The boss isn’t right …But he defends order

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“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Peter Drucker

Competition is the dilemma we all face while climbing the business ladder. For someone to win, someone else has to lose. This is how the system has worked for years and we have had good, and even extraordinary results. Nonetheless, as we have said many times before, it seems as though it is not enough anymore, and it’s also not the best strategy.

There are many examples of such leadership success in business, but despite its concrete results, we can also see that they have a side that, rather than build, destroys. The problem is that the leaders of organizations have been successful, generally, because they have clung to being right. Certainly, in many cases their point of view and their actions are assertive and have had business results. Therefore, for many, exploring other paths could result besides unnecessary, unprofitable. Nonetheless, there is another type of leadership. There are leaders who, over time, have left a positive balance, not only on the organization’s bottom line, but also with their business teams and other stake holders. Both types of leadership share passion, dedication, focused energy and discipline. Their difference lies in how they solve business challenges.

Imagine two different scenarios: in the first, the leader has achieved success through competing and winning, through showing power and strength, and through having a business position cultivated by proving his or her point of view and by achieving results. In the second scenario, the leader has achieved the same results, but not by proving he or she  is right, but by integrating their team’s perspective to address challenges. This leader isn’t always right, but the entire team including him or her is. This leader has learned to effectively address challenges while  feeling at peace and being aware of his or her team’s development. We call this conscious leadership, a path that leaves behind self-realization and growth.

Although the first leader’s results are effective, there is a risk. It is likely that, at some point, these leaders will fail precisely by defending their point of view. Someone else will show up proving to be right and having better results than they do. It is also likely that their team members are satisfied with the results, but dissatisfied in working with them. It is likely that team members will be fighting under the table, trying to prove they are right so that they can have a better place in the team, because they need to be competitive in order to win. Over time, performance cost can be very high for the organization, thus not sustainable. If the marketing manager, the production manager, or the finance manager would focus on proving they are right, then they would only make decisions with a potentially high cost for the company, based on proving their point. It’s precisely their arrogance of trying to prove ‘I am right’ the cause for a probable low performance.

In the second scenario, the leader with whom their team is used to integrating perspectives, dialogue is the foundation to find better solutions, and therefore agreement upon what’s true for everyone yields admiration—not only for the leader, but for everyone. Self-admiration comes from the teams performance, their sense of success and their sense of accomplishment. This scenario would be nearly impossible to achieve with a boss who’s orientation would be to win by means of proving his or her point.

In both scenarios the boss has the final say, it is his or her prerogative and responsibility. Nevertheless, the leader of the first scenario runs the risk that, because he or she has ignored the team’s perspective during the strategic process, the opportunity to change the course of business will be lost. While the leader of the second scenario gives only the last word after having made sure that everyone expressed their perspective and that everyone has understood the perspective of others. From the economical and performance point of view, the second scenario is much safer and much more profitable. Those teams lead by a person whose mental model is of humility and self-realization, besides being more effective, can also have an impact, which will be significantly more successful for the business.

The boss isn’t right …But he defends order

The Enemies of Knowledge

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“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”

Carlos Castañeda

In the wonderful book The Teachings of Don Juan, young anthropologist, Carlos Castañeda, search of the  path to the Yaqui wisdom and tries desperately to find the formula to become a wise man and a warrior.

At a certain moment, Carlos asks his teacher, Don Juan, about the path humans need to travel to become wise. Don Juan finally accepts to share the steps in the journey, and explains which are the enemies that wise people will face in their lives: the four great battles.

“The first enemy one will face is fear”.  Everybody will face fear at some point in their lives. And when this happens we have two options: avoid or confront. Those who decide to face it and overcome the battle, will be choosing the path of the wise ones. From the developmental approach perspective, this means owning our responsibility. Castañeda’s teacher suggests that the few who succeed against fear will not come across it again. I personally believe that when people overcome their fears, they will actually face it again, but when fear arises, they know they can overcome it. We could understand this from the developmental perspective as a process of “include and transcend”.

According to Don Juan, once the person has defeated fear, they achieve clarity. They achieve it because they understand that fear is an emotion that resides within the person, which is independent from that which produces fear. For example, some of us get paralyzed when being close to a dog on the street; and others of us who, because we live with dogs, just don’t . It is not the dog that produces fear, but the person’s experience facing the dog which produces this emotion.

So when “one faces and defeats fear, he will gain clarity, and clarity becomes the second enemy”, continues Don Juan. The teacher explains that he or she who has achieved clarity in their path understands and can see that facts are separate from emotions. Once fear is defeated and integrated, it allows us to see the situation with much more clarity. Now, from all the people who are able to defeat fear and win clarity, only few become aware that now clarity is the next enemy. They actually believe the world is how they see it. We are not scared anymore and we are certain that things are only as we see them.  However, for the few that realize that clarity is now the enemy, consciousness expands. Winning the second battle then becomes imperative. We could say that the first battle is an act of courage and the second, an act of consciousness.

“Those who face clarity gain Power and even less become aware that now Power is the third enemy”, the teacher goes on explaining.  We are brave in front of fear and we have created consciousness. This creates a sensation of absolute freedom as we face life’s circumstances,  we stand in the world certain and with character.

Nevertheless, very few become aware that power has become the new enemy: power inhibits fear and clarity. Very few face it and conquer it. Few win the battle against fear, the battle that we win by letting go, by un-attachment. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges, as being attached to power and what it brings to one’s life is not only seductive, but intrinsic to the place we have conquered. Letting go of power produces anxiety as we have identified ourselves with it. “I am powerful”.

Last, continues the teacher “for the very few that realize that power has become the enemy and they succeed, the last enemy will be waiting: time.  And this would be the one that only wise people will face and battle, and just a handfull will suceed. When this enemy appears we are old and tired”.

This last enemy is the one that moves me the most. First, because it connects me with the wisdom of older people who have traveled the path and who have, in several occasions, acknowledged that it’s too late to make amends. And secondly, because as I ponder on my present, I become aware that this is the only time I have to overcome fear, clarity and power.

When I read The Teachings of Don Juan, a path of knowledge was imprinted in me. More than a step by step process, what I see is a cycle. From the developmental point of view, this path to become a wise being could be repeated multiple times in a lifetime. And even though it is easy to understand, it is, in fact,  hard to do.

Within the different developmental paths there are similarities. They all concur on the capacity we need to face and respond battles that are presented; and in that doing it consciously implies responsibility and integrity. This is what allows us to evolve and amplify our capacity of response for the next challenges to come.

Let’s not lose time… let’s instead use it.

The Enemies of Knowledge

The Others Are Right… and So Are You.

Integrating Perspectives, An Act of Peace

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“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”                                                      -Douglas Adams

The ultimate road to establishing peace is through becoming conscious of my perspective and the perspective of the other. When I achieve integrating both an act of peace comes to life.

What better than football to help us understand perspectives? When I go to the stadium this becomes evident: if I am sitting in the upper bleachers, my perspective of the game is completely different than if I am sitting at the bottom.  It’s the same game because performance and results are equal, but it’s also another game because when I am sitting at the top, individuality of the players vanishes and the game as a team emerges. I can see how they all run in the field and I can recognize the formations. When I am at court level, the perspective is completely different, what I see is detail. My eyes follow a particular player, I also follow each pass and how the goal is scored. Everything I see is partial, it’s that simple. You could think there are no consequences sitting in places that are utterly opposed in a soccer game; but if we take this example to a discussion, the consequences can be more serious than only missing part of the game.

Moshe Dayan, a politician and Israeli military man said: “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”  Lets imagine a weekend brunch with friends and family. When a topic that confronts different perspectives on sexual, political, religious or moral preference appears, typically what happens is a polarization and the need to prove that my point of view is the right one and that others are wrong. Those of us who are at the table start noticing how a conflict is emerging and that could potentially damage the relationship. As each part blindly defends their position on the matter, the potential disaster increases. We can see, then, that for a conflict to occur, it is necessary for both sides to think they are right. This happens because, within this paradigm, I am viewing the world only from my perspective, the principle of the world is as I see it. That is to say, I give meaning to reality and it’s conditioned by my world-view.

But why would I want to integrate the perspectives of others if I know I am right? Take a moment and think of someone with whom you are in a conflict.  Without knowing this person, I will dare say this person is right. Arbinger Institute explains it this way: “The more sure I am that I’m right, the more likely I will actually be mistaken. My need to be right makes it more likely that I will be wrong.” In other words, wrong means not being able to see what the other part sees.

In order to integrate perspectives, we need to develop and expand our consciousness. Remember that perspective means the place from which I see things; consciousness means to become aware of the place from which I see things; expansion of consciousness means integrating the highest amount of places from which I see something. For example, the concept of pain is different for a midwife than for a widower. It’s the same word, but the meaning is something different depending in who we are, how we are and how we see the world. In Nietzsche’s words: “There are no facts, only interpretations.”

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the author shares his experience:         

I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. (Covey 33)

The idea that I respond to the world according to what I see and I see the world according to who I am becomes evident again and again in our complex human interactions. If this is clear to me, as we said in the beginning integrating perspectives means also to recognize the reason why others see the world in their own ways, therefore they also, like me, see the world as they are. It’s not about how I see it or how you see it, but how I see it and how you see it. The mechanism by which I can start to integrate perspectives of others is through the phrase: “Yes… and…” That is to say “Yes, I understand that it is this way for you and also for me it is that way, it’s just as valid.” Ken Wilber said: “There’s never been someone so intelligent to be always wrong, therefore we all have a piece of the truth.” Which means that we all have a point. Think of the person you are in conflict with. Beyond attaching to the belief that you are right, could you accept the fact that this person can’t be 100% wrong? Become aware of what happens inside you when you accept that the other person is also right. You can say: “Yes, for you it is that way, which is true and for me it is this way, which is also true…” To this we call integrating perspectives, perhaps the most convincing act of peace. Imagine how the world would be if politicians, businessman, militants, amongst others would start to integrate perspectives. Can you think how many resources could be saved should teams, instead of wanting to convince each other, learned to listen and integrate?

I invite you to see this 30 second video called “The Guardian”:

The Others Are Right… and So Are You.