the limits of their own inner system—and the limits of having an inner system in general. Instead of viewing others as people with separate and different inner systems, those at the Fifth Order see the similarities that are hidden inside what used to look like differences. Adults at the Fifth Order are less likely to see the world in terms of dichotomies or polarities. They are more likely to believe that what we often think of as black and white are just various shades of gray whose differences are made more visible by the lighter or darker colours around them. At this level, people have an ability to see processes and systems. It is widely believed that this category includes really great leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Ghandi and Mandela.
I work with clients who are willing to move forward in their professional and personal life, past unfulfilled dreams, limiting assumptions and regrets. Our common goal is to move away from “what if” to “let’s try”, bridging the gap by removing limiting beliefs, working through anxieties and setting new goals, in an accepting, non-judgmental, supportive, positive and safe environment.