I was a walking contradiction. I was both a creative who loved to sit and think big picture and a thinker who was very logical and linear. I was someone energized by painting outside the line, but found comfort in following a well-developed process. I’d get lost in the joy of writing, but experienced similar fulfillment and satisfaction in the detail and complexity of an Excel spreadsheet. There were times that I felt like the character from the Steve Martin movie, “The Man With Two Brains”. These two sides of my thinking process were very different, and I struggled to find a way for them to peacefully coexist. This internal battle impacted my efficacy as a leader.
I was someone energized by painting outside the line, but found comfort in following a well-developed process.
At last, I held a meeting of my two minds. In that meeting, the big picture brain explained what it was thinking to the logical and linear one, and together they developed a model that allowed me to become far more effective. And, it just makes sense. Well, at least, it does for me and my two brains. So, I thought I would share it, in case it has a similar impact on you.
The model is simple, and I use it for just about everything. But, most specifically, it applies to the way I lead, solve and communicate. It is a three stage process, and within each stage, there are two phases as illustrated below.
Rather than attempt a very academic explanation of the model and risk putting you all to sleep, I thought I would simply show you how it can be applied to the way you lead, solve and communicate. Before I go any further, it is important to let you know that this model is based on a few fundamental principles. The first is that it is entirely possible to be both a good businessperson and a good person in business. The second is that it is people who grow businesses, not technology, innovation, or marketing. Finally, all of us, at the end of the day, want the same things; to be heard, cared for, valued and respected. If these three principles don’t ring true to you, you’d be wasting your time reading any further.
It is entirely possible to be both a good businessperson and a good person in business.
Lead: To lead is to get people to move from where they are to where they need to be, it is a one-to-many relationship. So using this model, in the Seed Stage, the first phase is to Engage. Simply, this is about getting to know people and building an honest and real relationship with them. It starts with having a genuine interest in what they are doing and the challenges they face. The next phase is Listen. If you ask questions, then you need to hear how they are answered. So you have to stop what you are doing long enough to really listen and be present. If you do that, you will learn a lot. The Cultivate Stage is about alignment and vision. In the Frame phase, you detail out what needs to be done. It is here that you “frame” the deliverables and expectations. You then Envision the future state. You need to help people see what success will look like. After all, it is hard to run a race if you don’t know where the finish line is.
It is people who grow businesses, not technology, innovation, or marketing.
You then move to the Grow Stage. The first phase of this stage is Commit. You, as the leader, need to commit to doing everything in your power to provide the conditions necessary to support the achievement of the envisioned outcome. In turn, your team needs to commit to the established deliverables. The last phase is Measure. Peter Drucker once famously stated, “What is measured, improves”. Or, to use a more colloquial saying, “You need to inspect what you expect”. I don’t think any further explanation of this final phase is warranted, do you?
Now that I have walked you through the application of the model as it pertains to leadership, I can be a little briefer in my treatment of how it applies to the way you solve a challenge or communicate with others.
Solve: Business is a series of obstacles, and the companies that do the best are those that find their way over or around those obstacles the fastest. So the first thing you need to do is Engage the best minds at your disposal. There is little that is as powerful as the collective intelligence of a group. Make sure that this group is comprised of people of all levels within the organization. Because, in my experience, the answer to most challenges are found closest to the source. Next, you need to bring your “Beginner’s Mind” and Listen to the ideas and suggestions of those whom you have assembled. Together, you need to Frame the needed action steps and deliverables that will change the result. Then you must Envision what it would look like and mean to the organization to overcome the challenge or capitalize on the opportunity. Finally, you need to Commit to making it happen and Measure it to make sure it gets done.
Communicate: I will go back to the fundamental principles mentioned above, that it is people who grow businesses and that all of us want the same things. The first phase of the Seed Stage on the surface seems so simple, just Engage. Yet, many of us are terrible at this. We aren’t engaged in most of our conversations. We typically are multi-tasking, looking at our phones or computer screens. We are thinking about what needs to be done or what we are going to have for dinner. So, the first way to become a more effective communicator is to truly engage and be fully present. Next, we need to Listen. To listen deeply to someone is one of the greatest gifts you can offer. Then, if together, we are talking about getting something done, we have to Frame what must be done and the steps that are going to need to be taken. I think you know where I am going next. You then need to Envision what it is going to look like if those steps are taken. Then Commit to doing it, and agree on a way to Measure it so you are sure it gets done.
That is it, pretty straight forward. But for me, it has been incredibly powerful. I encourage you to at least try this model. Pick one or two areas and give it a go. If you believe in people, and like me, at times find yourself battling two different brains, then I am confident this model has the potential of being a game-changer for you.
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Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group. He works to grow businesses and business leaders. He helps organizations tell their stories and build relationships with their customers. He helps leaders better connect and communicate with those whom they lead, and serves as a thinking partner to executives and their teams.
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