Who Are You at War With? How Do You Win?

Abundance Growth mindset Management

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Key Point: I believe we need to profoundly change our thinking about competition and opponents in the world of business. We need an abundant versus scarcity mindset. Think this is softheaded? The research of Dr. David Shields as reflected in his recent Harvard Business Review blog, A More Productive Way to Think About Opponents, will hopefully help us reframe the way we approach competition. The following is an excerpt highlighting important elements of his message:

“For some, ‘contests’ are mentally processed through a contest-is-partnership metaphor. This leads to genuine competition (the word competition literally means “to strive with”). Competition, so understood, pits people’s immediate interests in opposition, but it does so to serve a larger mutually-beneficial purpose. Sports competition, for example, allows people to experience the exhilaration and excitement that comes from the sweet tension of the game. In business settings, competition in the marketplace can promote those values we all read about in our economic textbooks: excellence in efficiency, innovation, service, and production.”

Dr. Shields notes that through intense competition, the whole of society benefits. Competition serves excellence. However, what happens if this partnership metaphor, which underlies genuine competition, is replaced by a metaphor of war?

“Once the war metaphor is unconsciously activated, our perceptions, decisions, and actions shift to fit the battling motif. Instead of being understood as a form of mutually beneficial partnership, our brains start telling us that we are in battle and we need to think and act like a soldier under fire.

Since “striving with” is replaced by “striving against,” we call it decompetition. Decompetition invariably leads to problems both in terms of productivity and ethics.

In abbreviated form, the chart below suggests a few of the key elements associated with competition and decompetition as manifest in a business context:”

 

So what does this mean practically, without being mushy and naive?

Character Moves:

  1. Change the metaphor to striving versus beating. Rather than going to war with competitors, think about the benefit gained from striving for excellence. Use the partner metaphor rather than the battle metaphor. NBA Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, referred to opponents as “partners in the dance.” Similarly, the famous UCLA college basketball coach, John Wooden, had his players concentrate much more on their own excellence rather than beating the competition. Recognize when you’re getting sucked into destructive decompetition. Like Dr. Shields points out after tons of research, “[the] reality is that thinking of any contest as a battle or war tends to narrow focus, constrain creativity, elevate dysfunctional stress, and reduce appropriate risk-taking. In the end, such thinking can easily degenerate into an ‘anything goes’ mentality that excuses unethical behavior if it appears to serve the short-term bottom line.”
  2. Learn how to reframe the mindset and situation. Shields suggests that we can learn to recognize when we are slipping into decompetition and deliberately ‘reframe’ the situation in a manner consonant with genuine competition… “Learning to reframe takes effort and practice, but one strategy is to use a simple mental checklist. You need to frequently ask yourself the basic questions of work and life: What ultimate goals am I pursuing? What is really motivating me? How am I viewing my relationship with others? As trite as it may sound, we most often get off-track because we lose sight of what is really most important.”
  3. Do we want market share? Growth? The promotion over the next person? Of course we do. But be abundant and strive to be excellent in every way. Benefit from what you can learn from “partnering” with your competition. Respect them as teachers and motivators for excellence versus getting caught into the negative trap of beating them in battle. 

Authentic competition in The Triangle,

Lorne

 

Eat That Frog Today

Accountability Contribution Productivity

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Key Point: With my 40-plus years in leadership roles it’s so obvious and yet so daunting. There are some people that have learned how to execute and get things done. They become highly valued and known as “go to” people. But too many employees create a lot of wind and confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk continually, hold endless meetings and make wonderful plans, wish for better or different results, but in the final analysis make little or no progress. My intention is to surround myself with the “doers” and I am becoming less patient with the “wishers.” What can each of us do to progress further along the “doer” continuum?

As a follower of The Character Triangle, you likely know that my short form definition for self-accountability is, “do it now.” That’s because I see procrastination as a giant hurdle for lots of folks who are stuck in “wish land.” Brian Tracy, the renowned author, speaker and leadership pundit, wrote a book a few years ago called Eat That Frog! It was inspired by a Mark Twain quote:

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Twain.

Watch this for Tracy’s more thorough explanation. 

Tracy says that if you just do the task you have been procrastinating, then all assignments after won’t seem as bad. He also says that if you have two frogs, “eat the uglier one first.” This means do your hardest task first, the one you have been putting off the longest. Tracy also has a couple of other key principles worth considering when accelerating our “doer” continuum. I’ve absorbed a few of these into recommended actions below.

Character Moves:

  1. Really concentrate on getting the hardest or highest value things done first. This discipline creates a feeling of success and puts us in more control. It is also such a relief when it checks off of our “worry list” and into our “did it” pile. Tracy believes the ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, do it well and finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status and happiness in life.
  2. Learn to distinguish between what is really valued versus activity. Like Tracy notes, one of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need NOT be done at all. I see this at work all the time. People work on perfecting a report no one reads, hold a meeting of little value, read emails that are a waste of time, etc. You can only get your time and life under control to the degree you discontinue lower-value activities, (like watching a useless TV show instead of learning something to advance your skills).
  3. I do not know why, but people resist writing goals down. If you can’t articulate where you want to go and be, you will likely end up somewhere you won’t want to be. Like Tracy says, “goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.” And although the following sounds simplistic, it’s essentially true: By the yard it’s hard; but inch-by-inch, anything is a cinch.

Eat that frog in The Triangle,

Lorne

 

How Are You Showing Up to Others?

Accountability Teamwork

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Dr. Trudi Chalmers is the lead resident psychologist at ATB Financial. Her current and primary role is coaching for mastery by helping financial advisors learn how to better connect with clients using video observation and applying scientific based methodology for improved listening and customer driven solutions. She received her Ph.D in Neuroscience from the University of Calgary. She was also recently picked as an ATB “spark”; a company catalyst and example of inspired leadership. I am pleased to have Trudi be the FIRST guest celebrity blogger on lornerubis.com.

 

KEY POINT: Building on Lorne’s Character Triangle, I invite you to start noticing how your body and emotions impact how you show up to others. We often spend a lot of time thinking about (scripting) what we’re going to say to others… Or, we spend time reflecting on what we did say, wondering if we could have said something different. What we forget, or maybe don’t realize, is how we hold ourselves (body), and the emotional place we are speaking from, often has a greater impact than the actual words we use. Practice in this area plays into our accountability (accepting our influence and taking responsibility for how we show up) and respect (for ourselves and the people we engage with).

Susan Scott shares a fantastic insight in her book Fierce Conversations, where she draws to our attention that any interaction with another involves three conversations; the one we believe we’re having (the story we’re telling ourselves), the one the other believes they’re having (the story they’re telling their self), and the literal one taken from the words being spoken. It’s difficult to know the story the other person is telling their self, but rest assured that your body language and emotional tone is having an influence. How we hold ourselves physically (body), and the emotional place we’re acting from creates subtleties layered on what’s actually being said (language) and can drastically influence the interpretation of your words – and the result you get. If you frequently find that you’re not achieving the results you want from your communication/interactions with others… It’s probably time to start noticing what your body and emotional tone are saying. We forget what people say… But, we always remember how they made us feel. The words we use may be great, but if the tone and body is saying something else… That’s what’s going to stick.

Why does our body language and emotional tone leave such a huge impression and colour our communication? Looking at this from a neuroscientific perspective, there are several explanations. Allowing us to unconsciously understand and feel other people’s emotions are our “mirror neurons.” As the name suggests, this network of neurons mirror what we’re observing, allowing us to feel empathy by experiencing what we’re seeing in other people. This is great for building connections, but can be detrimental when we take on the defensive tone that someone is communicating to us. Once we see (and thanks to our mirror neurons, feel) the defensiveness of someone, we assume an attack is heading towards us. This makes good evolutionary sense! We need to protect ourselves, so we’re wired to respond to the emotions of others. If the emotional tone and body language suggest an attack is coming, our fight or flight mechanism kicks in narrowing our attention and preparing us to defend ourselves. Most of the time, this is not the space we want to have our interactions from, and certainly not a space conducive to resolution or exploration.

The words you use may be “I want to give you feedback on how you facilitated that meeting…” But depending on the tone and body language that these words are coming from, you may be inadvertently shutting down the other to opportunities for growth before you even begin.

Character Moves:

  1. Practice centering. Take 10 seconds before you approach someone and notice what you’re feeling. Can you choose where you want your message to come from (what emotional tone)? Can you be in the place where you want your message to come from? If not, maybe now is not the best time for this conversation.
  2. Notice your default tone and body language. How do you hold yourself when you’re conversing with others? Does this change depending on who it is you’re in conversation with? What’s your emotional tone?
  3. Are you getting the results you want with your conversations? Are there any patterns here? For example, is it always the same people who you struggle with? Are there particular types of situations where you can’t seem to get the results you want? If you’re not getting the results you want, it may be time to look at how you’re showing up to the other person.

Showing up in The Triangle,

Dr. Trudi Chalmers

Thank you Dr. Chalmers,

Lorne

P.S. download the The Character Triangle Companion today! 

 

Are You a Constructive or Passive Dissenter?

Accountability Organizational culture Personal leadership

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Key Point: As a CEO and leader I have come to appreciate and highly value the constructive dissenter. I also have learned to disassociate myself from the continuous passive dissenter. The best (but X-rated) description of passive dissention is to “grin f***;” sometimes the worst expressions are the best expressions. Why? The constructive dissenter cares and is confident enough to give you another viewpoint. Most leaders balance forward movement with risk mitigation. Someone who gives valued insight to help assure the best possible decisions get made is a great teammate. The passive dissenter will disagree too, but you likely won’t know about it until something you expected to get done just doesn’t happen. The passive dissenter will nod and smile in outward agreement but is saying below the surface, “I don’t agree,” “that won’t work,” “I will wait that dumb idea out.” This happens more often with immature teams and/or a very aggressive, dominant leader. It doesn’t take long for smart people to figure out whether constructive dissent or disagreement is welcomed and highly valued. If you want to be an effective leader and/or follower you have to learn how to promote and present constructive dissent. If you are just a passive follower you will eventually dissolve off the value map. If you are a dissent-resisting leader you will eventually make a big mistake and no one will be with you when the knives come out.

Character Moves:

  1. Become a strong and effective dissenter. This means learning how to package disagreement with alternative solutions. Learn how to apply and show critical thinking. Use facts and data instead of just emotion. Avoid being known as a destructive dissenter (whiner, complainer, resister). Use constructive dissent to move forward and become better.
  2. If you are in a leadership role become known as someone who welcomes constructive disagreement and dissension. Be a great listener. Demand good analysis and alternative solutions. Be careful not to send signals that shut people down. Sometimes this is subtle and you don’t think you’re doing it, but people get to know our hot buttons. Keep the green light on until you have enough to make the best critically reviewed decision.
  3. If you are a professional passive dissenter, go somewhere else please.

Constructive dissension in The Triangle,

Lorne

 

Why People Love Dodge’s “Farmer” Commercial

Collaboration Contribution Respect

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Key Point: Most of us really want to celebrate virtues like those displayed by the authentic, genuine, hard working farming community. The most popular 2013 Super Bowl commercial was Dodge‘s celebration of the American farmer and what they stand for. Pundits like the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, have positively commented on Dodge’s connection to RESPECT for this group of people; something we don’t hear much of these days. If you haven’t seen the commercial, please watch it here.

Of course Dodge wants to sell its products to farmers. But talking about the value provided by their customers rather than transmission torque is refreshing. What does this have to do with you and me?

I was born a farm kid. I watched my parents live the Character Triangle every day. There is no doubt where my value set comes from. If you lived on the farm, self-accountability meant putting food on the table. You essentially survived based on what YOU did, not what you felt entitled to receive. No one auto-deposited a check to your bank account. A farmer also learns to respect everything around him/her. The environment and farmer must work towards mutually reinforcing goals. It is amazing how much grain and animals have to say (not literally of course), but through how the cycle of life works. If you are not present and attentive, something dies or gets damaged. That’s why many farmers who have rarely travelled out of their county know so much about the world at large. Nature teaches them every day. And if you aren’t abundant thinking as a farmer, you will be the ultimate victim. The very essence of farming is about growing and sharing. But the weather, commodity pricing, disease, trade wars, etc. are out there teaching the meaning of humility daily. A farmer has to give back and pay forward because always being on the take will suck the nutrients out of future growth.

Character Moves:

  1. Even if you’re a city slicker like I am now, why not think and practice the essence of being a great farmer? What are you growing and giving back to the community? How do you live “farmer’s values” in the work you do?
  2. Farmer’s aren’t perfect. As an group, they can be notorious complainers, but of course we are not about perfection. What we care most about is purpose, adding value, living with character, having an impact, and inspiring others.
  3. Summing up a solid farmer: Do it now, be nice and give more. And that is the Character Triangle. And while Paul Harvey, the voice of the Farmer commercial, has long passed; his words and their meaning are eternal. And so are the values of the Character Triangle.

Farming in The Triangle,

Lorne