Leader As Convener

By Peter Block

We know that leadership matters. Traditionally we have defined the function as visionary, role model, designer, inspiration, and voice of where we are headed. We ask our leaders to be coach, listener, and a gardener who grows people.  

We also, as an expression of their importance,  “hold” them responsible when things go wrong. They have a cash drawer where the buck stops.

And we think that activism and social change are achieved by a heroic leader.    

Now is a moment for us to reconsider this construction. The option is to ask the leader to create connection among the led. Citizens. Employees. Siloed organizations and functions.  As many have said, move from hero to host. What is new is our decision to make this the top priority of leaders. As to the leader as role model, yes. But that is true of each of us. As well as to coach and nurture those who matter to us.

Leaders, by their position, hold something unique, in addition to their personal qualities: the power to change the context of where accountability and care for the whole reside. To use their position to engage citizens and members in relational activism. For whatever the purpose, decide that social capital and peer engagement is the first priority in high performance, and building a civic world that longs to be safe, educated, economically viable, and healthy.

When we become connected, we become accountable to each other. We know the ways to do this. Every facilitator and organization development person, every community builder, has this capacity.  If we seek accountability and belonging, these relational methodologies are what work. Especially in this hybrid, virtual, volatile time we live in. The problem is that these methods are in the hands of helpers, not most leaders.

Our invitation is to shift the content of what we teach leaders. This involves how we gather, how we occupy a room, both live and virtual, and how we learn. These ways of being and doing are how we best produce accountability in citizens and employees.

Leader as role model, visionary, people developer, and one who holds others accountable is a habit that will be hard to let go of. That notion creates comfort in that it encourages dependency, entitlement, and constant looking at the corner office. Leader presence and behavior as the center of our attention is popular because it lets citizens and employees off the hook.    

The demand for a redefinition of the leadership function is reinforced by the current crisis in social isolation. The challenges and opportunities of working virtually and remotely have been with us for a long time. We are constantly told that we are polarized, siloed, likeminded, and attracted to tribes. All this was intensified by the pandemic and invited us to reconsider how leadership might attend more powerfully to the need for a stronger community and chosen accountability. The future will not be a return to something. It will be the reimagination of something.

The major challenge for leaders will be to develop the skills and mindset to convene and engage people in new ways. Ways that overcome isolation, deepen connections, and prepare people to live into the uncertain realities of all workplaces and communities.  And to do it quickly.  

This shift in how we think about leadership is served by making a distinction between management and leadership. Managers create order in the workplace. They know how to plan, organize, delegate, and control work and people. The value proposition of managing is speed, predictability, and convenience in a disordered world.  

Leadership needs management, but it is much more than that. It holds a larger possibility than creating order and clarity. That possibility is the capacity and power to invite us into an alternative future.

The leader’s task is not to promise or define the alternative future. This is too often a marketing campaign. Managing the news. An alternative future does not occur by offering certainty. It begins by increasing authentic connection. Relational activism. Especially with the stranger. This means creating new habits of how we convene people. The purpose is to engage them in co-creating a response to a shifting market, technology, and supply world. To engage them in a response to volatile and fragmented elements of places we care about.  Good leadership has to become more sophisticated in engaging people with each other. The value proposition for this kind of leadership is accelerated trust building, accountability to peers, and adaptability in a complex and fluid setting. These are the benefits in the shift from hero to host and convener.   

We already know a lot about the protocols of convening and engagement. The problem is that they exist primarily in the hands of facilitators, team builders, community organizers, and human resource and organization development people. What is new here is not the actual tools of convening. They have been around for quite a while.

Unfortunately, we have used those tools mostly for out-of-the-ordinary intentions. When we want peers to truly engage, or to set aside times for thoughtfulness and relationship building, we call on retreats, team building, focus groups, recovery groups, spiritual practices, block parties, summits, and special events. As if building trust and accountability and change were needed only on occasion.

Leaders and citizens have had to purchase these skills rather than embody them.  We need to learn how to transfer this convening-and-engagement thinking and its tools into the minds, hearts, and hands of leaders and people who run things. And make these common good protocols a habit. This is how we create impact engagement, a more powerful and authentic alternative to surveys, questions and answers, or requests for feedback.   

There are several principles of leading for this relational activism or high-impact engagement.

  1. Questions are more powerful than answers
  2. The small group is the unit of transformation
  3. Purpose is to go deeper rather than faster. Slow and small is more powerful than speed and scale.    
  4. Conversations between peers are more vital than the interactions between leaders and followers.
  5. Horizontal connection among peers or citizens produces accountability and commitment to the well-being of the whole. The common good.
  6. Highlighting people’s gifts and capacities is what is important. Let their deficiencies rest in peace.

This kind of engagement accelerates building trust and social capital when treated as a first priority. The research is convincing that this produces better outcomes, whether looking at organization results, safety in a neighborhood, healthier citizens, raising a child, or social and economic equity.

We are calling these convening tools Common Good Protocols. This set of tools includes learning the power and specific framing of questions of possibility, dissent, crossroads, ownership, commitment, contracting, and gifts. We need to teach and learn how leaders can use these questions in a variety of settings. This work is both simple and hard. There also must be ongoing support to make the shift.

In addition to the questions, the Common Good Protocols include a range of convening designs built around Open Space, World Café, Appreciative Inquiry, and Art of Convening gatherings.  The challenge to leading through convening is that it relocates and diffuses control, violates employee and citizen-dependent expectations, and asks us to surrender our belief in top-down and bottom-up theories of change and improvement. It also asks us to stop complaining. To give up waiting for people on top to change or people at the middle and bottom to “get on board.”

The invitation is to shift leadership to convener wherever we are together. Any situation where three or more people are gathering. Staff meetings, cross-functional teams, special focus and town hall gatherings, strategy sessions, and education events. Each time people gather––on the phone, a digital platform, or in a room together––is an opportunity to accelerate trust, and to produce peer accountability.

If we care about institutional and community outcomes and transformation in a volatile world, these Common Good Protocols become everyday practices. Every part of every day. It is not about devaluing typical problem-solving, predetermined agendas, and the devices for predictability. It is simply putting management where it belongs, as a useful but second priority. First in line are specific protocols designed to bring us together to connect for the larger purposes of our existence.   

Are you interested in shifting to this kind of leadership? If so, we invite you to join our program, Leader as ConvenerTo recieve more columns, pamphlets, and invitations curated by Peter Block, subscribe today to Witness the Common Good.

Are You Consulting Without a Safety Net?

What if we worked with clients in ways that could better leverage our expertise, foster trust sooner, galvanize stronger commitment, and make consulting more rewarding? I find these outcomes more likely occur when I weave a safety net in asking clients for what I want and voice them during contracting conversations:

  • I want you to, at any time, talk with me about how we are working together. This simple yet powerful statement opens the choice for clients to speak authentically about what is important to them and what challenges they face—affirming that my relationship with the client is fundamental to solving the problem. I’m now on the hook for asking clients about their doubts and concerns, naming their resistance, ensuring they feel seen and heard, and expressing what they are doing that is useful to me.
  • I want you to talk to me first, before talking to my boss. Waste of time and erosion of trust occur when we go around instead of directly to sources. With a client’s agreement to #1 above, it makes sense that I be the one talked to first. I always explain that if they go to my boss about something I should hear, my boss will ask, “Have you talked to JP about this?” because my boss and I have made this same agreement.
  • I want you to make the decision when others on this project come to a standstill/impasse. In every project I’ve been a part of, people have gotten stuck. When that happens, this agreement reminds clients that the decision to get unstuck is theirs to make.
  • I want you to agree that I will conduct my own discovery to gain a clear picture of what’s going on. My unique value to the client is my ability to see clearly how the problem is being managed. Without my independent perspective of the underlying dimensions of the problem, I’m left solving only the technical/business aspect of the problem—the presenting problem. The resolution of the real problem requires a change in thinking and action on the part of the client. By looking at the problem in a way that the client can’t, I’m able to identify the impact that goals, processes, and relationships have on the problem—how they keep the presenting problem from being solved. Without this agreement, clients have every right to assume I’ll skip the Discovery and Feedback Phases and move directly into Implementation.  
  • I want you to consider what role you need to play to bring about desired changes and how you may be contributing to the problem. This underscores why solving the presenting problem is not enough and invites our shared exploration. By encouraging early ownership and commitment, this minimizes surprises during feedback and points to what clients have the most control over. Rather than solving problems for clients, I set myself up to help clients solve problems themselves.

What I want from clients above stems from my consulting experiences and lessons learned. (Even today, what is challenging in a relationship can be attributed to what I have not asked for.) Although each relationship and project is unique, I voice this set during every contracting conversation to mitigate what I don’t want. These are in the interest of making sure the project is successful—not to satisfy my own personal whims and wishes. What would it sound like to state clearly and simply what you want from a client?

As humans, our reactions are strongly influenced by the environment we inhabit, and the same holds true for our clients. Without a safety net, we risk doing to the client as an expert or doing for the client as a pair of hands. What’s possible when, as Flawless Consultants, our decisions are grounded in the security of our safety net? By fostering an environment of relatedness and connection, we offer insurance for working with our clients, allowing our expertise to shine. What does your safety net of wants look like?

Article by JP Tier

5 Reasons Why Consulting Is Always a Choice

“What if someone finds out I’m not supposed to be here?!” my inner voice whispered during my first Flawless Consulting workshop. Even my job title as a consultant couldn’t convince me I belonged. The problem was that I judged my value based on others’ perceptions rather than my own. If your inner imposter insists, “I’m not a consultant,” consider these choices:

1. Be Authentic

Put into words what you are experiencing in alignment with what you value. Being authentic with a client who has solutions of their own and expects you to follow their instructions may sound like, “I’m reluctant to support a solution when I’ve not been personally involved in the diagnosis of the problem.” This simple direct statement rebalances the consultant-client relationship.

2. Be Compassionate

Assume good intentions and give clients the benefit of the doubt. Acknowledge that what the client is doing makes perfect sense to them. Care about their feelings. Instead of standing across from a client whose lack of commitment stems from concerns of losing control and getting hurt, stand with them: “Starting a project like this takes some risks on your part, and I appreciate your willingness to take that risk with me.”

3. Exchange Wants

Elicit the client’s expectations of you. Clearly and simply state what you want from the client. “What do you want from me? Here’s what I want from you.” This is in the interest of making sure the project is successful, as you cannot receive what you do not ask for. “I want you to consider what role you need to play to bring about desired changes and how you may be contributing to the problem.” This affirms that you trust yourself to know what is required for you to be successful and gives your client something to trust.

4. Be a Model for the Way You Want Things to Be

Whatever’s missing in a situation is that which you can provide. You go first! Our hope that others will learn and change is best realized through our behaviors of what’s possible. “What concerns do you have about our working together?” “Here’s what you’ve done that has been useful…” This tells our clients it’s okay to show us their warts and wrinkles and teaches them how to work with us.

5. Help Clients Solve Problems Themselves

Instead of solving problems for clients, apply your special skills to help clients solve problems themselves. The distinction is significant. Differentiate between the presenting problem and the underlying problem by understanding how the problem is being managed. Help clients make good decisions by focusing on where they have the most influence – themselves! Enable them to discover the extent of choice and freedom in their lives that they didn’t know they had.

If you’re still unsure if consulting is what you do, consider that every time you give advice to someone who is in the position to make the choice, you are consulting. Being a consultant depends less on your title and more on your choices. As consultants, we often feel choiceless. By opting for humanity in the “flawless” choices above, we enhance our influence and leverage our expertise. How’s that for experiencing more choice?!

Article by JP Tier

Want to learn more about Flawless Consulting? Sign up for our virtual and in-person workshops or get a copy of the book today.

What are you agreeing to?

As an internal consultant, I often hear messages embedded within the culture and hierarchy of the organization about how my work should be conducted. Pressure to be strategic in relationships, speak in an indirect way, and ignore what I’m experiencing at the moment. Those things define my dilemma. Mandates to “never say no” and expectations to convert difficult clients make internal consulting a high-risk endeavor. What I agree to can limit my expertise getting use. It also could amplify the possibility my consulting will be of lasting service.

“We need to run this like a business!”

This statement presumes more control, oversight, and predictability is what is needed. Agreeing to be controlled by this false safety that dehumanizes the culture in the workforce overlooks the most important element of this statement: We! The route to genuine change is less obvious than a list and some milestones. More prescription is what ensures tomorrow will be no more different than yesterday. Relationship is the delivery system of anything we’re looking to accomplish. Agreeing to answer, “What will people do differently because of anything we do together?” invites an exploration of answers that establishes a collaborative relationship and builds client commitment.

“The traditional sense of consulting is not what is needed here.”

As internal consultants, we’re often handed something someone else has started. In response to my want to have a more collaborative partnership with a client, my boss conveyed, “The traditional sense of consulting is not what is needed here.” Ah! The importance of making agreements with the client and my boss within a triangular contract. It is easier for me to agree to do the bidding of my boss as a pair of hands or as an expert. It is better for me to agree to our exchange of what we want of each other. A workable agreement between me and my boss is crucial to a successful client agreement. Just because being collaborative may not always be possible is not a reason to avoid authentically expressing in words what I want to get my expertise used. What future agreements could my boss learn to make with clients through agreements I make with her?

“This client likes to think they are special and is known for getting whatever they want.”

While facilitating a request for my team’s services, a relationship manager cautioned, “This client likes to think they are special and is known for getting whatever they want.” By agreeing to this, I’m confronted with how I am creating the world I’m living in. How might the client work within agreements where consultants have not directly expressed what they want? Could my belief in, and worse, retelling of stories about ogres and angels be contributing to the problem? Could it be prohibiting my expertise from being used? I can agree to look beyond my heroic wish to be all-powerful and successful, reflected in my own concerns of relevance, competence, and self-esteem. Also, I agree to see what is human about clients. I agree to acknowledge how they have similar concerns about losing control, becoming vulnerable, and making a commitment.

We can agree to identify the high self-trust choices we all have as internal consultants. Agree to be ourselves or agree to conform to the expectations we think others have of us. We can agree to play roles and adopt internally alien behavior. Agree to represent some loss of ourselves or agree to present information as simply, directly, and assertively as possible. We can agree to recycle familiar messages or agree to engage people together in a conversation they didn’t expect to have. We can agree not to collude and instead embark on a high-adventure path, operating in a realm of greater risk and reward while still earning the respect and appreciation of our clients, where we give up some safety in service of increased power, impact, and influence.

By JP Tier

Is Your Consulting Flawless?

As consulting professionals, each interaction with a client offers an opportunity to allow the flawless consultant within us to emerge. So is your consulting flawless? The preliminary events of consulting are where we have the most leverage to create successful outcomes during implementation. Furthermore, our reactions to a client, our feelings during conversations, our ability to solicit feedback from the client and give feedback to the client—can accelerate trust, instill balanced responsibility, and build client commitment throughout the consulting process. So, what strikes you about these choices?

Contracting

(Dealing with emotional issues and agreeing on how to proceed)

ConsultingFlawless Consulting
How’s the weather in your area today?Things have not gone smoothly in our history of working together. That concerns me and I want to rewrite that history. What personal meaning do you find in what we’re doing?
How long has this been going on? Have you tried…?I hear your concern for… And what I hear really matters to you is…
What do you want from this project?What do you want from me?
It would be good to get your support on this.I want you to make the decision when others on this project come to a standstill or impasse.
Based on what we’ve discussed, next steps are…What doubts and reservations do you have about our agreement to work together?
I completely understand. Now, back to…You’ve really helped me see what’s at stake for you. Thank you for trusting me in that way. How do you feel about proceeding?

Discovery

(Discovering the underlying dimensions of the problem)

ConsultingFlawless Consulting
I’m here to diagnose the problem.What can we create together that we cannot create alone?
What seems to be the problem?What capacities and strengths of others would make this successful?
What process seems to be missing?How is conflict managed?
Who has solved this elsewhere, and how do we import that knowledge?What is your contribution to the problem?
How did this problem start?What’s the future you want to see?
It sounds like the problem is… What if you…?What do you need to do to create the future you’ve described?

Feedback

(Getting the client to act on the underlying issues)

ConsultingFlawless Consulting
I’m here to teach you how to…What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform this group and inspire you?
As you can see on slide #36…Something you may have control over is… Something you can do is… What’s your reaction to what I just shared?
Another reason my recommendation will work is…What ideas do you recommend for turning this around?
Let me explain a third time what I mean.Are you getting what you want from this meeting?
Believe me—my plan is solid.Here are the choices you have. What promise are you willing to make that constitutes a risk or major shift for you?
I’ll send you the PowerPoint.Something you’ve done in this conversation that’s been of value to me is…

Flawless consultation means consulting as best we can, independent of outcomes. Letting our behavior be consistent with our beliefs and feelings. Trusting ourselves to raise the stakes, engage in caring confrontation, offer strong support, and ensure affirmation of what each of us knows. This is the path that serves us well with clients and increases the chances that our expertise will be used again and again. Make your consulting flawless today. Learn more here.

by JP Tier

3 Reasons Why Reading Flawless Consulting Is Not Enough

Yes, reading is fundamental. And as a valuable and essential method of learning, it does have its limitations, particularly when it comes to acquiring practical skills. Solely relying on reading to learn a skill can be as limiting as learning how to ride a bike by only reading an instruction manual. Mere words on a page won’t help you learn how to maintain balance, coordinate pedaling, steering, and braking, or anticipate obstacles. To avoid getting a flat tire when influencing others, here are 3 reasons why only reading Flawless Consulting is not enough to get your expertise used:

  1. Complex Skills: Consulting skills are intricate and multifaceted, requiring a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience. For instance, you may read about the many steps required of consultants within each Consulting Phase, but without actually practicing and honing these steps, you won’t become proficient. Which steps might you have forgotten? What’s possible in reviewing these helpful checklists and worksheets with your clients and asking for their agreement to experience them together?
  2. Lack of Practical Application: Reading alone doesn’t provide hands-on experience. Consulting skills require practice and real-world application to truly master them. Without practical experience, you may struggle to translate theoretical knowledge into real-world actions. For example, consultants often find it easy to ask clients for what they want but can’t imagine putting directly into words what they want from the client to make a project successful. It’s not until this vital skill is practiced that asking for what you want becomes fathomable. Did you know Designed Learning offers coaching and consulting to help you solve problems and impact relationships? How might a conversation with one of Designed Learning’s certified coaches help you implement what you’ve read?
  3. Social Interaction and Collaboration: Consulting skills involve connecting and collaborating with others. Reading alone may not adequately prepare you for real-world interactions that are essential for flawless consultation. When learning a skill, feedback is crucial for improvement. Reading doesn’t offer immediate feedback on your performance or help you identify and correct mistakes in real-time. Did you know that even before the book was published, author Peter Block designed Flawless Consulting as a workshop? It’s true! Our Flawless Consulting® workshop inspires mastery of the promises and phases of the renowned book with an interactive and powerful learning experience. Through use of case studies, role plays, and simulations, participants gain insight into their own individual consulting skills, try new behaviors, and test assumptions to see what impact changes may have on their results and satisfaction back on the job.

Engaging with a skill beyond reading, such as through practical application and experiential learning, can enhance your motivation and enthusiasm for learning. Reading alone might not provide the same level of motivation. Better to combine it with hands-on practice, real-world experience, and interactive learning methods to fully develop your consulting skills. Just like learning to ride a bike, Designed Learning’s solutions and services ensure your skills to have your expertise used, transform organizations, and build healthy partnerships will quickly come back to you when needed.

by JP Tier

Change the Conversation – Change the Culture

By Jeff Evans

“How do we change the culture?” It is a question I have been asked many times while facilitating Flawless Consulting® workshops. The answer? “One conversation at a time.” 

Participants of Flawless find a lot of value in the tools and concepts we cover to be more collaborative and to get their expertise utilized. However, they share that a big barrier to collaborating is the culture- in particular, the behavior of upper management. I spent over 30 years inside large organizations, and I have felt the same way at times. I found myself thinking and saying, “I could be more collaborative if my boss and my clients let me.” For some reason, I felt I couldn’t change if they didn’t change. What I have learned is if I wait for others to change, at any level, I will be waiting a long time. I need to focus on my own behaviors and attitude about how I want to work and relate to others.  

Exchanging Wants

A key element and skill of Flawless Consulting®Ω is exchanging wants with the people I am trying to influence. This means getting curious about what the other person wants as well as being clear about what I want. Easier said than done in organizations where the culture values hierarchy, command, and control. When I am in a support role, trying to influence others with position, power, and authority, it can be easier to focus on their wants and ignore my own. When I do this, I am putting myself in a position to be an “order taker” or “pair-of-hands.” It seems that this is the role many managers want their people to take. “I’m the boss/client/leader; just do what I ask you to do.” This is the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) belief in many organizations.

It Takes Courage

The antidote to being a non-assertive order taker is to change the conversations you are having with your clients, bosses, and leaders. The first step is to get clear about what you want, and the second step is to have the courage and skills to ask. Ask yourself, “What do I want from this leader in order to do my best work?” We aren’t asking for what we want to be selfish. On the contrary, we want to do our best work for the organization. To do this, we have things we want from others.

Getting clear about what we want is the easier step of this process. The more difficult step is having the courage to ask, especially if the culture doesn’t support asking for things from upper management. Ask yourself, “What is the risk of asking for what I want?” Then ask, “What is the risk if I don’t?” Start having these conversations with the people where the relationship is strong. Don’t start with your most difficult relationship. You will build confidence and courage the more you try it. 

Will the culture of the entire organization change from this conversation? Probably not. However, the culture within your sphere of influence will begin to change when you change the conversations you are having. We are operating under a social contract based on command and control. It’s time to renegotiate the social contract. As more people in the organization move toward this collaborative conversation, the culture will begin to shift. Don’t wait for others to change the culture. Have the courage to change your conversations to create a culture of your own choosing.

Get the skills you need to get clear on your wants and help to inspire larger transformation and change within organizations and communities.

‘Yes’ is the right question

 Something in the persistent question, “How?” expresses each person’s struggle between having confidence in their capacity to live a life of purpose and yielding to the daily demands of being practical. It is possible to spend our days engaged in activities that work well for us and achieve our objectives and still wonder whether we are making a difference in the world. What if ‘Yes’ is the right question?

My premise is that this culture, and we as members of it, have yielded too quickly to what is doable, practical, and popular. In the process, we have sacrificed the pursuit of what is in our hearts. We find ourselves giving in to our doubts and settling for what we know how to do or can soon learn to do instead of pursuing what most matters to us and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires.

We often avoid the question of whether something is worth doing by going straight to the question, How do we do it?” In fact, when we believe that something is definitely not worth doing, we are particularly eager to start asking How? We can look at what is worth doing at many different levels: As an individual, I can wonder whether I can be myself and do what I want and still make a living. For an organization, I can ask for whose sake does this organization exist, and does it exist for any larger purpose than to survive and be economically successful? As a society, have we replaced a sense of community and civic engagement for economic well-being and the pursuit of our private ambition?

Too often, when a discussion is dominated by questions of how we risk overvaluing what is practical and doable and postponing the questions of larger purpose and collective well-being. With the question, we risk aspiring to goals that are defined for us by the culture and by our institutions at the expense of pursuing purposes and intentions that arise from within ourselves.

While there are many positive values to our desire for concrete action and results, it does not ensure that what we are doing serves our own larger purpose or acts to create a world that we can believe in—in other words, a world that matters. Thus, the pursuit of how we can act to avoid more important questions, such as whether what we are doing is important to us, as opposed to being important to them. While we do create value when we pursue what is important to others, it is different from doing what is important to us.

If knowing how offers us the possibility of more control and predictability, then we may have to sacrifice them to pursue what matters. The choice to worry about why we are doing something more than how we do something is risky business. It is risky for us as individuals, for our organizations, and for society.

Choosing to act on “what matters “is the choice to live a passionate existence, which is anything but controlled and predictable. The alternative to asking How? is saying Yes – not literally, but as a symbol of our stance toward the possibility of more meaningful change and change that promises real commitment to what draws us into what matters. 

To commit to the course of acting on what matters, we postpone the how questions and precede them with others that begin to shift us from “what works” to “what matters.” Taken in isolation and asked in the right context, all how. The questions are valid. But, when they become the primary questions, the controlling questions, or the defining questions, they create a world where operational attention drives out the human spirit. 

How Question 1: How do you do it? 

becomes

Yes Question 1: What refusal have I been postponing?

How Question 2: How long will it take? 

becomes

Yes Question 2: What commitment am I willing to make?

How Question 3: How much does it cost? 

becomes

Yes, Question 3: What is the price I am willing to pay?

How Question 4: How do you get others to change? 

becomes

Yes Question 4: What is my contribution to the problem I am concerned with?

How Question 5: How do we measure it? 

becomes

Yes Question 5: What is the crossroad at which I find myself at this point in my work/life?

How Question 6: How are other people doing it successfully? 

becomes

Yes Question 6: What do we want to create together?

When we look for tools and techniques which are part of the how question, we preempt other kinds of learning. If we want to know what really works, we must carefully decide which are the right questions for this moment. Picking the right question is the beginning of action on what matters, and this is what works. This is how we name the debate, by the questions we pursue, for all these questions are action steps. Good questions work on us; we don’t work on them. They are not a project to be completed but a doorway opening onto a greater depth of understanding and action that will take us into being more fully alive.

From The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block.

Why should they trust you? Restoring Relationships Should be Top Priority for Today’s Business Leaders 

May 9, 2023

Building trust is imperative for organizations, especially during times of economic uncertainty. When trust is present, it can help to stabilize relationships, foster cooperation, and increase confidence amongst teams, clients, and key stakeholders. While trust is the bedrock of team success, there is no doubt that building it is especially important during times of economic turbulence, where uncertainty and risk can cause team members and stakeholders to become cautious and resistant. 

Leaders should prioritize building trust because it’s good for morale. Even more so, it’s good for business. Trust generates resilience and confidence within any company, organization, or community among those key to its success. 

Trust strengthens relationships 

So here’s what is obvious: trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship between organizations and their stakeholders. When those with a vested interest also trust a business, they are more likely to be supportive and authentically interested in its success. This can lead to stronger partnerships and boosted collaboration. 

Trust fosters resilience 

Building trust can help businesses weather economic uncertainty by creating a sense of ownership and belonging. When stakeholders have confidence in the relationship, they are more likely to remain committed and engaged, even during difficult times. Trust allows an organization to maintain momentum and overcome inevitable, unpredictable obstacles. 

Trust boosts confidence 

Economic uncertainty can create fear and doubt for businesses and their stakeholders. By building trust, leaders can help alleviate these concerns and boost confidence, increasing investment, stronger partnerships, and more significant growth opportunities. 

As many of us know, trust is not easily won by everyone. Part of being a leader is to engage your team and those with whom you collaborate in a way that demonstrates a genuine effort to connect and foster a positive relationship. If you are a leader, there are some concrete and specific steps that you can take to build trusting relationships in your organization. 

Step One: Identify the levels of trust in your relationships 

Let’s face it; some people are more complicated to work with than others. That’s okay. That’s life. Without playing the blame game, take time to note down mentally those relationships where trust is not there, whether it’s an adversarial one or one of indifference. 

Also note where the relationships are solid, those who you go to with ideas, possibilities, doubts, and concerns. Those are high-trust relationships, and it’s essential to put effort into maintaining them too. 

Step Two: Develop an approach and strategy for different relationships based on the level of trust 

Relationships with different levels of trust require different approaches. For example, strategies and methods exist to build trust with people with whom we do not connect or agree. It starts with connecting with people without judgment, valuing others’ points of view, and finding instances of agreement and similarities instead of differences. Part of any strategy that must deal with trust is an acknowledgment of what role you play within the relationship. Leaders who wish to approach building trust with intention must start with a willingness to let their guard down and be vulnerable. 

“I can create a high-trust environment any time I want. All I must realize is that I am creating the environment in which I live,” explained Peter Block in the article Trust in Whom. ”We are afraid of being naïve and a fool if we continue to trust in the face of others’ betrayal. Well, what is so great about being strategic and clever? And what is so wrong about being a fool? Maybe being willing to be a fool is the exact means of creating the high-trust world that we each long for.”

Step Three: Plan and practice conversations that matter

The starting point for action and change is conversation. The quality of how you are with others matters even more than the expertise you each bring. That said, holding trust-building conversations requires authenticity, vulnerability, and a learned communication skillset that takes practice. 

In a time of uncertainty, trust is an invaluable resource, and it requires action and intention from the side of leaders who depend on it to achieve successful outcomes. In Flawless Conversations: Building Trusting Relationships, learn how to plan for conversations that inspire not only a shift within your one-on-one relationships but can even empower broader transformation within your team, organization, and beyond.

Partnership – Great goal; Insufficient word

As we work and live with others, the word partnership seems to be a common goal. We want to build business partnerships, partner better, and we want others to partner with us.  Partnership is a good word and a worthy goal. 

Questions I ask Myself

  • What does partnership look like?
  • Who do I want to partner with?
  • How do I achieve partnership?
  • What can I specifically do to build partnerships?

These questions seem easy to answer on the surface, but I find that the goal of partnership eludes me more often than I want. I have conversations with others, and we seem to want a partnership together, but most often, I don’t invest the time to understand and act on what partnership could look like.

For example, one of my former bosses asked me to help her organization build “strategic business partnerships” with their internal business partners. I loved the idea and started changing the way I interfaced with other leaders. First, I asked more questions. Also, I delayed my recommendations until I knew more about the issue they were facing. I worked to co-create possible solutions with them instead of quickly implementing their solutions or mine. It didn’t take long for one of these leaders to call my boss to complain that I wasn’t being cooperative and that I was delaying decisions.

My boss came to me and asked what I was doing. When I said I was trying to build “strategic business partnerships,” she said, “That is what we want, but don’t upset the clients. Just do what they ask you to do”. It’s clear my boss and I had different ideas on what these partnerships would look like.

Some Partnership Challenges

Building partnerships is not complex. In fact, it can be simple to understand. We create a common understanding of what we are going to do together (short-term or long-term) and we share what we want from each other and negotiate an agreement.

The challenge in building partnerships comes when I actually have the conversation. I may even avoid the conversation altogether. I get in my own way. My desire to be right, to minimize my risk, to be safe, and to gain a predictable outcome get in the way. There is also a sense of urgency to get things done and act. Unfortunately, nothing about partnerships is predictable or risk-free, and urgency is the enemy of quality – the quality of the outcome and the quality of the relationship.

So, What Do We Do?

There are many aspects to building partnerships. I have found the easiest and most beneficial is to minimize assumptions and vagueness in our language. When we ask for something we want, we need to be specific. I had a mentor years ago who told me to avoid “goodness” words. That statement itself is vague, so I asked, “What’s a goodness word?”. He said, “Goodness words describe things we want, and they are good (things like support, buy-in, partnership, respect, etc.), but they are not sufficient for a meaningful agreement.”

The antidote for the goodness word is to ask myself and share with you, “What does it look like?”. If you are giving me support, this is what you would be doing. If we are going to have a partnership, this is how we will treat each other. This is what respect looks like to me.

Asking these next-level questions takes time. I need to pause and get specific with myself and others. I assume you know what I mean, and I think I know what you mean. These assumptions are recipes for poor agreements. I am learning to share with others the behaviors I am looking for and to ask them what behaviors they want from me. Having this next level of conversation is a small investment in time that pays big dividends with agreements that last and partnerships that thrive.

 

Build better partnerships by putting your focus on relational skills with Flawless Consulting. Attend a workshop today.