Tag Archives: communication

Monday Morning Moment – Extreme Ownership – the Greater Good of Both Taking Responsibility and Letting Go of Control

Photo Credit: Echelon Front, Facebook

When we see individuals in the military with some form of Special Forces training and experience, we are captivated and sorely aware of how different they are from most of us. That level of discipline, courage, expertise and physicality is uncommon. Nothing I ever imagined for myself. Still what can we learn from these leaders that we can apply to life and work?

Although the book Extreme Ownership was published in 2015, it was unknown to me until this weekend. Thanks to my Twitter feed and then reading some reviews, I ordered my own personal copy. The authors, and former Navy SEAL team commanders, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are heroes and the stuff of legend.

[OK…I haven’t read the book yet…pre-ordered the latest edition coming out November 21, 2017. however, the reviews and summaries (listed in the links below) have already been so informative, I will gush away even before reading the book. So sink your teeth into these bits below until we have both read the book…or have you already read it?]

The phrase extreme ownership really tantalized because it spoke to my own leader heart. It resonates with servant leadership which is hard to fathom as a norm in military structure and authority. The idea of everyone on a team, in an organization, owning their part of a vision or operation is thrilling to me. It makes sense that this would, of course, lead to highest performance…provided…and this is imperative: the leadership, up and down the organization, is equipping each team member, communicating thoroughly, and sharing decision-making as appropriate.

Leadership coach Brian Dodd was the one who first guided me to the book Extreme Leadership through his blog: 25 Lessons on Extreme Ownership – How the U.S. Navy SEALS LEAD And WIN. Some of his points from the book are:

  1. “Without a team – a group of individuals working to accomplish a mission – there can be no leadership.  The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails.”
  2. “For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success.  The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas.  They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”
  3. “Leaders must own everything in their world.  There is no one else to blame.”
  4. “There are only two types of leaders: effective and ineffective.  Effective leaders that lead successful, high-performance teams exhibit Extreme Ownership.  Anything else is simply ineffective.  Anything else is bad leadership.”
  5. “Leadership isn’t one person leading a team.  It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead.”
  6. “Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism.  It can even stifle someone’s sense of self-preservation.  Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.”
  7. “As a leader, it doesn’t matter how well you feel you have presented the information or communicated an order, plan, tactic, or strategy.  If your team doesn’t get it, you have not kept things simple and you have failed.  You must brief to ensure the lowest common denominator on the team understands.”
  8. “Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people.”
  9. “Trust is not blindly given.  It must be built over time.  Situations will sometimes require that the boss walk away from a problem and let junior leaders solve it, even if the boss knows he might solve it more efficiently.”

Business leader Tom Niesen also lists his takeaways from the book, and they align nicely with the other summaries I read:

  1. Mission (Commander’s Intent and Effectiveness)
  2. It is on the leader! (Assuming a good “hire,” now, it is the leader).
  3. Extreme Ownership – everyone believes in the “why”, understands the “why”, and then pursues the “what”. Beginning with the leader. But, everyone “owns it all”.
  4. Get rid of the undermining, not-carrying-the-load, under-performer [this should be a rare necessity in extreme ownership but it can happen].
  5. Get very good at information sharing.
  6. Simplify! Keep it simple. (Not simplistic – simple).
  7. Communicate – thoroughly communicate. Up and down and all around. Confirm that the communication was sent and received and understood.
  8. Prioritize and execute. – [Tom Niesen’s summary of Extreme Ownership]

I hope these two summaries (and others in the links below) will whet your appetite to consider reading Willink’s and Babin’s book. Especially  consider taking steps toward extreme ownership in your business or organization.

Sometimes, we struggle in leadership to trust those around us to speak into decisions or even to carry out their assignments without us hovering. Worse is when we just don’t trust others and, as a result, take too much responsibility on ourselves or just a few trusted members of the team. I’ve learned through my life to take joy in the many…even with all its messiness.

I’m reminded of a proverb along these lines:

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.  Proverbs 14:4Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If we want processes neat and tidy, we must hold tight to control and keep our trust to a very few colleagues.

Extreme ownership requires a great deal from leaders. We must operate with wisdom and excellence to fully equip our teams and then to give them the freedom to execute. Clear and full communication, up and down the command chain, greases the tracks for this kind of operation. Shouldering personal responsibility at all levels is also crucial, but the key is ultimately the executive leader takes full responsibility in the end…especially if something goes wrong.

I love this concept of extreme ownership. Who’s with me? Fortunately we can apply these principles without having to go through the grueling process of being a Navy SEAL. Thanks, Gentlemen, for your incredible service.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

25 Lessons on Extreme Ownership – How the U.S. Navy SEALS LEAD And WIN – Brian Dodd

United States Navy SEAL Teams

Here are my 8 Lessons and Takeaways from Extreme Ownership by former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership – Leadership Lessons From the SEAL Team – Gerardo A. Dada

Extreme Leadership Training

YouTube Video – Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink – TEDx University of Nevada

New Release (November 21, 2017) – Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Leadership – Leading Blog @LeadershipNow – Michael McKinney

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink – Book Summary & PDF – Paul Minors

15 Minute Business Books – First Friday Book Synopsis

Monday Morning Moment – How Our Expectations at Work Shape Our Successes

Blog - Expectations - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

A blog title intrigued me recently – Almost Everyone Who Is Unhappy with Life Is Unhappy for the Same Reasons. It was a re-post of a LinkedIn blog written by Dr. Travis Bradberry (author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0). He writes about the role of expectations (of ourselves and others) and the impact those expectations have on our work life and relationships.

I see this so much in myself and in relationships both at work and in community. On one end of the spectrum, there are the expectations that undermine our successes – we don’t think we have what it takes to realize our dreams or goals. [This can also include our expectations of others, in the same way, especially if our expectations influence those colleagues’ view of reality.] On the other end of the spectrum, we may have expectations that are so unreasonably and unrealistically positive that we don’t do the work of realizing those same dreams or goals. [Again, this works against relationships when we have these expectations of others.]

In his article, Bradberry lists 8 common expectations that impact our work life and work relationships. He lists them and talks about them. Here I have written my own observations related to these expectations.

As you read and reflect, Dr. Bradberry is not saying get rid of expectations, nor am I. Expectations when honest, thoughtful, and kind are great motivators toward success. The adage “Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed” doesn’t really get us where we want to go.

After you consider the following expectations and thoughts, I would love to hear some of yours (in the comments below).

  1. Life should be fair. I have never understood the lament “That’s not fair!” It really reveals the heart of “That’s not fair for me!” How do we even make life fair? Our children, growing up, were never rewarded when they cried foul on fairness. We tried to raise them to practice kindness and generosity. That usually led to better than fair. In fact, if we flipped fairness on its head, our western work situations and family lifestyles would be quite altered, if what was usual for other parts of the world became our usual. That would be fair, right?
  2.  Opportunities will fall into my lap. There are times that opportunities “fall” into our laps. I call it “a God thing”. Whatever you might call that, it is rare and wonderful. In the day-to-day, we are to go after opportunities. Sometimes our very expectations of entitlement or pessimism keep us from even seeing opportunities right in front of us). Continue working hard, build your skill-set, learn from mentors, help your colleagues, practice thinking well of your boss, and seek out challenging assignments – these are fields where opportunities grow.
  3. Everyone should like me. I have tripped over this expectation. We think our own foibles are so much less annoying than those of others. If I consider myself congenial, you should comply, right? [The fairness problem nudges in here, for sure.] Bradberry summarizes this workplace problem well: “When you assume that people are going to like you, you take shortcuts; you start making requests and demands before you’ve laid the groundwork to really understand what the other person is thinking and feeling.” Rather than expecting others to be won by our personality, expertise, and past experience, we should discipline ourselves to practice winning the trust of a colleague, boss or customer… every time, as if it were the first time. This is a game-changer.
  4. People should agree with me. We honestly don’t want to have to work for people to agree with us. In the workplace, whenever possible, our default is to hang with those who do agree with us. This temptation sets us up for failure because we don’t gain from the critique of those who see things differently. Put your vision or project before those in other departments and see with their eyes what you might have missed with your own. Granted, be wise with whose counsel you seek, but do the work of seeking that counsel. Then share credit as appropriate.
  5. People know what I’m trying to say. Emails and text messages are almost communication. In corporate culture, even meetings don’t always cultivate clear communication. Be as clear and succinct as possible. Don’t lose the message in a jumble of clarifiers, justification, or story-telling. I’m not saying story-telling isn’t valuable; it is. The problem with story-telling is it can be contrived to emotionally engage when it actually takes away from the message. Again Bradberry wrote: “Communication isn’t anything if it isn’t clear, and your communication won’t be clear until you take the time to understand the other person’s perspective.”Blog - Communication at work - cbbainsealcareersPhoto Credit: CB Bain Seal Careers

Having lived overseas, we discovered the importance of learning the local “heart language”. In a work situation, the same holds true. How you communicate is colored by the focus of the one you’re addressing – whether it’s about ROI/ROV, employee engagement, product development….or fill in the blank. You can learn to balance between being true to your own style or values and adapting somewhat to the person in front of you (as a chameleon communicator).

6. I’m going to fail. “If you pursue an endeavor, believe with all your being that you’re going to succeed in that endeavor.” – Bradberry    We all fail sometimes; having that perspective is healthy. The problem is when we are so insecure or self-deprecating, our colleagues, boss, or customers lose confidence in us, based on our own assessment of our abilities. Not something you want to ensure by your own hand. [Read the whole of Bradberry’s article to get at the heart of this.]

7. Things will make me happy. If you’re not happy at work today, there’s not one thing beyond yourself that can change that. Not a different boss, not a better team, not more vacation, not a higher salary. This is a work on the inside that has to change your experience of work on the outside. We all know this. We all know…this.

8. I can change him/her. Okay, if you’re married, you already know the futility of this statement (and your spouse can say the same thing, by the way). When we get our focus on that boss we don’t understand or that colleague who makes us nuts, we aren’t able to focus on our work or the relationships that encourage and empower us. So what if you can’t change that coworker or boss? Can you be successful in your work if he/she doesn’t change? Most probably, the answer is yes…whether it feels like it or not. We lose enormous time and emotional energy on colleagues with whom we struggle. If changing jobs isn’t plausible or desirable, then figure out how to compartmentalize the distractions, and get on with your work. You can be a rock star even with difficult work relationships. I don’t want to issue a bunch of platitudes…but it is disturbing how much is lost from our workday in ruminating over (or talking about) stuff we can’t change…when there is still so much we can accomplish. Don’t sideline yourself with brain clutter – negative thoughts that negatively affect your work and relationships.

Blog - expectations - missworkerbeePhoto Credit: MissWorkerBee

Keep those expectations high (for yourself) and hopeful (for others)! Happy Monday!

Unrealistic Expectations That Do You Harm – LinkedIn article by Travis Bradberry

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Quotes from GoodReads

Manage Expectations So They Don’t Manage You – Alli Worthington

The Key to Being More Attractive – Business Insider Video with Tony Robbins [Quote: “Trade your expectations for appreciation.”]

Set High Expectations Because Nobody Rises to Low Expectations – Barry Canada

The Expectation Effect – (in the classroom) – SlideShare

Blog - Emotional Intelligence - amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

5 Friday Faves – a Podcast, Communication Helps, a Business Startup, a Song, and a Poem

Blog - Friday Faves

Friday! Winter storm Jonas is behind us here in Richmond, Virginia. It leaves in its wake a heightened gratefulness for heat and electricity, and for those who serve their neighbors by clearing streets and sidewalks. Kids finally went back to school, and work returned to normal. I’m looking forward to getting out tonight to the movies with Dave and our youngest. Finally I will see Star Wars – the Force Awakens which inspired our guitarist middle to do an arrangement of Rey’s Theme. Before proceeding to devour an obscene amount of movie popcorn, here are my 5 faves for this week.

1) Podcast – My favorite podcast this week was Srini Rao‘s interview with Chris Bailey. Rao is the host and founder of Unmistakable Creative where you can hear lots fascinating stories from people who are unmistakably creative (good stuff). Chris Bailey is the author of The Productivity Experiment: Accomplishing More By Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy. I loved both Chris Bailey podcasts – Earlier, Living an Insanely Productive Life with Chris Bailey and this week’s Bridging the Gaps in Our Productivity with Chris Bailey. Bailey makes a critical distinction between just getting a lot of stuff done and real accomplishments. I appreciate that. Check out Chris Bailey’s blog A Life of Productivity where he lists 100 time, energy, and attention hacks (shortcuts) to help us reach higher productivity. Out of this 100, three of my favorites are: Every day, journal one great experience you had. At the start of every day, define three outcomes you want to accomplish (not to-dos; actual outcomes). When you meet with someone in person, shut off your phone completely.Blog - Chris Bailey - ProductivityPhoto Credit: Unmistakable Creative

2) Communication – Brad Hambrick is my go-to counselor guy when I need wisdom or direction in a difficult or complicated relationship. Truth is, I’ve never met him. He is the pastor of counseling at Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  What makes his counsel so easily accessible is that he posts videos online on a wide variety of subjects. His notes for deeper study are also available free of charge via an email to his office. His website bills him as a Counselor for the Church (Summit Church and anyone else who could use his help). Today, I want to point you to Brad’s favorite posts on communication. So helpful. Blog - Brad hambrick - Counselor - CommunicationPhoto Credit: Summit RDU

 3) Business Startup –  I love wood – the smell of it, the look of it. All of it. Wood is timeless. A recent and happy discovery is Wellborn + Wright (a local company founded by Sam Sikes which sells reclaimed wood). Read how they describe themselves (from their website: “Wellborn + Wright is committed to providing timeless high-quality finished products. Our wood is reclaimed from all over the east coast from turn-of-the-century barns in western Pennsylvania all the way to textile mills in Boston. This salvaged wood is saved from landfills and given new life by our skilled team of craftsmen. We utilize sustainable and detail-oriented processing techniques, ensuring that all of our products maintain their character. We work directly with architects, interior designers, and builders. This unique ability allows us to deliver your vision of a consistent aesthetic in both the design and in the integrity of the architectural elements in your project.” Visit their website and you will find a visual feast of old wood brought back to life. My plan is to write more about this young company after a visit there soon. Wonder what I can have made by these craftsmen…makes me smile to think about it.BLog - Small Business - Wellborn Wright - Sam Sikes owner - richmondbizsensePhoto Credit: Richmondbizsense.com

4) A Song – Kenny G’s Over the Rainbow from the album – Classics in the Key of G  – Once upon a time, many years ago, before moving our family to Cairo, Egypt, my husband decided he needed to scale back on his passion for music. We were downsizing in preparation for that move overseas. Dave had a huge music collection and decided that he would leave behind most of his music to focus on being with people more, instead of having his head in his music. Fast forward a few years, living now in Cairo, Egypt. On a shopping trip (for my birthday), he discovered this Kenny G CD at a local market. He bought this one and another by The Temptations. The song “Over the Rainbow” re-kindled his love for music and his music collection would grow again. It turned out to be a very good thing because of what a joy and stress-reliever music is for him. I had forgotten that story until the song came up on a playlist a few days ago, and he reminded me, “That song got me listening to music again.” It is beautiful.

5) A Poem – I am a slave to bits of paper. It’s hard for me to get rid of things, especially treasures with words – like essays my kids wrote, or sweet notes from friends, or poems my mom saved over the years. This one I discovered from a friend on Facebook, and its lesson is timely for anyone who still has their mom or dad. My mom died over 13 years ago, and I still wish we had had more time. Dad has Alzheimer’s and we spend time together…but the days of receiving advice from him are done. Part of saving those bits is like having the people attached near again. Sweet…like this poem.

Blog - Poem - Back Home - Sharon Brooks FB pagePhoto Credit: Facebook

Do you have any favorite finds from this week that you’re willing to share? Use the comments section.

The weekend beckons.

Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Adaptability – The Very Human Side of These Business Processes

Blog - Effectiveness vs. Efficiency

Photo Credit: digital-knowledge.nl.dikn/en

I will never forget when an elder statesman in an organization (both dear to me) was “let go”, so to speak, because of a need for more “bang for the buck”. The expression was so toxic then and still carries a deep pain. It speaks to the tension between efficiency and effectiveness, and the pressing need for adaptability as our world rapidly changes. At the same time, we have to remember, in almost all situations, it’s people in the mix of these business processes.

Efficiency is a good thing. However, it must be secondary to effectiveness. Effectiveness is primary always. How best to assure both is to build an organizational culture of adaptability.

Tom Coyne has defined effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability brilliantly in a published 2-page pdf*. Here they are:

“Effectiveness measures the extent to which the results you have achieved match your goals.” Strategy leaders set those goals, and the goals determine who does the work, when, where, and how.

“Efficiency measures the amount of scarce resources used to obtain the results achieved.” His use of the term “scarce resources” is thought-provoking. When we focus on efficiency – getting the most benefit from the least resources – we can lose our objective. Resources are precious. Full-stop. Whether they are people, time, or finances. We must consider how we spend resources always, and especially when they are scarce.  However, if we miss the mark on our objective because we misspent our resources or allocated them unwisely, then we paid for efficiency with effectiveness. A poor transaction.

Gen. McChrystal, speaks to this, in his book Team of Teams (more about this book follows). He puts a captivating twist on it in his challenge: “If I told you that you weren’t going home until we win—what would you do differently?” We can’t focus primarily on efficiency when effectiveness is the outcome we desire. Adaptability is really what will get us to where we want to go.

Adaptability measures the change in Effectiveness and Efficiency for a given level of change in the agent or organization’s environment…One of our great failings as human beings is our reluctance to acknowledge the full implications of living in a world of complex adaptive systems. The causes of yesterday’s success are impossible to fully understand, and unlikely to be replicable to the same extent in the futureWe naturally try to succeed again in the future, using the approach that worked in the past, with frequently disappointing and occasionally fatal results.”

Coyne goes on to write about how to work these processes out toward business and employee/team success in a changing world.

Good stuff to know and implement.

Early on in my career, one of the mantras I heard repeatedly was this:

“The three most important things to learn in your work is flexibility…flexibility…flexibility.”

That later changed, in company vernacular, to “fluidity” x 3. The only problem was the temptation to decide for myself what was fluidity/flexibility and what was not. This is where silos and self-interest evolve when we’re not even aware, until we find ourselves not being successful (effective/efficient). In the very work we’ve immersed ourselves in for years…working hard, but not working as smart as we could have. [I know, that hurts – and it will take more than efficiency gurus to bring us out of such a predicament healthy.]

It is possible to turn the ship around…and it takes a whole crew.

Decentralized, empowered teams. Trust. Transparency and collaboration in decision-making. Broad information-sharing. Ownership in real time not just in philosophy. Bringing down silos and working together to nurture an organizational culture where we expect change and thrive in it.

What focus yields a win-win in our workplace? Both from the human side and the business side of performance and organizational culture. What can we do to enhance our business processes – whether we are in management or on the frontlines of our organization?

The following quotes should help to stir thinking. They are out of the book Team of Teams by retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, currently with The McChrystal Group.

“In complex environments, resilience often spells success, while even the most brilliantly engineered fixed solutions are often insufficient or counterproductive.”  – Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams

“In place of maps, whiteboards began to appear in our headquarters. Soon they were everywhere. Standing around them, markers in hand, we thought out loud, diagramming what we knew, what we suspected, and what we did not know. We covered the bright white surfaces with multicolored words and drawings, erased, and then covered again. We did not draw static geographic features; we drew mutable relationships—the connections between things rather than the things themselves.” – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

[Sidebar: I had the great pleasure of writing for such a team over the last 3 years. It was a privilege to see that level of creativity and collaboration, in a team of equals, birthing a workplace initiative in sync with a changing world. Amazing experience.]

“Specifically, we restructured our force from the ground up on principles of extremely transparent information sharing (what we call “shared consciousness”) and decentralized decision-making authority (“empowered execution”).” – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

“In a resilience paradigm, managers accept the reality that they will inevitably confront unpredicted threats; rather than erecting strong, specialized defenses, they create systems that aim to roll with the punches, or even benefit from them. Resilient systems are those that can encounter unforeseen threats and, when necessary, put themselves back together again.”  – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

View your leadership as being less about giving top-down orders and more about cultivating those who follow you, empowering them to make the right decisions. Many leaders are tempted to lead like a chess master, striving to control every move, when they should be leading like gardeners, creating and maintaining a viable ecosystem in which the organization operates.This is especially applicable to private sector leaders; the world is moving too quickly for those at the top to master every detail and make every decision. Empowering, cultivating, and ultimately serving those who follow you will unlock massive potential within your organization, allowing you to solve for problems in real time.” – Gen. McChrystal, Forbes.com

*Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability – The Three Keys to Performance Measurement

Effectiveness Before Efficiency

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

The Power of Business Process Improvement: 10 Simple Steps to Increase Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability by Susan Page

GoodReads Team of Teams Quotes

Stanley McChrystal: What The Army Can Teach You About Leadership

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Adapt to Win in the 21st Century

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

Blog - Efficiency and Adaptability - General McChrystalPhoto Credit: Forbes.com

Collaborative Conversations – Quotes to Stir Your Thinking on Leadership and Language in Workplace Decision-making

Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: AJCarlisle.files.wordpress.com

Change is normal, and resisting change is normal as well. You may be part of an organization or company where sweeping changes are being implemented, even this week. Or maybe you are not on the inside loop of these decisions, so you are not privy to the change coming. Whether you are part of that process or not, consider how you might have a role in making change work, in your sphere of influence, among your colleagues.

You may already have read and profited from the book Crucial Conversations. Now consider collaborative conversations. Collaboration, simply defined, is “working together towards shared goals”. Collaborative conversations bring a collective intelligence to bear on the problem to be solved, vision to be defined, or direction to be changed.Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: ThoughtFarmer.com

David Perkins, a Harvard professor, wrote about collaborative conversations in the workplace, using the metaphor of King Arthur’s round table. He described the beneficial nature of bringing several principal players (or stakeholders) to the table and treating each one with an equal or autonomous voice.

“A round table makes it a little easier to pool mental effort. A round table makes a group a little more intelligent…For a group to display intelligence in a sustained way, the members have to value their exchanges and stick together to keep making them. This depends on positive symbolic conduct [side messages sent by our words and behavior]…and collaboration… It’s not ideas, but people with ideas that make things happen.” – David Perkins

“One of the simplest ways to immunize a culture against broken trust, corruption, and animosity is to build a common vision.” – David Perkins

Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations is a tremendous resource in developing this kind of decision-making work environment. An Executive Book Summary* can help you get started.

I personally thrive in such a setting and intuitively understand the value-adding nature of collaborative conversations. In researching this workplace topic, and choosing the links below, I came across a fascinating paper** by Heather Davis, a professor of RMIT University Australia.

Davis presented her paper at the 14th International Conference on Thinking (2009, Malaysia). She discussed how workplace leaders often choose “languages of war” in making and communicating decisions and creating change. Her paper is heady stuff but if you read her thoughts below you will want to read the whole paper. It gives huge support to the role of collaborative conversations.

“In [leadership’s] ‘language of zealous allegiance’, there are expectations of allegiance [in the workplace] that lay a path for uncritical acceptance and passivity. This manifests in an expectation that followers be conscripted wholly to the cause. There is little room for questioning. [Davis quotes Hage]: “Conscription means one important thing: there is no questioning of orders, one only executes them; ‘either you’re with us or you’re against us’. “ (Hage, 2004, p. 3).””

“Rhetoric plays out in the workplace too and can be tested by how well leaders:

  • hear and acknowledge the ‘other’ point of view,
  • see the ‘other’ as people rather than pawns or simply abstractions,
  • manage the distance, materially and metaphorically, between themselves and the people and sites affected by their decisions.”

“In the corporate world there are many examples of executives living and working in gated communities or otherwise removed by dint of corporate hierarchy or geography from the people and conditions affected by their decisions. Often, these leaders are also surrounded by people who can only agree, leading to little opportunity for double loop learning or deeply reasoned decision making processes. Whether our leaders live in gated communities is their business, but if they think, work and take refuge within a ‘gated’ mindset then we all need to be concerned. These conditions lead to hubris and have been the undoing of many leaders and corporations.”

“[Leadership’s] language of regrettable necessity translates directly to the “There Is No Alternative”. [This strategy] is used to always move the focus of discussion away from any big picture ‘why’ questions. This is done by shifting the focus to discussions only about the budget pie or, more particularly, the piece of the budget pie that is contestable. People find themselves fighting for a slice of the budget pie and energies focus only on the ‘pie’ and getting the biggest piece of it. This shifts the focus from larger issues such as whether the budget is set correctly, what has been included and what has been excluded. Thinking about alternatives is never an option.”

The role of the organisation is ‘to know its purpose and not be diverted from it’ (Drucker, 1993). This is a timely reminder here – easier said than done in times of flux, complexity and discontinuous change.”

“Language is the visible tip of the cultural iceberg that largely remains hidden.”

“Perkins (2007) used two metaphors in his presentation and so far I have only privileged the five languages of war metaphor in this discussion. The other metaphor used was the “five languages of peace”. The main difference between Perkins’ languages of war and peace are that the war metaphor is founded on exclusivity and a preference for limiting discourse to its [leadership’s] own narrowly defined boundaries. Perkins’s peace metaphor is founded on inclusivity and opening up the space for conversations and conflicting views [i.e., collaborative conversations].”

“Oppositional language and the pitting of one deeply held worldview against another will not lead to resolving the underlying problems of the workplace. Rather, space for conversations to surface underlying assumptions is required. Perkins’ language of peace metaphor confirms that that there are always other lenses to view the world through, not just the one that [leadership] prefers.”

Provocative reading from this Australian educator. Bottom line: Those of us in leadership carry a great burden of responsibility. We at times must make difficult and sometimes painful decisions. Adding voices to that decision-making can generate even more challenging processes to negotiate. Still, we will make more sustainable decisions for “better futures” if we bring those most affected (or most experienced or insightful) to the table. Whenever possible. That’s the gain of collaborative conversations – working together toward shared vision and shared ownership.

Stay engaged in your workplace. You can make a difference.

*King Arthur’s Round TableHow Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations by David Perkins – an Executive Book Summary

Leadership Lessons from King Arthur – a Review of Harvard Professor David Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table

How to Lead When Change is the New Normal

The Art of Collaboration (Collaborative Behaviors) – by Steve Dale (includes a SlideShare)

Collaboration: What Does It Really Mean?

**Troubling Invisible Barriers to Better Futures: Surfacing the “Five Languages of War” in the Workplace – a scholarly paper by Heather Davis, presented at the 14th International Conference on Thinking

The Five Literacies of Global Leadership – What Authentic Leaders Know and You Need to Find Out – by David Hames – Business Book Summary

What Is a Coaching Conversation? from Opening the Door to Coaching Conversations by Linda Gross Cheliotes and Marceta Fleming Reilly 

The Perils of Indifference – a Speech by Elie Wiesel

Cutting Through the Hype – What “Collaboration” Really Means – ThoughtFarmer.com

Making the Workforce Work! The Collaborative Workforce Initiative