Last summer, we took a road trip from San Francisco, through Zion, Bryce, and on to Telluride, Colorado. While in Telluride, we took a fly fishing lesson from Marty at Telluride Fly Fishers. Marty was a great guide and very patient with this city girl! I had piled on several layers of clothes in anticipation of wide temperature swings in the Rockies.
Your intrepid Tangle Doctor has been tied up, so to speak, implementing new ways to untangle corporate leadership knots and teaching MBA students how to work well together and be effective leaders. So many tangles, so little time!
Recent research suggests that what we wear impacts how we feel and how we perform. As an executive leadership coach who often works with leaders to enchance their executive presence, this is really helpful information. I often coach women leaders to observe how other senior women, who they perceive as competent and powerful, are dressing. Often the differences, i.e., in accessories, shoes, etc. are subtle, yet worth noting. I sometimes advise clients to change and/or upgrade their wardrobe. I have also advised male clients to make sure that their shoes were polished (I learned this from my grandfather who always said you could tell a lot about a man by the appearance of his shoes.) My clothing advice was based on my own experience in the corporate world and observation. Now, with the power of this research, and recent articles, I feel even more confident in strongly arguing that clothes do make the man and woman!
I was astounded to read about the results of a recent study by a Yale university professor. Apparently, women who speak more are perceived as less competent. On the other hand, men who speak more are viewed as more competent. Professor Jennifer Brescoll suggests that how much we talk has implications for how powerful others perceive us to be. The frightening thing about this study is that women may interpret the results to mean that if they talk to much, they will experience a backlash.
Executive leadership teams regularly develop values statements to explain what is most important to them in fulfilling the company mission. Teams go through exercises to identify values they hope to live by.
When you have a toothache, would you consult a car mechanic who took a year-long, part-time course in dentistry, even if you felt he had a knack for it? If your child has a high fever and hacking cough, would you take him or her to your neighbor for treatment, one who has two children of her own, and works as an accountant? Probably not.
Last night during his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about the special forces who worked as a team to "take out" Osama Bin Laden. His point was that every member of the team was singly focused on successfully completing their dangerous mission. They relied on each other for communication, air cover, and support. When one of the rescue helicopters crashed, they didn't stop and point fingers and blame each other. They covered for each other. They helped each other up the stairs and made sure that every one got out alive. Every member of the team operated with mutual trust.
Nothing tangles potential organizational effectiveness than a top leadership team mired in unproductive interpersonal dynamics. These manifest as turf wars, political battles, and hidden agendas. The result is a lack of honesty and an inability to raise tough issues. Bad feelings between two key functional leaders trickle down to the rest of the organization. I once worked with a team in which two senior leaders had a visceral dislike of each other. Direct reports two to three levels down felt the tension, and were in turn mistrustful of each other. The result? Gridlock.
Think of a leadership team as a web of interconnected relationships. Mix in clashing egos, hidden agendas, and lack of trust. Agitate with different personality and thinking styles. Sprinkle in unproductive norms, power plays, and cultural and gender differences. Throw in a propensity to blame. Complicate matters with a complex business challenge--you know the kind--a frightening new competitor that threatens to eat your lunch, declining market share, a scarcity of cash to invest in needed resources--the kind of challenge that only this team can solve. The problem is, this team is mired in what I call a Strangling Team TangleTM. In almost every tangle, and I have named nearly two dozen distinct tangles, you experience unproductive working relationships, snarled lines of communication, and fuzzy lines of authority. Emotions run high and there is plenty of conflict, blame, and “us versus them” thinking and behavior. Sound familiar?
It is so easy to make excuses when things don't turn out as you planned. How often are you tempted to point the finger of blame? As an executive leadership coach, I have worked with leaders who have gotten in the bad habit of blaming others and are surprised when they don't get the results that they want.