There’s that old saying that two things in life are inevitable—death and taxes.
I think several other items can be added to that list, with one of them being conflict. Conflict is that uncomfortable, sometimes nasty stuff that happens when we feel threatened at the intersection of imbalances in power, money, or values:
- Power conflict is prompted by disparities in control and influence.
- Economic conflict results when there’s jockeying for access to and ownership of limited or scarce resources.
- Value conflict bubbles up when there are varying preferences, principles, and practices between people’s ways of life and their ideologies.
Differences, another item that can be add to the list of inevitables in life, rest at the heart of all conflict.
People’s reaction to differences isn’t dissimilar from their reaction to conflict. Some try to ignore it, others try to vanquish it.
Others outsource taking care of it. “Come on, sweetie,” implored my mom. “You and your sister have to get along. You’re the oldest, so smooth it out.”
We can love what we are, without hating what- and who we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings. ~ Kofi Annan, diplomat
When some people encounter the discord that’s prompted by differences, they, also like my mom, want the antagonism to go away.
That’s really not an option.
sometimes the differences in power, money, or values are just too broad or deep to be closed. In those cases, the best we can hope for is to manage the conflict, manage the middle ground, and lessen the potential for destruction.
6 methods for managing discord
Experts tell us six courses of action exist for managing conflict:
- Severing the connection
Avoidance might work in the short-term, but doing so is like playing whack-a-mole. We can’t hide forever from conflict.
Annihilation is effective in ending the discord. However, wiping someone or something out isn’t a viable method for addressing conflict except in cases of war or defensible homicide. (And some rightfully pushback on its need in those circumstances).
Severing the connection isn’t much better. While severing may be less violent than annihilation, it’s avoidance that can result in cool neglect at best or oppression at its worst.
Stalemate results when the parties to a conflict give up. In a stalemate, the conflict may appear to have been resolved, but usually it’s been hidden, suppressed, or reduced to a “cold war” of ridicule and criticism. Psychologists describe stalemate as an intermediate stage of conflict that results from “failure of contentious tactics, exhaustion of resources, loss of social support, and unacceptable costs.”
Compromise is reached through mutual agreement or negotiation. While the underlying differences may remain, the parties agree to split the differences. Everyone gives up a little. It’s like the lessons we learned in childhood about sharing our toys and playing nice in the sandbox.
Some people say that when you compromise, you’re selling out. Things are either my way or the highway.
Other people see the personal and societal benefit in give-and-take as they believe there’s no one answer for all beliefs, morals, and values.
In synthesis, the sixth method for managing discord, people agree to maintain their differences while transcending them in pursuit of a greater purpose. If that sounds a little contradictory or confusing, think about inhaling and exhaling. Life isn’t possible without doing both despite that they appear to be opposites. The same two sides of one coin principle applies to many of life’s joys and challenges. Love isn’t possible without thinking and feeling. Leadership isn’t effective without results and relationships.
Differences simply act as a yarn of curiosity unraveling until we get to the other side. ~Ciore Taylor, author
Achieving synthesis requires people to abandon the polarization that results from I’m right/you’re wrong positioning. Synthesis depends on people’s ability to see both sides of the coin. It requires that they focus more on “we” than “me.” It means people decide to be both curious and accepting of the differences that contribute to a greater good.
Synthesis demands that people shift their paradigm about conflict, discord, and differences. That shift involves moving away from seeing conflict as something negative to be stamped out to embracing differences with trust and acceptance.
Creating the bridge from one side of the coin to the other is something everyone can do—provided we put our heads and hearts into it. What do you think?
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
Louie was doing his job well, He was actively selling Marie on all the reasons why she needed to list his firm’s talent assessment on her company’s website. His boss would have been proud if he could have heard him.
He mentioned making money three times and improving metrics four times in response to Marie’s questions.
“Louie, thank you for reaching out,” said Marie. “I appreciate you taking the time to go things with me and answer my questions. From where I stand, there isn’t an alignment between our companies’ interests, so a partnership isn’t going to work.”
“If I may ask, what interests aren’t aligned?”
“Metrics and money.”
“Wait a minute, Marie. Aren’t you interested in metrics and making money?”
“I am, just in a different way than you are.”
“Money and metrics tell me our business is doing well, but they aren’t the reasons we’re in business.”
Back in the 1950’s, the average lifespan of a business was 61 years; today, it’s around 18. Marie wants to beat both of those metrics. Her moonshot goal is achieving what the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel in Japan has done. The hotel opened in 705 AD and is still operating. Impressive.
Professor Makoto Kanda from Meiji Gakuin University studied the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel and other long-term operating businesses to understand their longevity. His findings? These long-term organizations focus on a central belief, a purpose, that isn’t solely tied to making a profit.
That’s different! An orientation to something more than money and metrics is hard to find in most Wall Street analyses and reporting.
Numbers falls short when measuring success
Quantitative metrics are valuable for tracking and assessing the effectiveness of a specific business process. However, making quantitative metrics the only measure of success creates a number of other issues such as:
- People learn to game a system’s numbers and play to specific metrics.
- While many experts promote metrics and AI as the antidote to bias, that’s not really the case. Bias is built into data and algorithms, and that bias can skew greater over time as the algorithms learn.
- Initiative, innovation, and risk-taking lose out because they tend to harm metrics.
- The long-term is sacrificed for the short-term.
- Certain stakeholders are marginalized because of their minimal role in achieving the “right” numbers.
- People fall into binary, either/or thinking patterns that tend to produce an artificial value hierarchy between business practices. For example, it’s not uncommon for companies to believe that improving the bottom line is more important than employee engagement or development.
Quantitative measurements do help people manage more efficiently. However, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics makes managers both more efficient and effective.
A study by James Zenger found that 14 percent of employees viewed a manager who focused only on results as being a good manager. Twelve percent thought a manager who focused on relationships was good.
What about managers who delivered both results and relationships?
72 percent of employees saw them as a good manager. The really sad study finding? Less than one percent of managers focus on both results and relationships.
85 percent of managers prefer either results or relationships. Emphasizing one preference over another means there’s a counter balancing factor that isn’t being used. Picture the playground teeter-totter with one side up and the other down. A singular focus on metrics (teeter up) results in workplaces where employees aren’t fully engaged (teeter down).
The reverse is true, too. Too much emphasis on relationships and too little on results puts sustained business performance in jeopardy.
Going for both money and meaning
Marie’s business, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hotel, and the one percent in Zenger’s study focus on actions that aren’t solely tied to making a profit.
These individuals and organizations have mastered “teeter-totter” leadership in that they balance both quantitative and qualitative aspects of managing and leading. They:
- Get things done and are kind
- Have high standards and give positive feedback
- Have a plan and interact with people
- Speak directly and are encouraging
- Are decisive and consider impacts on others
- Are analytical and have good interpersonal skills
- Provide direction and listen to feedback
- Are candid and show empathy
- Think about today and tomorrow
- Are self-aware and trust others
- Compete externally and collaborate internally
- Measure KPIs as well as smiles and laughter
- Deliver the numbers and make people feel valued
Think about places where you’ve worked. Did you thrive in an environment where you were only as good as your last set of numbers? Or where you felt like you were valued and made a difference and were held accountable for solid work performance?
Now think about your leadership legacy. Do you want people to think of you as the boss who only cared about money and metrics, or as the boss they willingly followed because he/she focused on a central belief that wasn’t solely tied to making a profit?
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
“Oh, come on. It’s just a little white lie. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?”
“Because it’s a lie, and it’s not so little.”
“Dude, you’re never going to get anywhere with that mindset. Sometimes you just have to stretch the truth. Everyone does it.”
Does everyone lie?
Well, kinda. Research about lies and truth doesn’t tell a reassuring story:
- Psychologist Robert Feldman has studied lying for more than a decade. His research isn’t reassuring—60% of people lie during a typical 10-minute conversation and that they average two to three lies during that short timeframe.
- USC psychologist Jerald Jellison determined that people are lied to about 200 times a day.
- A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that 25 percent of the time, people lied for someone else’s sake.
This (and other) research doesn’t square very well with a survey done by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge authors. They found that the most valued leadership quality is honesty. It led by a mile, signaling that integrity, truthfulness, and authenticity are hallmarks of character-based leaders.
To riff on an old AmEx tag line, honesty, integrity, and authenticiy are attributes no leader should leave home without.
Honesty consists of the unwillingness to lie to others; maturity, which is equally hard to attain, consists of the unwillingness to lie to oneself. ~Sydney J. Harris
If you’re a leader who sees value in truth and honesty, here’s seven things you can do to keep them front and center in leading yourself and others.
7 ways to keep truth front and center
1) Hold yourself and those on your team accountable for full truthfulness instead of what author Ralph Keyes calls “ledger-book” morality.
Ethics are judged on a sliding scale…If we add up truths and lies we’ve told and find more of the former than the latter, we classify ourselves honest…Conceding that his magazine soft-pedaled criticism of advertisers, one publisher concluded, ‘I guess you could say we’re 75 percent honest, which isn’t bad.’~Ralph Keyes
2) Encourage healthy debate and diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective. The most effective leaders encourage differing points of view and are careful not to position those who disagree as being wrong, a loser, or not likeable. They discourage groupthink and refrain from shooting the messenger.
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.~Niels Bohr
3) Watch for opinions that masquerade as facts, and correct them when they get conflated.
4) Be transparent. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Hidden agendas serve no one well. Own up, not double down on, being wrong.
Leaders who are candid and predictable—they tell everyone the same thing and don’t continually revise their stories—signal to followers that the rules of the game aren’t changing and that decisions won’t be made arbitrarily. Given that assurance, followers become more willing to stick their necks out, make an extra effort, and put themselves on the line to help their leaders achieve goals. ~ James O’Toole and Warren Bennis
5) Make sharing the truth easy to do. Recognize and reward those who have the courage and candor to speak truthfully.
6) Welcome both/and polarities and manage the interdependent tensions that exist between them. Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen says leaders must manage overlapping visions, mutual problems, and common goals and the diverse nature of individuals, groups, and organizations. Difference isn’t an untruth; it’s the new normal.
People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more. Diversity creates dissent, and you need that. Without it, you’re not going to get any deep inquiry or breakthroughs. ~ Paul Block, CEO of Merisant
7) Don’t give yourself a hall pass by believing your little lies are OK while those of others are unacceptable. Practice the South African philosophy of “ubuntu.”
[Ubuntu is] the essence of being human…it embraces hospitality, caring about others, being able to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably with yours. When I dehumanize you, I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms and therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in belonging. ~ Desmond Tutu, social rights activist
Untruths move from the fringe to the mainstream when we allow them to do so. It’s up to us whether or not we allow that to happen.
I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody. ~Lily Tomlin
Image before quote by Scott Webb from Pixabay
Kinda funny, isn’t it, how we lose sight of things that we shouldn’t?
A few years ago, those of us at BIG did lots of speaking and training on the 7 C’s of leadership, which we defined as character, connection, cognition, capability, compassion, courage, and commitment.
Then life intervened as it so often does. The BIG team moved on to other topics our clients wanted and eventually to working at other places. After my heart nearly pooped out on me, I rethought what I wanted to do with the second act of my life and started The Jane Group.
In thinking about what I want to do in 2019, much of what I plan to speak, write, coach, and teach about is rooted in something from the 7 C’s.
I want to assist people and organizations to welcome differences, reduce bias, shake up the status quo, be inclusive, be kind, be respectful, manage with our head and lead with our heart, and use power the right way.
All those messages boil down to us leading ourselves so we can lead others inclusively and kindly, and that’s where the 7 C’s come in.
Fascinating how things come full circle, isn’t it?
The 7 C’s of being a leader
With lots of the new year still in front of us, now’s a great time to revisit the 7 C approach. The list is succinct enough to be remembered yet goes deep in both hard and soft skills.
- An inclusive leader with character walks the talk for both being good and doing well.
- He has a moral center, knows right from wrong, and doesn’t have any hidden agendas.
- She is a consistent and credible role model for integrity, ethical behavior, authenticity, honesty, and transparency.
- He knows what values are important to him, practices them daily, and assures there’s congruence between his values and actions.
- She practices tolerance, embraces differences, is inclusive without being judgment, and invites the elephant in the room to dance.
- He is determined yet self-disciplined.
- She treats those with and those without power the same.
- He can be trusted.
An inclusive leader who practices connection makes the time to meaningfully connect with others. She collaborates and values community. He actively listens to what others have to say because understanding their point of view is important to him.
She communicates clearly, assures alignment between her verbal and nonverbal messages; engages in clear and concise two-way exchanges, not one-way monologues; and says just enough to accurately convey her meaning. He knows when to recognize, criticize, celebrate, have fun, and says thank you to someone every day.
- An inclusive leader who has cognition is self-aware and actively uses their self-knowledge to relate to others.
- He knows his strengths and puts them to good use both for himself and in service to others.
- She knows her weaknesses and works to minimize any negative impact they may have.
- He seeks feedback, asks clarifying questions, and reflects on what he hears.
- She practices simplicity yet knows when to take the deep dive.
- He sets boundaries, appreciates what’s mandatory and what’s discretionary, and finds the balance between tradition and innovation.
- She’s curious, open-minded, and eager to expand her comfort zone.
- He thinks critically, seeks to learn, and is unafraid to challenge the status quo or seek the common-sense solution.
An inclusive leader with capability stretches the limits of their potential and inspires those around them to do the same. She encourages creativity, is adept at change, and maintains balance between stability and innovation. He coaches for competence and knows when to go fast and when to go slow. She is skilled at the fundamentals of conducting business—planning, organizing, directing, and controlling.
He knows when to control and when to empower. She focuses equally on people, principles and profits and never sacrifices one for the other. He holds himself and those around him responsible and accountable.
- An inclusive leader who has compassion is unafraid to smile, laugh, care and is fearless in showing love, joy, kindness, and respect.
- He is there for others, knowing when to speak with candor and when to be diplomatic.
- She seeks out and celebrates both similarities and differences.
- He displays empathy without sacrificing accountability and ownership.
- She knows when to enforce the rules and when to bend them.
An inclusive leader who has courage takes a stand for what’s good and what’s right, even if doing so is unpopular. She shows grace under pressure. He acknowledges his fears without letting them rule his life. She believes in herself and shows strength of mind and will. He embraces possibility with childlike wonder.
She is confident that she brings value and helps others believe the same about themselves. He dares to be sincere, caring, and authentic.
- An inclusive leader who has commitment has conviction, sees things through, holds themselves accountable, and assists others in doing the same.
- She pursues mutual understanding and respect even in the presence of opposing opinions.
- He assures the work gets done and that relationships are maintained.
- She lives up to her potential and strives to make a positive and sustained difference.
So, when people ask me about a “secret sauce” for inclusion, civility, and leadership success, I ask, “How are your 7 C’s?”
Image credit before quote: Pixabay
Cash is king was the CFO’s favorite go-to line when denying expenditures.
Everyone knew their spending requests for raises, projects, hiring, process innovation expenses, etc. were doomed once the CFO uttered “cash is king.”
What made it doubly hard was that the CEO always agreed with him after a “cash is king” ruling. Arguing was futile, justifications meaningless.
With that orientation, naturally over time, the company’s unwritten mission became make as much money as you can as fast as you can. Company culture changed. Ethical corners were cut. Legal lines were crossed. Cutthroat competition between departments became the norm.
Along the way, compassion, empathy, and character became less and less important. Money was the only yardstick by which success was measured. The work environment became a joyless, soulless place.
Leading with both head and heart
Many have written about the soullessness of economic-focused corporations and the cold, economic logic that defines what’s done. Much is said about their greed and ruthlessness; 82% of employees don’t expect their boss to tell the truth. Employees lose their individualism; 70% of the workforce says they’re disengaged. Some employees feel shame about admitting where they work.
If you are a boss, ask yourself: When you look back at how you’ve treated followers, peers, and superiors, in their eyes, will you have earned the right to be proud of yourself? Or will they believe that you ought to be ashamed of yourself and embarrassed by how you have trampled on others’ dignity day after day? ~Robert I. Sutton
With a little more care, a little more courage, and, above all, a little more soul, our lives can be so easily discovered and celebrated in work, and not, as now, squandered and lost in its shadow. ~David Whyte, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America
Leading with head and heart in a cash is king world
With work and dedication from character-based leaders, workplaces can keep their soul and employees can have dignity. Some food for thought as you lead yourself and others:
1) Don’t let reasonable self-interest turn into greed. Hang onto generosity, reciprocity, and ethical commitments.
2) Be mindful of the rights, feelings, and interests of others. Research by Jonathan Haidt at New York University shows that employees who are moved by the compassion or kindness of a boss are more loyal.
3) Walk the talk of honesty, integrity, fairness, compassion, charity, and social responsibility.
4) Lead by both/and, not only either/or. Delivering both results and relationships is much more rewarding than focusing only on either results or relationships.
5) Challenge the status quo through constructive dissent, respectful irreverence, and purposeful discomfort.
6) Start with the carrot or the hug, not the stick, when difficulties are encountered.
7) Appreciate the power and possibility of differences. Don’t marginalize those who see things differently. As Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist, observes, “Successfully functioning in a society with diverse values, traditions and lifestyles requires us to have a relationship to our own reactions rather than be captive of them. To resist our tendencies to make right or true, that which is nearly familiar, and wrong or false, that which is only strange.”
8) Balance getting with giving and doing with being.
9) Make a good difference.
The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly. You are your own raw material. When you know what you consist of and what you want to make of it, then you can invent yourself. ~Warren Bennis
10) Define success by both tangibles and intangibles. Don’t favor one over the other.
11) Display competence, commitment, and character, and hold others accountable for doing the same.
12) Know when to be confident and when to have humility; when to speak up and when to be silent.
13) Keep Aristotle’s twelve virtues as close companions: courage, temperance, generosity, magnificence, magnanimity, right ambition, good temper, friendliness, truthfulness, wit, and justice.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. ~unknown
Getting right with competence, commitment, and character starts in our own heads and hearts.
That means the presence or absence of soul in our workplaces begins with each one of us.
Feeling up to the challenge?
Image credit before quote: Pixabay
Leadership development programs designed to increase emotional intelligence have matured during the last 15 years. So why haven’t we seen a big change in the way executives relate to one other? Because, despite reading books and articles, taking assessments, and attending seminars, leaders keep their old habits.
Emotional Intelligence scores typically climb with titles, but peak with middle management, according to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Any higher up the ladder, and the scores plummet. CEOs rank at the bottom.
Put a stop to passive aggressive behavior
Toxic behaviors from leaders are prevalent from the warehouse to the boardroom. Leaders yell at, embarrass, and publicly criticize subordinates. Tempers flare, anger surfaces, and emotions are unchecked or mismanaged. In toxic work cultures, passive aggressiveness is the rule, not the exception.
This happens for two reasons:
1) One, leaders simply don’t have sufficient desire to be better—i.e., they don’t care.
2) The other is lack of self-awareness.
All models of emotional intelligence start with a foundation of self-awareness. Time spent on coaching needs to focus on building self-awareness because that’s where the gold is.
There are two ways to gain self-awareness:
1) Listen to and honestly examine the stories you are telling yourself in your head. Are they true? How do you know? This simply requires quiet time for self-reflection and to practice mindfulness.
2) Seek feedback from others. This requires you to identify people who feel safe with you, who you would freely invite to tell you how they react to you, and how they think others react to you. It requires honesty and, of course, the right time and environment where the conversation can occur without interruption.
Easy, right? No, of course not.
These steps take time and commitment to change.
If Business is Good, Why Should You Care?
Coming face-to-face with your flaws and defects of character including pride, ego, distrust, and fear and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is self-improvement work that doesn’t come easy.
Additionally, if business is booming, deadlines are met, and stock value is going up, why go through this spending the time to improve, to be self-aware? Why dig deeper when all is well on the surface? Effective leaders dig anyway because they know they always need to up their leadership game, and because doing so will make a positive difference in how they engage with their team, vendors, and clients.
Listen to Your Own Stories
Force ten minutes of quiet time every day. Turn off your cell phones. Close your office door. (I have clients who break out in a cold sweat at the thought of doing so, but I urge you to try it anyway.)
Breathe deeply and slowly. See what surfaces. Let the thoughts roll through your brain like a digital ticker tape. Notice what’s happening and see if you can articulate how that experience feels.
Pay special attention to anything that feels difficult or sparks negative emotions. These feelings point to something larger underneath. When you take the time to look below the surface, you can see a glimpse of the source.
Listen to Stories of Others
Pick one person who you trust to tell you the complete truth about how you look to them. Ask them to find something they believe you do that causes others to disconnect from you, to avoid you, to shut down around you, or to be less the honest. This is tough stuff. It requires both courage to take this feedback and a desire to hear it. If you’re already doing something like this now, keep at it. Do it more.
Following these three simple steps will put you well on your way to better self-awareness, not only as a leader, but also as a person. And that’s good for everyone.
Today’s guest contributor is Kevin McHugh, president of JKM Management Development, a management consulting firm specializing in increasing organizational performance and coaching business leaders to develop emotional awareness, conflict resolution capabilities, and maximize executive effectiveness.
Image credit before quote: Pixabay