Welcome to leadership from the balcony.
My name is Shawn Griesemer with my co-host Justin Dorroh. And each week we bring you a new leadership concept to inspire your growth and effectiveness as a leader in every area of your life.
It's not the information coming in. Everybody is seeing the same information. But the lenses you're wearing is changing how the information is actually going into you and how it's being processed.
In a vacuum, everyone wants to grow. Everyone wants to develop. But the recipe for growth, what it actually takes, is not for the faint of heart.
Today we're talking about growing vertically. As we discussed in our last podcast, vertical challenges aren't the typical challenges you face with ready-made solutions and reliable interventions. These challenges are complex and usually chronic. How do you need to develop personally so your organization can develop collectively to meet the complex challenges of today?
Thanks for joining us on the balcony. We hope you enjoy peering over the railing to gain an extended leadership perspective.
Today we're talking about growing vertically. We talked in a prior episode about the difference between horizontal challenges and vertical problems. And those horizontal challenges are ones that are more technical in nature and you approach them by learning a skill. Right. Or the way I like to think of it is somebody can give you the information and you could take a test on it. You can actually learn the information to address the technical situation. That's a horizontal challenge and we grow the information in our head. A vertical challenge, which hopefully leads to vertical development or psychological development, is something that is much more unique to an individual. Right. And not just a class you can go take. It takes time to grow. There are practices and habits we can put in place, but it's not like you can sit down and take a test and say, I know how to grow vertically. Right. Right. So just differentiating, generally speaking, you have to have the horizontal, the technical knowledge first. So, if we're talking about leadership, you have to know how to run a meeting. Right. You have to know how to... Delegate. Delegate or do any number of lead interviews or mentor people and train people. And there are things as a leader you need to know technically how to do. The question becomes, once you know how to do them, do you do them with purpose behind them and where you're going? Or is there something in you that resists really being able to do it well? So that's what we're talking about today is how do you grow in that vertical side, not the technical side? Right. I think another metaphor we've used, or I know we've talked about is the technical side. If you're thinking about a cup and what you pour in that cup is the liquid. Put new content in, new information, knowledge, skills, etc. Adaptive or vertical development is the cup itself. Yes. You know, just listening to you kind of reflect on what the differences are, you start to realize that's why you can't give more information on these things is because it's the lens that information goes through that we're talking about. Yes. It's that lens that causes you to interpret things, ask another question, not ask another question, think you understand, not realize you don't understand, like those things. And it's kind of like, it's very, not to use a word that's getting used a lot these days, it's very meta. It's the, how do you look at thinking in general, not just what's the information that's literally going through your mind. It's how do you make sense of that information to be able to apply it or to recognize, well, I still have some gaps in what I know and what I don't know. And to really make a good decision here, I need to close those gaps. That level of self-awareness, others' awareness, situational awareness, or contextual awareness are so significant from a decision-making standpoint, a leadership standpoint, an onboarding of a new employees. I mean, we could just create a whole list of implications. But my experience is this is an ethereal concept for people to really grab. But once you grab it, you see it. It makes sense. I actually love what you just said. You talked about glasses. Yeah. If you've ever worn glasses, whether they're sunglasses or corrective vision glasses, think about glass. And the way that you refine, you go from glass in its first state, and it may be cloudy, and it may be, you know, you can't even see through it. And then you have to buff it over and over and over again. So, like you're talking about a lens. And if you've ever worn glasses and you know, why does the right side not look as clear as the left? You can't see it while they're on. You have to take it off and hold it away from your head. Oh, there's a fingerprint or look, there's something that's on there. But while you were looking through those lenses, you only knew something was off. But it's so close to you, you can't see what the problem is. It's the same thing. I love how you're using that like glasses and lenses. You have to literally remove it from being attached to you to see what's impeding your vision. And that's exactly what we're talking about. It's not the information coming in. Everybody is seeing the same information, but the lenses you're wearing is changing how the information is actually going into you and how it's being processed. Once you take it off and somebody helps you, oh look, there's a fingerprint right there. Oh, you're right. There is a fingerprint. Then you have to take corrective action, which is usually a little, if you think of being the glass, you take a cloth or something and you rub it really hard. You shoot some chemicals on it to ammonia or Windex or whatever. Now you're having to do something abrasive, but not so abrasive it scratches the lens. This is hard work. We're just talking about cleaning your lenses, so you see better, but I think that's a great metaphor for what we're talking about. The information is the same to everybody outside, but the lenses they're wearing, your own lenses may have issues that need to be buffed out and cleaned. Or you may need to increase the magnification. So, it's about seeing it in new ways, not the information being different. I think the question that sometimes people ask is, why does this stuff matter? The reason it matters is the way we take in information, we add meaning to it, we don't add meaning to it, impacts the stories that we tell ourselves when we're driving in the car, when we're brushing our teeth, when we're walking to a meeting, and we're rehearsing, and over and over and over again. And I'm like, there is a pool of meaning that we all swim in every day. If we don't have good tools of how to make sure we are interacting with the same meaning, and we know how to ask the right questions, we know how to also voice the tensions that are being felt. Because sometimes being able to voice those tensions actually lessens them, because at least I got it out. We may not have it resolved, but now we have at least some of the lenses clear enough that we can continue to have the dialogue and go back and forth, and then hopefully resolve and get to the same page. And truly, when you really understand someone's point of view, both people understand each other's point of view, even if you don't see it the same way, it's not that threatening. Right. It's actually just like, okay, we see this different. We're still going to have to make some kind of decision. So okay, we'll figure out a way to make an initial decision, and then we'll monitor the impact of that decision, and then maybe we have to make another one. But I think the reality is we all swim in stories every day, but I don't know that we're all aware that we swim in stories every day. Let's just say we are not aware. We are not aware. And I think our desire is to help people and give people tools to begin to see the stories they tell themselves and begin to realize everyone else is telling themselves stories. How do we tap into those individual stories so that hopefully we can create a clarified collective story so that we recognize the dance that we're actually doing, if that makes sense. Yeah, absolutely. That is so true. I mean, I think of a couple of conversations I've had lately where, man, somebody says something and they're giving their understanding of a conversation that we've had in the past. And I'm sitting there thinking, how did you come to that? I mean, intending the exact opposite of that. Yet we were swimming in our own stories. And our stories were the lenses that the information coming through was colored by. Okay, so what we're talking about today is how do we actually go through a process of that vertical development? And again, I think the important thing is not looking at how do we land in a new default, but it's how do we even start down the road of being able to change our state of mind? Which again, to just recap, is it's that moment in time. What we want to concentrate on is how do we become better at taking individual situations and dealing with them in a new way? You know, there's a guy named Nick Petrie who has become a hero of mine in the developmental world. He was at the Center for Creative Leadership for many years and has written some great articles on vertical development. The Center for Creative Leadership has done tremendous work on vertical development. But he wrote an article, and he talked about three primary elements that are needed for developing this mindset. And he calls the three different areas. Heat is the first one. The second one is colliding perspectives. And the third one is coaching, or we've talked about using the wise old sage as the coach in this case. Talking about heat situations being real life to you, things that matter, things that will impact other people's lives where it is pressing you. Sometimes we call them stretch assignments. Oftentimes it's being put in a new situation that it's going to test. Do you really know how to handle it? Do you know how to think through it? And it's something that causes you to come potentially to the end of your mental rope on being able to handle a situation. Robert Keegan used to use the term in over your head. And now all of a sudden, you're in a situation and you are in it deeper than you know what to do with it. What's interesting is in a vacuum, everyone wants to grow. Everyone wants to develop. You have a conversation that everyone has some level of a big picture of what they see their life can mean, what kind of skills and abilities they could leverage to create an impact. What it takes to pay for growth, what it actually takes is not for the faint of heart. And you know, these heat moments, in fact, I was listening to a podcast recently, they commented as a leader, sometimes you have to turn up the heat to build a developmental environment for your team. You have to start thinking through how can I create heat moments so that they can learn, grow and develop and learn how to make sense of experiences at a higher level. And just recognizing the work of leadership is not just feeling good, heartwarming. It's intentional, it's focused, it's deliberate. At times you become the instigator of challenges in people's lives. But at the end of the day, it's not intended to be, you're not trying to harm them, you're trying to grow them. There's an interesting article that a mutual friend of ours has referenced before, talking about the biodome, do you recall this? And I think it's in Arizona. Keep going. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Where what they did is they basically created perfect conditions. And everything inside started to die. Because what they didn't understand was adversity, aka wind, actually created resilience in the plant life, because the roots had to go deeper to resist the wind. So, it's resistance, it's difficulty, it's challenge that causes us to grow. And without it, you won't. Yes. And that is quite a paradox for people to wrestle with. That totally makes me think of this is a total tangent, but red wine. I once looked at, you know, when everybody was talking about the health benefits of red wine and stuff like that. I love to deep dive, research things, and I started looking at where in the world do some of the most nutritious, when they've done the analysis, where do some of the most high nutrient rich wines come from? One of the things I saw was specifically in the south of France, this is true in other areas of the world, it is some of the most adverse growing conditions, rocky soil, high elevation. It's a harder environment for the grapes to grow, but it makes the skin on the grape go thicker and the vine is thicker. And because of all of that, it has had to work so hard to grow that the nutrients that are in it are off the charts compared to wines that are grown in very nutrient rich and they don't have to fight as hard. To your point, these situations, climates, environments where something has to work to grow, it actually becomes more nutritious to everything around it, even in the midst of being an adversity itself. But that leads to the next point. So, you have heat and people get in these situations that are really pushing against them. They're disruptive. They come to the end of their ability to handle it themselves. That's what heat is so good at, is, hey, you don't have it all. You actually need something more than what you have to give. Coming to that place is the first one, that first position of being able to say, I need to grow. I don't have it. And those who posture themselves ready to grow are far more likely to grow. So, they go the next step, which is colliding perspectives. That article I was referring to by Nick Petrie goes from heat to colliding perspectives. And colliding perspectives is the ability to go out there and say, I don't know all that I need to know. Help me to see what are ways, other ways to view this. What are other ways to make sense of it? We've talked about what do I believe and how might I be wrong? This is the how might I be wrong or what are the alternative perspectives I could use? Right. There's a saying I was reading recently in a book that talked about historically and by historically maybe the last 30 or 40 years, organizations have been designed to reduce colliding perspectives. They didn't use that language. No kidding. But just in terms of we don't want to create tensions. We don't want to create disagreements. We want to just mow down all the obstacles so that things can quote unquote be efficient. And the downside of not creating place for differing viewpoints is you don't see things from enough angles to have really robust solutions and ideas. You kind of create solutions in a vacuum not recognizing what you're not thinking about until the market or whatever hits it and says I don't want this, or I don't want as much of that and I just want this little component part. And it just made me think this whole colliding perspectives piece of this what does it take to develop can be such a strength of an organization, of a team, and sometimes leaders actually need to create disagreement for the sake of robust or just a thoroughness to how we're making decisions and how we're looking at this particular project or product or whatever it might be. That is counterintuitive. Yeah, that is so I hadn't heard that. That is so interesting. It's almost as though what it's going to take to wake them up is going to be by a magnitude of 10x worse than allowing the disruptions to happen organically. Correct. And that's the thing is it is actually pretty natural to not see things the same way to have a multitude of views. But if you're not careful, you will send messages that says do not disagree. Do not raise your voice because whether it's the leader or it's somebody on the team's pet project, whatever it might be. You know, I don't know if you've ever read those diagnostics of products that totally failed. Yes. And then they talk to the team members and there's usually one to three that on the front end before any decisions made were like, oh, I knew this wouldn't work. And the interviewer will say, now, why didn't you say something? And the answer is pretty consistent of, well, because in our context, we don't. I could see that. Yeah. But I didn't. I know that it's not worth saying anything. And it's just like, wow, this stuff is biting us more than we know. And sometimes because we don't allow for those heat moments and those colliding perspective moments to really cause us to get rigorous in our process, there is no learning that takes place. Right. And I love that they talk about these colliding perspectives. It is being with your team and being able to both say and voice or to hear something that is from a different perspective. But they talk about it, because again, growth really comes, and development really comes, when you seek it out because it postures you to learn. So, it s somebody who's in the accounting field overseeing other people who are doing accounting work, going and asking the person who oversees all the facilities. Hey, I have a situation. What's the situation? Because the guy who oversees facilities is going to use a totally different construct for sensemaking. Or go talk to the person who's over HR. Or go talk to the person who is your event planner and oversees all that. If you're in a huge organization and they do events all the time, then the person who's over accounting and has a situation come up, go talk to the person who's over event planning. Totally different perspective. It doesn't mean that you're dealing with the same situations. But if you're talking about, I have a problem with an employee, I guarantee there are similarities to the problem, even though one's dealing with numbers and forecasting and the other's dealing with, how do I get all these people to make this event happen right. But if you ask them, how would you view this? What do you think I'm missing? What do you think are the opportunities for me? Just start to get their perspective in your situations. Now you're getting colliding perspectives. Go talk to somebody, if you work at a bank, go talk to somebody that works in a retail organization. Get somebody's sense-making lenses that are outside your space. I think when you get outside of the box of your day-to-day, that's where you might get unique insights that you would have never guessed could cross-pollinate into your environment. Yes, that's so good. Because you just ask the question and recognize you don't know everything, you don't see everything. All of us are working from limitation. There is not one organization that everyone's working in with all kinds of information at the same time. So, there's lots we can learn if we do the work to be proactive in learning from others, asking questions, being curious. That brings us to that last component, and that's the coach or the wise old sage. And it's the person who's gone through the journey of life further than you have. And being able to find a person in your life, we love using actual trained coaches. They generally do this very well. We actually offer that as a part of our firm. What we love about it is, and what they talk about in going through this developmental journey is, somebody who can process with you, not to tell you what to think, not to tell you how to think, but to enable you to better understand how you are thinking. So, if I'm the coach and Justin, you're the one who's processing through a situation, you're in a heat situation and you've been asking, getting colliding perspectives. And my questions to you are, how are you seeing this right now? Who's scripting the standard that you're trying to perform to? Who's writing that metric and getting you to start to think through, how am I seeing this? And then saying, okay, what's the belief you have about how this person is responding right now? And then you have to actually sit there and go, well, this is what I believe about that person right now. I think they're trying to take over control. Okay, what is it that's leading you to believe that? I'm not telling you how to view it, but I'm trying to get you to actually expose what you see in this situation. And then asking you the questions, what did Sarah over in accounting say when you asked her how she saw the situation? Oh, well, she said, I should do this. Okay, what do you think about that? How would it make you feel if you went and did that? And being able to not tell you what to think, not how to think it, not what to do, but can I help you to actually engage how are you making sense of what's going on? That's taking the soft cloth on your lenses and starting to buff out some of those fingerprints so you can start to say, wow, I'm seeing with a new level of clarity that my own belief was a fingerprint that was fogging up my lens. So, I couldn't see clearly. They actually call that in a developmental sense, they call it elevated sensemaking, which is taking your ability to make sense of a situation in one way and raising it up to an elevated meaning. I hesitate to say better than, but it's more holistic, it's more complete. We talk about getting on the balcony, it's elevating up to the balcony where you're no longer just looking at it from the floor and where you stand, but now you have the ability to go on the balcony and look from an elevated perspective and get a whole lot more holistic view into your lenses and into your mind. Right. That's exactly right. When you're on the floor, you can only see a component part of what's happening. That's right. When you get up to that balcony, your ability to see your component gets a lot bigger. Yes. Because it's the whole now. That's right. And when you can see, oh, that's where my component was, but look at, I'm adding information to now better interpret that experience I just had. All of a sudden, the next time I'm on the dance floor, I can navigate differently because I've made sense of the whole in a different way. For sure. And again, like with complexity, it's never something you solve. It's something you get better at navigating. That's right. And so, there's constant reflection, experience, questions, getting coached, getting feedback, input that help to continue to develop a person psychologically to handle complex situations better every time. And it doesn't mean you won't have dips. Right. Because sometimes you're going to have something that blows all your fuses, but even that can go through a same developmental process, that heat experience, those colliding perspectives, and hopefully somebody who can elevate your sensemaking with good questions. Right. And helping you kind of piece everything together. Helps you handle and navigate future situations with that information now as a part of the framework of your ability to see and interpret. Right. So, what we're looking to do is to change our state of mind in any given situation. So can we increase the frequency by which we are being intentional on how we're approaching situations the next time, and the time that follows that, and the time that follows that. And our goal is can we elevate our sensemaking more and more over time so that our defaults start to change, and we are truly being developed?
So, that would lead us to our leadership experiment for this week is as you go through the next week and you find yourself in those heat situations, when you find you're in a complex situation, some situation that really matters to you, matters to others, it's going to impact others, and you're getting that feeling of this is going beyond what I can handle. Don't just try to dig in deeper to make it happen. Reach out to others. Identify what you believe about the situation at that moment but start to ask others, How would they make sense of this situation? And then find somebody that can journey with you a little bit and debrief the situation and help to elevate your sensemaking and be able to contrast that with the other colliding perspectives that you've heard. Go through each one of those three. It's not one of the two, it's not two of the three. It's being able to go through all three of those steps and see how it actually impacts your ability to not only deal with a situation, but what is the response of the people that you're leading as you do that and see if you get a far greater connection with your people and a better ability to learn because you're not doing it on your own. You're actually seeking to handle complexity with a host of people, not I have to be the one to take it on and be in control.
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