Leveraging Conflicting Tensions and Senior Team Dynamics

As a leader, are you willing to really explore the tensions and dynamics impacting team performance within your organization? Are you hooked on finding team harmony, or are you willing to consider something more complicated, but ultimately much more productive?

We have written before on the value of embracing constructive conflict, and continue to believe it is a core competence of successful teams. We now have an opportunity to look at it again, in a slightly different light, thanks to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled The Best Senior Teams Thrive on Disagreement.

In this article, the authors are presenting some convincing research showing that the greatest predictor of top-team performance at the enterprise level is not cohesion, but rather the ability to manage conflicting tensions. Trust and positive team dynamics are critical foundational elements of course, but appreciating and managing these tensions will elevate the senior team performance.

Delving a little deeper, you will find these conflicting tensions are identified as:

  • Risk vs. Results – creating circumstances where both risk and day-to-day delivery can peacefully coexist.
  • External vs. Internal Pull – consistently scanning the external environment for consumer, competitor and industry knowledge, and using that knowledge to adapt internally.
  • Top-down vs. Bottom-up Innovation – managing the tension between leading and directing innovation, while also engaging and empowering the broader organization.

High performing senior teams navigate these tensions well, recognizing they represent a spectrum of behaviours and processes to be managed, rather than isolated problems to be solved. We believe you will find great value in exploring these concepts, understanding how they are at play in your own organization and learning how to manage the tensions.

To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2017/09/the-best-senior-teams-thrive-on-disagreement

Capturing Your Unique Spirit in the Core Values Statement

Do you ever find yourself in the lobby of another organization, staring at your own core values framed on their wall? Have you attempted to make a unique statement, only to discover that it is not so very different from everyone else’s?

To quote a little research from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Ban These 5 Words from Your Corporate Values Statement, 90% of companies reference ethical behaviour or use the word integrity, 88% mention commitment to customers, and 76% cite teamwork and trust. A core values document is supposed to inspire your employees in a way that is unique to your organization, but it seems the language is often not unique at all.

So, here are the five words you should never use in your core values statement:

  • Ethical (or integrity)
  • Teamwork (or collaboration)
  • Authentic
  • Fun
  • Customer-oriented

Chances are you might recognize a few words from the list above. The problem with them is twofold according to this Harvard article – in the first place, they are really just table stakes for any business that wants to be competitive and, secondly, they don’t define what is distinctive about the organization.

This article goes on to describe a few ways you can differentiate yourself, and really define what is unique about your company through your core values statement. It’s definitely worth reading, and then incorporating in a way that is meaningful to you.

To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2018/02/ban-these-5-words-from-your-corporate-values-statement

Change Management Lessons That Work

Do you struggle with the fact your well-crafted change initiatives continue to meet with resistance, despite all your best efforts?

Given the volumes of literature on the subject of Change Management, it is clear you are not alone. And, because of those great volumes of information (that require hours of study to digest), we were especially happy to see a very succinct post on the McKinsey Leadership & Organization Blog entitled Change Management Lessons from Japan.

This post describes the approach to change management used by a new CEO at a Japanese consumer products company. It is noted that, in Japan, consensus building is a strong part of the culture and a driving force behind the approach taken. The four practical ways to drive change are described as:

  • Define the end state in detail and provide a roadmap much earlier.
  • Engage the front line very early and create opportunities to endorse change.
  • Map the organizational network and tackle change blockers.
  • Expose top management extensively, broadly and directly.

The beauty of blog posts is that they are usually short and to the point, giving you food for thought and often inspiring you to dig a little deeper. The concepts presented here apply equally well in all cultures and all types of organizations – it’s well worth a read.

To read the full blog post, you can go to https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/change-management-lessons-from-japan

Managing the Push and Pull of Strategy Execution

Does strategy execution sometimes feel like a tug of war in your organization? Are you constantly juggling the trade-offs between delivering short-term results and making longer term changes?

Managing performance within a team, or in an organization overall, almost always involves finding a balance between opposing ideas or approaches or needs. If you find yourself in this arena, you will most likely enjoy the recent Harvard Business Review article entitled Good Strategy Execution Requires Balancing 4 Tensions.

In this article, the authors expertly identify the four key tensions predictably found in organizations, and bring them to life with relevant examples. The four tensions are:

  • Tension #1: An inspiring end-state versus challenging targets – you need to balance a clear picture of what life will look and feel like once change has been successfully implemented with aggressive targets and milestones to be achieved along the way.
  • Tension #2: Top-down control versus democratization of change – you need to balance capitalizing on the energy created through empowerment with reigning people in when they get too far off track.
  • Tension #3: Capability development versus pressure for results – you need to balance taking the time required to develop the new capabilities you feel are necessary to achieve your goals with making do in order to meet timelines and budgets.
  • Tension #4: Creativity versus discipline – you need to balance the insight and excitement of creativity with the realism and necessity of discipline.

This is a short but clever article with some very useful advice, and I think it is well worth the few minutes it will take you to read it.

To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2017/11/good-strategy-execution-requires-balancing-4-tensions?autocomplete=true

Find Your True Voice as a Leader

Do you feel your communication style resonates well with all the different people you interact with on a daily basis? Do your messages land the way you intended them to?

To be effective as a leader, you have to react appropriately in a variety of situations, and you have to connect with a variety of people inside and outside your organization. One of the many tools you use for this is your leadership voice, and Harvard Business Review has recently published an article which you might find helpful, it is entitled You Don’t Just Need One Leadership Voice – You Need Many.

Over time, and possibly without really being conscious of it, you will have worked on developing your leadership voice. As pointed out in the article, though, this might leave you feeling as though you are living with imposter’s syndrome or exhausting yourself by wearing a game face all day.

To help you be more genuine is this endeavour, and ultimately more successful, the author defines the different types of leadership voices you can cultivate:

  • Your voice of character – the fundamental principles voice.
  • Your voice of context – the big picture voice.
  • Your voice of clarity – the focussed voice.
  • Your voice of curiosity – the asking good questions voice.
  • Your voice of connection – the storyteller voice.

Discovering and developing your voice as a leader is work you will do over your entire career – and there is no time better than right now to get started.

To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2018/01/you-dont-just-need-one-leadership-voice-you-need-many?autocomplete=true

Embracing Constructive Conflict – Once and For All

You probably consider yourself a determined business leader, perhaps even courageous a lot of the time, but do you still manage to step around conflict if there is reasonable opportunity to do so?

We have written before on what we feel is the very significant, but often unappreciated, value of constructive conflict, or creative friction, or whatever label you would like to put on it. It is also a well-documented fact that most people, at all levels in an organization, will go to considerable lengths to avoid or minimize disagreements.

Harvard Business Review has started 2019 with an article entitled Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work, and we thought you might want to begin the New Year tackling this thorny issue too. There is a very real business case for embracing dissenting opinions and working through opposing views, and this articles presents the benefits under the following banners – better work outcomes, opportunities to learn and grow, improved relationships, higher job satisfaction and a more inclusive work environment.

So, how do you get comfortable with dissent and debate, and thereby create a safe environment for your employees or team members to do so? This article offers the following ways to start:

  • Let go of needing to be liked
  • Focus on the big picture
  • Don’t equate disagreement with unkindness
  • Find a role model and emulate them

It’s time to step into the arena, even if it’s just a toe at first. Put your reticence behind you, and start reaping the benefits of vibrant and challenging interactions.

To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2018/01/why-we-should-be-disagreeing-more-at-work?autocomplete=true

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