Bias not built for the networked age is our 21st century “rock in the road”

By Raphael Louis Vitón

If victory today depends on sustained innovation, then our lack of cognitive diversity and our default/counterproductive biases will continue to be the primary obstacle (rock in the road) to designing and implementing a new, winning strategy. Our counterproductive biases are the No. 1 business challenge from which all other business challenges are born. Bias is a 21st century business issue, not a diversity issue. Are we doomed? What if we’re working for zombie leaders who are trapped by their biases? What if we’re the zombie leader? Is there an antidote that we can use to keep from becoming “walkers” ourselves?

THE METAPHOR

Like the “Rock in the Road” episode from Season 7 of the Walking Dead when Rick Grimes tells a story about a rock in the road that nobody removes, it keeps causing all kinds of problems until finally a young girl digs it out.

RICK: “Well, when I was a kid, my mother told me a story. There was a road to a kingdom, and there was a rock in the road. And people would just avoid it, but horses would break their legs on it and die, wagon wheels would come off. People would lose the goods they’d be coming to sell. That’s what happened to a little girl. The cask of beer her family brewed fell right off. It broke. Dirt soaked it all up, and it was gone. That was her family’s last chance. They were hungry. They didn’t have any money. She just… sat there and cried, but… …she wondered why it was still there… for it to hurt someone else. So she dug at that rock in the road with her hands till they bled, used everything she had to pull it out. It took hours. And then… …when she was gonna fill it up, she saw something in it. It was a bag of gold.”

The moral of the story is: Whoever has the perseverance, decency and determination to dig up the rock in the road, gets the gold reward.

It has a nice “better angels of our nature” storyline. But let’s not go there; that’s distracting. Let’s not attach this business antidote to a fictitious storyline or moral, intuitional, spiritual, anecdotal truism. Let’s not bring it up in the context of L&D, HR or gender, diversity and inclusion (none of which historically have had enough corporate authority or decision rights to drive meaningful change). That’ll just give us a reason to minimize the impact. Let’s not even attach the antidote to a legal argument. Let’s stay in the realm of objective reasoning and business logic. Let’s work within our reliability-oriented, overachiever, operational mindsets from the industrial age, where delivering business results is what matters. In business, we’re taught to “put up (the numbers) or shut up.” I’m cool with that. So let’s talk about this in the context of irrefutable evidence, observable math and real-world experiments that prove, without a doubt, exactly what to do for better business outcomes.

In our 21st century reality, we’ve been walking around our “rock in the road” for decades. Whether it is explicit or implicit (conscious or unconscious) biases, Drucker warns us that in times of change, the greatest danger to complex problem solving and effective decision-making is our tendency to act (unconsciously) with yesterday’s logic, beliefs and mental models (aka the leadership complexity gap).
SeeChangeHomeFlash-1

But we’re all so smart and so successful that we can’t imagine that Drucker was talking about us — that other executive over there for sure…he is a classic example of being a prisoner of thought patterns, but not me…no way. The reality is that no one is immune. Our brains are always applying default biases and rules that are both productive and counterproductive whether we consciously know it or not. We’re biased about the biases that are counterproductive. We have HUGE blind spots and amazing powers of denial.

We all have biases. The problem isn’t that we have biases; the problem is that we deny that we have biases.

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Here is what it sounds like when we resist learning how to mitigate our biases:

I don’t do any of that. This doesn’t apply to me. I’m not biased. If I am biased, it’s only a little, and I do not suffer from cognitive biases. I am not drawn to details that confirm my beliefs (confirmation bias and bandwagon effect). I don’t notice flaws in others more easily than I do in myself (bias blind spot).

I don’t fill in characteristics from stereotypes, generalities and prior history (fundamental attribution error, negativity bias). I don’t preference people I’m familiar with or fond of as better than others (in-group and out-group bias).


I don’t simplify probabilities and numbers to make them easier to think about (normalcy bias, gambler’s fallacy, neglecting probability bias). I don’t assume I know what other people are thinking. I don’t infer what others’ intentions are (illusion of transparency, projection bias). I don’t project my mindset and assumptions onto the past and future (self-consistency bias).

I don’t favor the immediate, relatable thing in front of me over the unknown future thing (hyperbolic discounting). I don’t avoid making irreversible decisions or making mistakes because I’m trying to preserve autonomy and group status (status quo bias). I don’t have a tendency to disproportionately advocate for or focus on things I’ve invested time and energy into (sunk cost bias).

You might think, “I get it, and I am humble enough to realize that, yes, I can make mistakes. Got it.” No, NO, NOOO. The point is that I/we do not/cannot appreciate the extent to which I/we have error-prone thinking patterns (biases), as evidenced by the near century of data (and neuroscience) illustrated in this beautiful graphic on the 200+ biases that our limited minds and egos can’t seem to comprehend.

Cognitive_Bias_Codex_-_180+_biases,_designed_by_John_Manoogian_III_(jm3)

That’s part of the problem. Most successful, smart senior executives “know” this on an intellectual level. We “know” too much, actually. We’re stuck in the knower mindset versus the learner mindset. Apparently, we don’t “know it” in a way that we’ve been able to consciously choose to do the things it takes to mitigate these biases when it matters most. Our biases from the industrial age have us trapped and make us unwilling to effectively change our corporate lifestyles/habits quickly enough to walk our talk when it comes to “leading differently.” Against Drucker’s warning, we have not prepared ourselves to lead more effectively in the networked age. In most cases, we are far behind where we should be. We need to drop everything and train on deliberate, focused lifestyle practices that help with readying ourselves to pursue a new master plan. Now is not the time to be defensive nor waste valuable time and energy enabling professionals who still choose to deny their own biases.

THE WINNING FORMULA

Let’s get to the antidote — the best way to mitigate the limitations of our own brains. While taking a University of Michigan massive open online course (MOOC) on Model Thinking and Understanding Complexity, I came across Scott E. Page, a famous social scientist, professor of economics, director of the Center for the Study of Complex Systems and author. He is best known for his research on path dependence, culture, collective wisdom, adaptation and computational models on how human beings work together. In his decade-old book, Page reveals the winning formula that every business professional can embrace as fact…the absolute fact…the undeniable mathematical rules…the gold prize under the rock in the road…the Diversity Prediction Theorem.

diversitypredictiontheoremCompanies that love the reliability of math, algorithms and big data, like Google, Netflix etc., have been putting the formula to work to improve predictions about the future, modeling consumer behavior and addressing previously unsolvable business challenges. The formula proves to be true, beyond any doubt. No assumptions have to be made. No conditions have to be considered. It’s just a mathematical fact. The math shows that the Crowd’s Error is the Average Error minus the Diversity. Said differently, our team’s accuracy is driven by individual’s accuracy plus the team’s diversity. Individuals make decisions/predictions based on models (e.g., mental models, math models); therefore, the more models/perspectives that we use, the more accurate our decisions/predictions will be. This is a very important concept, as it shows that optimal outcomes are attained with more diverse perspectives.

Question: How can a group attain more diverse options to choose from and therefore better potential responses to challenges and circumstances?

Answer: By having different perspectives from a diverse group of people. “A perspective is the way in which an individual views the possible solutions to the problem. The way to attain a variance of perspectives is to have a diverse group across multiple variables. These variables can include age, race, gender, education, location, religion, sexual orientation, class and occupation. When people are different across these lines, they have different perspectives on many solutions. The different perspectives create the variance that is important to the Diversity Prediction Theorem.” Put more simply: The greater the number of perspectives, the more options we have. The more options we have, the better our decision-making and strategies will be. (Yes, I’m aware that my confirmation bias has led me to find this Diversity Prediction Theorem…bias strikes again. See how that works?)

THE ABSOLUTE AND INEVITABLE

In the networked age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, VUCA is the norm. Global markets, interconnectedness, digital transformation, complexity and exponential change drive the need for expanded capabilities. Corporations in all industries are transforming themselves in pursuit of greater advantage from specific competencies and cultural attributes (i.e., collaboration, innovation, agility, building high-performance teams, attracting, hiring and retaining the best talent). Where leadership and culture transformation is concerned, the unit of work is dialogue. Problem solving and decision-making are the highest value products of professionals.
“When solving complex problems, cognitive diversity beats talent, and when making a prediction, diversity matters just as much as ability.”

Not “probably” matters — cognitive diversity ALWAYS matters. So when leadership transformation programs, immunity to change programs and/or gender, diversity and inclusion programs that are intended to address bias and shift mindsets are bolted on like an elective course versus integrated into business strategy, you continue to see the disconnect between biased behavior and what is in the best interests of the business. Investors, leaders and boards of directors who ignore this fact are enabling their organizations to continue to walk around the rock in the road. That seems negligent and unprofessional, like the childish ostrich effect (cognitive bias) in behavioral finance, which is the attempt made by investors to avoid risky financial situations by pretending they do not exist. The awakened market won’t let childish leaders/bystanders get away with that kind of “pretending” for long.

Here’s where we can choose to stay awake or give in to the temptation to go back to being unconscious. Conscious leaders make better innovation leaders — stay calm and be conscious.

Adult development and culture transformation are not mysterious black boxes. The solutions are simple but not necessarily easy. They’re not necessarily “hard” either. It depends on and is relative to your current individual and collective readiness levels. Do the deep work and train together to accelerate the transformation.

The majority of senior leaders want to expand their level of mental complexity and emotional intelligence so they can lead successfully in today’s business environment. They don’t want to be a prisoner of their biases, nor do they want their organizations to be limited by their collective biases. They want their organizations to break down the silos, be more open, collaborative, creative, curious, engaged, courageous and inclusive. Ironically, though, their own biases make them unaware of the impact that their mindsets and behaviors have on stifling the expanded capabilities of the organization they want to create. It’s a vicious circle. Leaders’ biases keep them trapped in the comfort zone of what they know (knower mindset). Leaders’ biases make them still want to be the ones who have all the power. Leaders’ biases make them think they can keep the power by having all the answers and telling everyone else what to do.

 

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Leaders’ biases make them still want to believe that what worked in the past (the old success formula) will work today. Leaders’ biases make them still think they know which sticks and carrots (recognition and rewards) will motivate people to comply with company rules and be motivated to fulfill company goals. Leaders’ biases still make them think they can command and control their way through complexity and culture change.

Decade after decade, despite the irrefutable research on how adults can, in fact, update their mental models, the rock still sits in the middle of the road. It trips us up. We struggle trying to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. We struggle trying to shift from a victim orientation to a creator orientation. We struggle trying to wake up from being socially defined to self-authoring. Our organizations suffer unnecessarily until serious, permanent damage to the organization itself causes the long-awaited transformational awakening. Until then, most leaders will remain trapped by their (industrial age) biases like zombies/“walkers.” If they are trapped, then we all are trapped. If they are “walkers” (walking around the rock in the road), then we are destined for unnecessary suffering.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

We will need to choose the deep work of individual and collective transformation in order to be leaders who see our own unconscious bias and try to understand it and mitigate it. The aware but “consciously incompetent” leader, pointing out everyone else’s biases, does us little good. Rewiring our default, industrial age habits for the age we’re entering into will lead us to our “bag of gold.” Today, a business leader’s job isn’t to just be better at responding to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity; it is to nurture a more self-led, learning and adaptive environment while facilitating teams of diverse human beings to bring 110 percent of their passion, curiosity, creativity, intelligence, identity and courage to work. Leaders need to be working on elevating mindsets and putting wedges in place that make it impossible to regress to the default (old), counterproductive, less accurate ways of thinking. The ROI is there.

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A powerful “connecting-the-dots” approach to business benefits will prove to be the only sustainable, proactive cure for these “walking dead.” And only a few of the best culture transformation programs — as well as gender, diversity and inclusion programs — have proven to be successful at facilitating the powerful mindset shifts (e.g., from knower to learner, from fixed to growth, from victim to creator) that lead to individual behavior changes, team behavior changes and organizational behavior changes that then lead to better business outcomes.

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WHO’S DIGGING? WHO’S “BYSTANDER-ING”?

Who’s responsible for the road to the future at your company? Who’s responsible for digging out the rocks in the road? CEO, the buck (the rock) stops with you. Walking around the rock undermines your winning business strategy. Why would you tolerate that? Digging out the rocks will amplify your winning strategy and the desired results.

Let’s not keep walking around the rock in the road. Let’s commit to keep on digging.

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This idea also is represented in the recent book “The Obstacle is the Way,” by Ryan Holiday. In the book, he shares a similar story about a “rock in the road” that blocks a common path of travel for the villagers. Each of the villagers who came upon the rock tried and failed to move the obstacle.

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Are people undermining your strategy (execution)?

By Tim Altaffer and David Kallás

Strategy execution is a central issue for companies and their directors. Academics and executives have long been researching for the best theories, practices and effectiveness. Studies have found that two-thirds to three-quarters of large organizations struggle to implement their strategies[1]. Figure 1 shows the average performance loss (by importance ratings) that managers gave to specific breakdowns in the planning and execution process[2]

Figure1Figure 1 – average performance loss in specific breakdowns in the planning and execution process

All but one of the factors presented in Figure 1 is controlled by the leadership. In addition, the reasons for this high failure rate can be traced to both hard and soft skills. By hard skills, we mean the processes and methods to organize ideas and to establish indicators, among other management tools, that are taught at most business schools. On the other hand, strategic execution soft skills are the intra and interpersonal attitudes and behaviors that engage people to deliver the processes

The hard side: the strategic execution and alignment process and tools

The term “strategic administration” (and, further, “strategic management”) comes from the 1960’s, when academics, especially Igor Ansoff, questioned the efficacy of performing the strategic planning process once a year. As a result, several models and theories were developed over time. One of the most popular of these models was introduced by Kaplan & Norton, and is illustrated on Figure 2. By management system, the authors refer to the integrated set of processes and tools that a company uses to develop its strategy, translate it into operational actions, and monitor and improve the effectiveness of both.

The model includes five stages, beginning with the strategy development stage, which involves applying tools, processes, and concepts such as mission, vision, and value statements, SWOT analysis, shareholder value management, competitive positioning, core competencies, etc. to formulate a strategy statement. That statement is then translated (Stage 2) into specific objectives and initiatives, using other tools and processes, including strategy maps and balanced scorecards.

Strategy implementation (Stage 3), in turn, links strategy to operations with a third set of tools and processes, including quality and process management, reengineering, process dashboards, rolling forecasts, activity-based costing, resource capacity planning, and dynamic budgeting.

As implementation progresses, managers continually review internal operational data and external data on competitors and the business environment. Finally, managers periodically assess the strategy, updating it when they learn that the assumptions underlying it are obsolete or faulty, which starts another loop around the system[3].

Figure2Figure 2 – Kaplan & Norton Closed-Loop Management System

Level order planning is a planning model based on the formal logic of cascading goals and strategies throughout an organization to drive action towards the creation of a future desired business state. In Figure 3, the formal logic of goal oriented planning is illustrated. Goals and strategies are cascaded throughout the organization based on the transfer of strategies from one level to the goals of the next level. This simple model describes how alignment of direction is achieved throughout different levels of an organization.

As you begin the planning process throughout the levels, it is important to understand the definitions of goals, strategies and tactics. First and foremost, the definition of a goal, strategy or tactic can be answered best in the context of the level within which it is being defined. One level’s goals may be another level’s strategies. For example, in the chart below, a second level’s goals are derived directly from the first level’s strategies and so on.

Goals define a future desired business state relative to the part of the organization that is defining the goal. Goals can be stated as measurement and this is often a clear way to define their intended purpose. Strategies are a statement of “how to” accomplish a goal. Strategies further define action for the organization. Tactics are most important at the level of planning closest to the customer. Although tactics can exist at each level within the enterprise, tactics always describe “what” actions need to be taken to fulfill a particular strategy[4].

Figure3Figure 3 – Strategic Alignment and Level Order Planning

The soft side: conscious business, alignment and coordination

Hard tools and processes are a necessary but insufficient condition for impeccable execution. Statistics show that alignment is not a problem. Coordination and collaboration are. A recent study showed that 84% of managers can rely all or most of the time on their bosses or their direct reports. However, when this question is about colleagues in other departments and external partners, positive answers drop to 59% and 56%, respectively.  What it comes down to is that most executives are just not used to coordinate and collaborate

To increase execution effectiveness, then, we need to look at the “who”. The “who” refers to the people that control the tactics, that manage the systems and processes and that insure the execution of the strategy. No matter what type of business or situation, the only way to guarantee effective execution is through talented, motivated and conscious employees, led by conscious leaders in a conscious business context.

By conscious employees and leaders, we mean those that demonstrate seven qualities, as defined by Fred Kofman (Figure 4)[5]. The first three are character attributes: unconditional responsibility, essential integrity, and ontological humility. The next three are interpersonal skills: authentic communication, constructive negotiation, and impeccable coordination. These qualities seem obvious but they challenge deep-seated assumptions we hold about ourselves, other people, and the world.

Figure 4Figure 4 – Counscious Business Principles

In addition, every organization has three dimensions, as shown in Figure 5: the impersonal, task, or “It;” the interpersonal, relationship, or “We;” and the personal, self, or “I.” The impersonal realm includes technical aspects. It considers the effectiveness, efficiency, and reliability of the organization. The interpersonal realm comprises relational aspects. It considers the solidarity, trust, and respect of the relationships between organizational stakeholders. The personal realm comprises psychological and behavioral aspects. It considers the health, happiness, and need for meaning of each stakeholder[6].

Over the long term, the “It”, “We”, and “I” aspects of this system must operate in concert.  Execution (the “It”) will not be effective without equally strong interpersonal solidarity (“We”) and personal well-being (“I”).

Figure 5Figure 5 – Integral Approach: Three Dimensions

Finally, as shown in Figure 6, our attention is normally drawn to that which we can see (the effect), which obscures the importance of what remains hidden (the cause). We focus on results (the having) and forget the process (the doing) necessary to achieve those results. We are even less aware of the infrastructure (the being) that underlies processes and provides the necessary capabilities for their functioning. Achieving specific results requires behaving in the way that produces such results, and behaving in such a way requires being the type of person or organization capable of such behavior[7].

Thus, the highest leverage comes from becoming the person or organization capable of behaving in the way that produces the desired results.

Figure 6Figure 6 – Integral Approach: Three Levels

The path to impeccable execution

The path to impeccable execution is presented in Figure 7, where we compare and contrast the hard and soft skills, and how they interact with each other[8]. The worst-case scenario is in the lower left-hand quadrant, with low soft and hard skills. This situation is very rare, since companies in this condition would not be sustainable in a competitive world over the long haul.

The most common case we see is in the upper left-hand quadrant, the one we call “Mechanical Process” (high hard, low soft skills). For example, we worked with a mid-sized service company facing this problem. One senior manager was consistently getting negative feedback from the CEO in every strategy execution meeting (stage 4, in Figure 2). However, he didn’t seem to care, didn’t seem to change his behavior and consistently failed to deliver on his commitments. After several attempts to identify the root cause of the problem, he finally confessed that he didn’t know how to coordinate his team.

The lower right-hand side (low hard, high soft skills), the situation we call “Unleveraged Energy”, is a strange case, but it also is present in a variety of companies. An example is a large telecom company we worked with, that had 10 regional units. In one case, they tried to develop an inventory of projects, integrating all the projects from all the units into a single plan. At the time, they had more than 300 initiatives, and many of these were identical to others in other units. Because of the work, they were able to reduce their investments by $6 million just by identifying repeated projects among the units and joining them.

Finally, in the upper right-hand corner (high hard and soft skills), we find the situation we call “Impeccable Execution”. In our experience, we don’t see many companies in this space, but we are encouraged to note some positive growing trends here.

Figure 7Figure 7 – The Path to Impeccable Execution

One important case in this space was the successful design and implementation of a Strategic Alignment project (Figure 8) in our client, Microsoft LatAm[9].

Through a focused plan of alignment and coordination at all levels, that included more than 350 managers from across the region, all teams became aligned with common goals, interdependent strategies and detailed action plans.  The employees’ individual commitments also were tied to the company’s strategic direction. The process created strong organizational alignment and a culture of accountability throughout the region, from the Leadership Team to individual contributors.

The results were nothing short of spectacular: The region’s revenues grew 49.7% in four years while the region scored the highest rating in the company’s internal organizational climate survey. The planning process itself became a company best practice.

Figure 8Figure 8 – Strategic Alignment Process

As the Microsoft example shows, Impeccable Execution is possible when you have the right balance between hard tools and soft skills.  All else depends on luck!  It is time that more companies recognize the importance of these soft skills and move towards an execution mindset in addition to their tools and KPIs.  In addition to alignment, this will foster coordination and collaboration, which will increase execution effectiveness.

[1] Source: Sull, Homkes & Sull, 2015.
[2] Source: Mankins & Steele, 2005.
[3] Source: Kaplan & Norton, 2008
[4] Source: Durig, 2010
[5] Fred Kofman, 2006
[6] Ibid.
[7] Fred Kofman, 2004
[8] Altaffer & Kallás, 2017
[9] Axialent

CHANGE (INNOVATION) IS HARD. RELATIVE TO WHAT?

Screenshot 2017-01-17 19.46.18.png“Change is hard.”

Is it?

What if that’s just an opinion disguised as a fact? What if that is just a socialized complaint/expression that we’ve all been brainwashed into believing and repeating?

“Change is hard” can often be heard as an unconscious declaration of an inevitable, early surrender from the leader to the team that they are responsible for leading.

“Change is hard” often sounds like a veiled equivalent to: “Yes, I’m the boss, but I’m not going to be taking responsibility for implementing/supporting the new strategy or the business results….because change is hard.”

Screenshot 2017-01-17 19.47.06.pngThere are, however, many corporate executives and entrepreneurs alike who get excited about the possibility of change; they are masters at it; it’s easy for them. They would never say, “Change is hard.” So the “hardness” of change might not be an absolute truth. I’m not sure it’s true at all. “Hardness” may be a measure of mineral’s scratch resistance (e.g., Mohs’ scale), but “hard” is not necessarily an attribute of change. Is it?
“Hard” or “easy” (success or failure) is usually a relative comparison of two things: 1) the challenge and 2) our ability/inability to respond to the challenge effectively. Whether the challenge is to squat 300 pounds or to engage in expanding corporate competencies, there’s two ways to approach it: I can say, “300 pounds is too heavy,” or I can say, “300 pounds is too heavy for me. My leg muscles aren’t strong enough to squat 300 pounds.”

HARD is only relative to our ability to respond. HARD is not an attribute of change.

If our muscles aren’t ready for the challenge, then the challenge/change is harder for us. That same challenge may NOT be hard for others. Change (innovation) is not hard for leaders and teams whose muscles are developed/trained and ready to respond effectively.Screenshot 2017-01-23 15.41.25.png

Chief innovation officers (CINOs), transformation experts and executives who have learned from experience will agree that change (innovation) is harder when:

  1. We wait too long to get started or lollygag through the process of starting.
  2. We don’t prioritize it; we don’t have a plan or resources dedicated to it; we haven’t separated the essential from the important.
  3. We treat it like an event versus a lifestyle; we don’t walk the talk.
  4. We don’t use expert tools and processes; we wing it or “amateur-hour” it.
  5. We don’t create the space (culture) for creativity, collaboration, etc.; we try to command and control culture change.
  6. We’re not aware of our default, reactive language and habits; we hang on to old success formulas for too long.

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7. We don’t ask for help; we pretend we know what to do when we don’t.

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Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.24.56.pngExperienced CINOs, transformation experts and executives will also agree that change (innovation) is easier when:

  • You see more: You’re more conscious (less likely to be driven by default, reactive habits), more awake, more open to learn and more curious to explore multiple perspectives beyond your own (conscious leaders make better innovation leaders).
  • You collaborate better: You’re more skilled at engaging and empowering people to use innovation tools/processes effectively; you’re more skilled at healthy debate, committed action and accountability; your leadership and culture of the organization help diverse groups of people feel powerfully valued and powerfully challenged.
  • You feel stronger: Your energy is sourced from a higher-order purpose — values and guiding principles are unconditional; you are grounded in sources of certainty that help you make decisions and take action in the face of increasing uncertainty.

Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.00.40.pngWe might expect to hear “change is hard” from stereotypical leaders/politicians when they shirk accountability and make a career out of saving face and preserving their innocence versus keeping their promises. But it never makes sense when accomplished, successful leaders responsible for change inside of powerful and abundantly resourced organizations say, “Change is hard.” However, we hear it all the time in reference to corporate initiatives that involve: a) doing something new versus doing the usual/status quo and b) letting go of old default habits in favor of more effective habits. You’ll hear it in every innovation/transformation and change management meeting. You’ll hear it in every systems implementation, digital integration and customer experience session when the experience involves a people-centric service or delivery system. When a leader responds to these kinds of challenges regarding learning, complexity and ambiguity (aka innovation/change/growth) with the “change is hard” hedge, the change does in fact get 1,000 times harder. It gives the organization permission (from the top) to lower their standards. It gives everyone permission to resist learning/training — permission not to grow — permission not to be a part of changing because, after all, “change is hard.” The boss even said so! In these contexts, it serves as an early and convenient scapegoat to hide the leaders’ inference that their teams’ muscles might not be ready to follow through and deliver. When the team isn’t ready, that’s the leader’s fault. Don’t blame the team and don’t blame the culture. Your team can do it. They need an innovation leader to lead them. That’s you.

In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment, unskillfully declaring, “change is hard” is nothing more than an expression of the victim — a choice of powerlessness and incompetence hiding behind an external circumstance, portrayed as something out of our control. A creator/player would never say that. It is true that I won’t be able to change/innovate effectively if my muscles (and the organization’s muscles) are not ready. But the hardness is relative to my muscular readiness. If I were more ready (if my organization was more ready), I could do it more effectively. Instead, my mind will go immediately to blaming the change itself for being too hard.

If you’re the leader of your business, department, community or family, stop saying, “change is hard.” Try this instead: “I don’t think I’m ready” or “my team and I aren’t ready for change. We need to be more ready.” Ask, “How can my team and I get more ready?” That’s what a player/creator would do. Then we will see if that helps us focus and find an even more effective response to dealing with change. We might as well choose to change (and stop blaming it for our poor results) since change is going to keep coming, whether we are ready or not.

Being a creator/player does not mean that I/we will magically be able to change everything and anything. Being a creator/player means I need to train because the speed of change/VUCA and the challenges I have in front of me have exceeded my ability to handle them. It is essential for me and my team to develop an expanded capacity for change — or as Argentine Ricardo Gil, Axialent chief culture officer…aka RichiWanKenobi, would say,

“Learn to live at peace with the difficulty and suffering you’ve chosen by not developing (the appropriate growth muscles).”

Don’t be a victim. Victims can’t innovate, and they don’t usually change without creating permanent damage and unnecessary suffering. That can be avoided. Change is easier when you train for it. It’s harder when you don’t. Drop everything and train #d3&t. “Don’t just be a better leader, be an innovation leader.” Train to be a Jedi. See more, collaborate better and feel stronger (build those muscles and you’ll be more Jedi). The world needs more Jedi.

Focus on separating the essential from the important. It is critically important that we get the DOING innovation management stuff right (e.g., process, strategy, metrics). But don’t minimize the innovation essentials (e.g., people, leadership, culture) just because we think the people/change part is “hard.” Prioritize the essential and it becomes easier.

 The important goes on the to-do list.

The essentials go on a to-die-for list.

Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.00.19.png

Leading Transformation From Within

An organization cannot evolve beyond the level of consciousness of its leaders.

michelle

Most of us are experiencing rapid change in our world. Whether it is career uncertainty, relationship challenges or disruptions and advancements in technology, the result is an undercurrent of overwhelm. In addition, outdated ways of thinking and leading do not address the level of interdependence and complexity we currently face. To address these challenges, our consciousness needs to shift, and we need to be open to managing change in an integral way that focuses on both internal and external transformation.

Organizational change efforts fall short when personal and cultural change are left out of the equation. A solid strategy is not sufficient. To be successful, we must attend to the three dimensions of business:

  • IT — achieving exceptional results
  • WE — embodying the best of the organizational culture
  • I — allowing for full expression of each individual’s gifts and talents

Corporations tend to focus least on the “I” dimension or development of the individual’s inner world. However, cultural transformation begins with personal transformation. For the system to evolve, people have to evolve.

Human consciousness grows through a series of stages. Robert Kegan, author and professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Lisa Lahey, advisory board member of Axialent, are the leaders in this research and theory. There are three stages of adult development including the socialized mind, self-authoring mind and self-transforming mind.

  • Socialized mind: The self is defined from the outside in and succeeds by acting within socially prescribed roles. Leaders at this level typically lack the capability of broadly sharing power.
  • Self-authoring mind: The self follows its own path, and action becomes an expression of inner purpose. Leaders at this level begin to share power.
  • Self-transforming mind: The self engages with shadow side and parts that have been ignored or not developed with curiosity and compassion. Leaders at his level become community oriented with a focus on sustainability and common good.

As the leader transforms into a higher version of himself or herself, the system and culture of the organization can transform as well. The evolution of both the leader and system is interdependent. The organization cannot evolve to a higher stage of consciousness than the leadership. Until the system organizes at a new level, it delays the development of people in the system.

What is it that allows us to operate more consistently at a higher stage of development? Practices do. Practices such as mindfulness, self-mastery of body, mind, heart and soul as well as dialogue are key to transformation. Without practices, shifts from stage to stage are less likely to happen.

Mindfulness

Research strongly suggests that practices such as meditation accelerate the stages of development. Meditation is one way to cultivate mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being aware of or bringing our attention to this moment in time, deliberately and without judging the experience. When we are overwhelmed and stressed, the higher order executive functions of our brains literally shut down. Critical decision-making reverts to the more primitive and reactive brain centers, and we go on autopilot to cope.

Neuroplasticity is a process by which we train our minds and change our brains. What this means is that we can cultivate qualities and states of mind through mindless habit or intentional discipline. Through repeated practice, we can measurably reshape and rewire our brains. In as little as two weeks of a disciplined mindfulness practice, there are measurable changes in the number of connections between neurons and the thickness of portions of the brain related to increased self-awareness, greater self-mastery and higher mental processing. These potentials are only realized if we have the discipline to engage in the inner work to develop the neural connectivity.

4D Self-mastery: Body + Mind + Heart + Soul

Our human potential includes a range of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capabilities. As we move through the stages of development, each of these aspects are developed and ultimately brought into balance. When we are young, our primary focus is body intelligence. In adolescence, emotional intelligence emerges. As we move into the socialized mind, we tend to focus less on our bodily and emotional intelligence and begin to favor rational capacities. Developing higher stages requires we reclaim our bodily and emotional intelligence valuing gut and heart.

So what is spiritual intelligence? It is a way of seeing and acting that focuses on doing the tough work of transforming body, heart, mind and soul. It is the practice of transformation itself.

If you are interested in assessing yourself in each dimension, download the 4D self-mastery assessment. This will give you an idea of what you are doing well and where you could focus your attention: 4d-self-mastery-assessment

Dialogue

While individual transformation is essential for organizational transformation, we still need to find ways to work together so we can create higher order systems. Dialogue is a key tool for being in higher order relationships and accessing the deep wisdom that is in the collective. It is a means for both personal and collective transformation.

Dialogue practice involves suspending judgment, listening deeply, and balancing advocacy and inquiry. These are skills we teach as authentic communication. These can be practiced in 1:1 coaching, mentoring and team conversations. People share their truth and listen to the experience of others. Through dialogue, assumptions and beliefs have a chance of being exposed and reexamined in service of creating a higher order system.

Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Our task as leaders is raising consciousness. Choice follows awareness, and your choice has the power to transform. Through practices such as mindfulness, self-mastery and dialogue, we can lead transformation from within.

What is your current development goal?

Empowerment – What are We Afraid Of?

 

Why Do It?

Empowerment seems to have become an over-used term, often regarded as too vague or fluffy. So what is the real meaning of empowerment and why do it? According to dictionary definitions, there are two sides to the empowerment coin. One is to invest someone with power or authority; in other words, to delegate. The other meaning is to equip them with the ability to use that power and authority.

Proponents of empowerment have hard-edged economic outcomes in mind, going beyond the goals of increasing happiness and satisfaction of individuals. They’re also seeking the practical and strategic goals of organizational innovation, customer problem solving and lifting productivity. They see empowerment as a path to increase pro-activity, autonomy and a sense of ownership throughout the company.

In today’s business world, the demand for agility and fast learning within teams and across organizations is even higher. In the face of the VUCA world (it’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), the ability to gain and discard knowledge, and to act without certainty or pre-established rules, is essential for survival and makes ‘empowerment’ a no-brainer.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” –Steve Jobs

Why Not ‘Just Do It’? (or, what leaders are afraid of)

If the benefits of empowerment are so clear, why don’t we all ‘just do it’? What stops us from building a culture of empowerment? Maybe it’s the fear of what could go wrong – what if I empower people and they go too far and make a mess of things? After all, as a leader, you’re the one responsible for making sure that things run well. However, that fear of what might go wrong can lead to too much control, often called micromanaging, and that’s disempowering to others, who end up feeling their contribution is unimportant.

People need to have confidence that they have the resources to act and solve a problem. For that reason, the leadership mindset of ‘how do I set them up for success’ (rather than telling them how to do it), is at the heart of the matter. We must face our own fear of what might happen when we relinquish control, and do it anyway. As the economist, Friedrich August von Hayec, said, “Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances, but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad…. Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom.”

Forgotten Power (or, what we’re all afraid of)

It’s not only hesitation to relinquishing control in management that hampers the road to empowerment. Many people in organizational life at all levels have simply forgotten their own power. They have learnt to buckle under, to stick to the known  and many live in fear. They fear their boss, fear losing their job, fear not getting on with their colleagues, fear failure… and this leads to a learnt helplessness and a lack of self-empowerment, often based on rational choices. You, as a manager, might begin to provide a culture of empowerment and find that your employees don’t take the initiative. This is because of learnt helplessness that has developed over the years. Employees with this challenge can be likened to the Thai elephants who were tethered with an 18-foot lead from the time they were young and didn’t discover they could break the tether as they grew stronger; even as adults without the tether, they won’t go further than 18 feet. Like this, in the context of organisations , we can fail to see how much choice and how much strength we actually possess.

These preconceptions of our own power can mean good intentioned “giving”  of empowerment results in cynicism and even panic in the team. People might not see the benefits of empowerment, and only see unguided and unresourced work,  which will cause them to feel panicked and unprepared. Human beings exist in three states: the comfort zone, where we function automatically, comfortably and often without even thinking; the stretch zone, which is the learning zone where we are consciously thinking about what we’re doing and applying effort to it; and finally, the panic zone, where things are overwhelming and happening too quickly and we are unable to think clearly.

What Motivates People?

A leader’s responsibility is to help people to expand their stretch zone: where they can learn, grow and be empowered. In the stretch zone, we’re curious, open, engaged, pro-active and present; we listen, experiment, learn and practice. This is a level of consciousness beyond the auto-pilot of sleep-walking through our workday.

The good news is that people want this level of consciousness for themselves. We all yearn for work that engages us this way. Take the work of Shawn Achor and Dan Pink . They notice people being productive in happinessand motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose.

But there is a hurdle to overcome, as we each must tackle the fear of failure that dominates so many of our organizational cultures. While most human beings want to do nothing but the right thing, our organizations hold fear as a driver, and in that context, people fear the eye of criticism far more constantly than they feel a hand of support at their back.

In the words of Benjamin Zander, who believes in giving his students an “A” at the beginning of class and then letting them live up to it —  practicing the art of possibility in the very words we use to encourage and teach others (https://youtu.be/qTKEBygQic0). That’s an environment where empowerment can thrive.

High Delegation + High Support

It’s important to make sure that employees don’t feel that they’re being “empowered”  to do more work without having the capability, resources and support for it. Like the metaphor of driving, if we want people to take high responsibility for how they drive their car, for the safety of their car and for their passengers, as we all do? for others on the road, then agreed upon rules and support for learning are also required. We call this ‘freedom within a framework’.

What does this high delegation and high support require in the context of your leadership and your teaming?

If you want to empower others, you should ask yourself how you can serve the happiness and empowerment of your colleagues and your teams. How can you make a difference? Consider the impact your own behavior has on others. Each of your conversations can bring increased power to the other person. Increasing both the authority given to the other person and your support will increase that person’s self-responsibility and sense of ‘I can do it’. Increased self-responsibility increases a person’s capability to live in the stretch zone.

One Conversation at a Time

By tacking  this “One Conversation At a Time ” you cannot go wrong. You can change the culture of an organization step by step, one conversation at a time. You control yourself and your actions. If you don’t get it right the first time around, you can come back at it again and again. There is no  a ‘wrong thing’ to do, there is only learning.

Three types of mutually empowering conversations are  :

  1. More Authentic Appreciation                                                                                              There are many times we think something positive about a member of our team, but we never actually voice it. The key to authentic appreciation is to be specific. Instead of saying, “Thank you for your work on this,” consider saying, “Meghan, last week when you offered to help me with my project, I felt really supported and relieved, whereas before I had felt stressed and overwhelmed. You have helped me a lot.Thank you.”                                                                                                                                                             cathy-pic-1
  2. More Inquiry                                                                                                                                  Put yourself in the shoes of the other person and ask that person to explain whatever you need to understand their. Be curious about what is happening for them  especially when something goes wrong. Discover their perspective and listen to them with patience.                                                                                                                                             cathy-pic-2
  3. Mutual Learning Conversations                                                                                                        These are conversations that are set up to solve a problem together, while always empowering and supporting the other person. Use phrases like: “What would you like to have happen?” “Given that, what is under your control?” “What could you do?” and “What help can I offer to help you achieve that outcome?” You can also ask questions that empower them to be part of the solution, putting themselves in the picture. That’s empowering.                                                                                                                cathy-pic-3

 

And, in summary, these tips…

  • Listen, be curious, ask people what they think
  • Give honest and appreciative feedback as a way of life; catch people doing good
  • Freedom within a framework, be highly transparent about boundaries and expectations (not about the details)
  • Magnify courageous actions, expand confidence that risk taking is learning, is worthwhile
  • Encourage what is under their control, rather than focusing on them and theirs, look at me and mine, we and ours
  • Be available for mutual learning conversations
  • Put your “red pen” away

As a leader, asking yourself, “What will I do to serve the happiness and engagement of my colleagues and my team today?” – that’s empowerment.

 

 

Language and the Pursuit of Happiness

“There is a world out there, and we speak about it.”  Most of us grew up with that story.

As I learned more about how human beings make sense of the world, I came across a concept that much more truthfully describes the process. “We only see out there the world that we can speak about.”  Is that possible?

Think for a moment about having a language for things, in the power of distinctions. For example, imagine for a second you raise the hood of your car. If you are like the vast majority of people I know, you will see “an engine and stuff”. In the face of a problem with your car, you will probably as a next step close the hood and call for help. Your friend Joe, who is an amateur mechanic, will notice something completely different. He will notice the spark plugs  or the injectors, the crankshaft, the pulleys, the water pump, the radiator, etc. In his world, the system makes sense, he understands the harmony or lack thereof, the interdependencies, what is a condition for what, what certain symptoms mean in terms of possible causes. Joe has a capacity to intervene in the system that you don’t; he has distinctions you don’t. He can “see” what you can’t because he has a language for it. Finally, he can fix the engine while you can’t.

Extrapolate this to your current life, at work and beyond. You walk around trying to produce results you desire. You want to be happy. What’s wrong with that after all? Sometimes it works for you; other  times it doesn’t. Why is that; what is going on? I want to postulate that you walk around using “filters” through which you look at the world. These make things appear to you in a certain way, and they have limitations, they have poor distinctions, outgrown by the context of increasing complexity and interdependence, therefore standing in the way of your accomplishments and your happiness.

richi-article

Let me address some of these filters. By using more powerful lenses you will unleash creative energy that will enable you to effectively pursue your dreams.

The filter of certainty 

You have grown up doing three things:

  1. making stories about events you observe in the world
  2. believing these stories to be true (after all they are your stories…)
  3. forgetting you told these stories to yourself

You then walk around having opinions about almost everything, “knowing” what is going on. These constructs may have been useful at some point ; however, in the face of VUCA, they become outdated, useless. The context changes, but as you have grown oblivious and blind to your stories, you don’t question them . You continue to operate like they continue to be true.  The challenges and difficulties, the “not getting what we want” conditions,  start to show up pervasively. Then the response you give is to try (even) harder. You have the belief that if you keep at it long enough, if you keep striving, you will eventually succeed. Success becomes more and more elusive, and a tunnel vision ensues. You persist, struggling, pushing, toiling and … failing.

I want to offer that,  by taking one breath of awareness, you can reconnect with your cognitive limitations, your vulnerability, your bounded rationality. This can come across as weakness. I want to suggest that completely the opposite is true. In the midst of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), questions become much more powerful than answers. By entering this space of humility and consciousness you may begin to inquire with the curiosity of a child, finding alternatives that before were completely out of your field of awareness.

I recently read a quote that moved me to tears  – “A creative adult is a child that survived.”  Can you survive your magical child spirit and grow into that adult that can question the world from a place of wonder and awe? Can you once again recreate the conditions so the child within can survive and prosper?

And just like that, having these distinctions, as in the initial example of peeking under the hood of a car, create richer options so you can successfully pursue your dreams.

The filter of “blaming others and the world” for my suffering 

“I was late to the meeting because of traffic.”  I am sure you heard this many times. Is it true? Of course it is, as most cities’  freeways we live and work in are crammed with cars every morning. I read a phrase very appropriate to describe this explanation: TBU  – “true but useless”. The generative question is “ What is your power to influence the system?” If you place causality on traffic it is very low . Unless the 500,000 careless drivers become more conscious  and decide not to pack the highways when it is your time to drive to work , you are doomed. Of course a voice inside your head is yelling, “ Just wake up earlier you lazy bum..” By focusing on parts of the system where you have higher leverage, you can produce results that are dependent on you. You become power-full rather than power-less. I often ask in our workshops the (rhetorical) question,  “How do you wish to live, as a powerless victim or a powerful player?”. Of course , 100% choose the latter. However, as I also often show them through role playing, the choice of being in  the driver’s seat comes with a cost, the cost of anxiety, of accountability ; we must be willing to endure the consequences of our actions as the price to pay for power, for being in control of our lives.

I suggest that this mindset of always “responding to challenges” offers an outlook of hope and inspiration. You are in charge of your life and choose moment by moment how you wish to respond to the circumstances that are presented to you. Between the action and re-action there is a space of consciousness. This process of becoming and acting in consequence can change your life forever. And,  as in our initial example, it boils down to having more powerful distinctions that create a richer field of possibilities.

Easy to say, not easy to do, but it must be done if we wish to pursue and accomplish a life of fullfilment, expansion and joy.

Cultura Y Valores: Garantía Relevo Generacional

Ante el reto del relevo generacional una de las herramientas esenciales para encarar ese proceso de manera exitosa es realizar una profunda y precisa evaluación de la cultura corporativa y de los valores subyacentes.

Independientemente del tamaño y del sector en el que opere, una Empresa Familiar difícilmente podrá abordar el relevo generacional si los diferentes miembros de la empresa (trabajadores familiares y no familiares, accionistas activos, accionistas pasivos, etc..) no comparten unos mismos valores esenciales y tienen una visión compartida del tipo de Empresa Familiar que desean ser y cuál es su propósito o razón de existir.

El primer punto que nos puede ayudar a entender cuál es la cultura corporativa de nuestra Empresa Familiar, es preguntarnos cuál es el legado que queremos dejar a la siguiente generación, cuál es el propósito superior, más allá de la generación de beneficios con el que queremos contribuir y beneficiar a todos los stakeholders.

La cultura corporativa de las Empresas Familiares es el conjunto de valores y creencias fuertemente arraigados en la Empresa, y también en la familia que han permitido, a lo largo del tiempo, construir los principios por los que se rige la Empresa Familiar. Ese conjunto de valores y creencias nos aporta una guía y dirección que nos permite tomar las decisiones en cada momento.

Por este motivo es tan importante que las nuevas generaciones tengan conocimiento de estos aspectos ya que el conocimiento compartido ayudará a entender el tipo de Empresa Familiar que queremos ser en el futuro.

Sin embargo, cada vez es más difícil comunicar de manera efectiva este conjunto de valores que configuran la cultura corporativa de las Empresas Familiares. A medida que la familia va creciendo, en muchos casos, se produce una dispersión geográfica y en muchos casos como consecuencia de lo anterior, también emocional que dificulta la transmisión de padres a hijos de aquellas historias que forman parte del ADN de la Empresa Familiar, y que se han convertido en ejemplos de los valores familiares.

Paradójicamente, hoy vivimos en un mundo hipercomunicado y, sin embargo, en ocasiones, no actuamos de manera consciente dejando de realizar una labor proactiva en lo que de verdad importa. El día a día dentro de la gestión de una Empresa Familiar está plagado de tareas urgentes que, en ocasiones, nos impiden ver el bosque. Tomar distancia, reflexionar sobre lo que verdaderamente importa, pensar de manera estratégica en el futuro son tareas ineludibles que los responsables de las Empresas Familiares no deben “dejar para mañana”

En nuestra experiencia trabajando con Empresas Familiares, en muchas ocasiones nos encontramos con empresarios familiares que entienden que deben articular canales de comunicación para compartir valores, para transmitir la cultura corporativa de la Empresa, sin embargo, les cuesta encontrar el momento idóneo.

No existe mayor palanca que nos permita trabajar alineados con el objetivo de afrontar con éxito el relevo generacional, que la palanca cultural, la palanca que permita mantener a la familia, al mismo tiempo, unida y conexionada en torno a los pilares que marcan la diferencia entre una Empresa Familiar y una Empresa Familiar longeva y exitosa.

Valores, Cultura y Relevo Generacional

¿Por qué resulta tan difícil afrontar con éxito el relevo generacional? ¿Qué herramientas tengo a mi alcance para transmitir el legado a la siguiente generación?

Estas y otras preguntas similares están en la agenda de todos los empresarios familiares. Fruto del trabajo que llevamos a cabo con Empresas Familiares hemos visto como muchos empresarios ponen el foco en lo que nosotros llamamos “aspectos técnicos” es decir, dar una buena formación universitaria a sus hijos, ofrecerles la posibilidad de realizar cursos en el extranjero para que, al mismo tiempo que mejoran sus conocimientos, aprendan con soltura una segunda lengua, etc. Y todo eso está muy bien, es una condición necesaria, pero no suficiente.

En Axialent entendemos que de cara a afrontar con éxito el reto de la sucesión la clave es poner el foco en lo que denominamos “habilidades humanas”. La capacidad de una familia para gestionar de manera conjunta una Empresa, y al mismo tiempo fomentar los vínculos familiares, no depende de ninguna habilidad o conocimiento técnico. La clave del éxito está en la capacidad de la familia de ganar consciencia de unas pocas cosas, pero esenciales:

  • Modelos mentales: Los modelos mentales son las ideas y creencias que cada una de los miembros de la Empresa Familiar tiene que condicionan la manera en la que percibe la realidad que le rodea. De cara a fomentar el vínculo familiar, en primer lugar, es esencial ser consciente que todos tenemos nuestros propios modelos mentales, y en consecuencia, no todas las personas percibimos la realidad de la misma manera. Una vez que actuamos de manera consciente, estamos en disposición de dar el siguiente paso: adoptar aquellos modelos mentales que resulten más efectivos, no sólo desde el punto de vista personal, sino también, desde el punto de vista de la familia y de los resultados de la Empresa Familiar. En Axialent, trabajamos sobre la base de tres modelos mentales o arquetipos. Nuestra experiencia nos dice que aquellos miembros familiares que comparten estos modelos mentales y desarrollan comportamientos anclados en dichos modelos mentales, tienen una mayor efectividad en la obtención de sus objetivos, en las relaciones familiares, y en su bienestar y satisfacción personal.
    • El primero de ellos es el modelo mental de RESPONSABILIDAD. A la hora de enfrentarme a la realidad puedo adoptar dos actitudes: culpar al entorno de mis fracasos o enfocarme en mi capacidad de responder. Por muy complejo que sea el marco de relaciones familiares, por muy complejo que sea el entorno, el empresario familiar siempre tiene la capacidad de elegir, y desde esas capacidades puede apalancarse para convertirse en protagonista del futuro de su propia compañía.
    • El segundo de ellos es el modelo mental de ARROGANCIA. Desde una actitud arrogante pensamos que MI verdad es LA verdad; mientras que desde una actitud de humildad pensamos que MI verdad es MI verdad. El modelo mental con el que los miembros de la familia empresaria abordan sus relaciones tiene un impacto trascendental en los resultados. Desde un modelo arrogante, será difícil entender que otros miembros de la familia pueden tener diferentes expectativas de futuro para la empresa. Solo desde la humildad estaremos en disposición de entender diferentes posiciones y de negociar una solución constructiva que permita la continuidad de la empresa familiar.
    • El tercer modelo mental, es el de Integridad. En el ámbito de la Empresa Familiar, son muchas las decisiones difíciles que hay que afrontar, y en muchas de ellas, la tensión emocional es muy elevada ya que están en juego aspectos no sólo de negocio, sino también afectivos. La única alternativa que nos puede garantizar el éxito de proceso es actuar siempre alineado con nuestros valores.
  • Comportamientos: La comunicación efectiva. En Axialent manejamos un concepto de comunicación que para nada tiene que ver con los aspectos técnicos de la comunicación (expresión verbal, lenguaje corporal, etc..). Nuestro concepto de comunicación efectiva es más profundo, y tiene que ver con la capacidad que todos los miembros de la Empresa Familiar deben tener de expresar sus opiniones de una manera honesta y respetuosa. Es decir, no decir de manera brusca y autoritaria los primeros que te viene a la cabeza, pero tampoco dejar de expresar tu opinión por miedo “al qué dirán”.

El valor diferencial que aportamos a las Empresas Familiares radica en que nuestra metodología de trabajo permite trabajar desde lo “más profundo”, es decir, los modelos mentales, para construir comportamientos efectivos que contribuyan al logro de los restos: Empresas rentables – Familias cohesionadas – individuos satisfechos y felices.

Por qué es Importante Transmitir los Valores en la Empresa Familiar

Antes de compartir con ustedes el por qué es importante transmitir los valores en la Empresa Familiar, creo que es necesario tener un entendimiento compartido sobre qué son los valores. Valores y cultura corporativa son términos comúnmente utilizados pero no por ello sabemos exactamente a qué nos referimos y cómo actúan en el mundo empresarial, y específicamente, en el mundo de las Empresas Familiares.

Vayamos en primer lugar por la palabra valores. En Axialent huimos de definiciones complejas y nos gusta utilizar definiciones muy accionables que transmitan de manera clara el significado. Definimos valores corporativos como el conjunto de ideas o conceptos fuertemente arraigados en el ser de las personas que condicionan la manera en que nos comportamos o actuamos ante cualquier situación. Este conjunto de ideas va más allá del comportamiento puntual ante una situación concreta, sino que permanecen vigentes a lo largo de nuestra vida y actúan como brújula, y especialmente en momentos difíciles, nos sirven de guía para tomar decisiones trascendentes.

La transmisión de los valores en el ámbito de la Empresa Familiar es uno de los elementos clave dentro de todo proceso de relevo generacional, y se convierte en una de las claves del éxito en la transmisión del legado.

El reto de la transmisión de los valores, no es sólo un reto que afecta al entorno familiar (trabajadores familiares, accionistas, familiares políticos, etc…) sino que también tiene su impacto en los trabajadores NO familiares, ya que no debemos olvidar que los valores condicionan la cultura corporativa, y ésta es fuente de la más sostenible ventaja competitiva.

Por lo tanto, la importancia de la transmisión de los valores no es algo baladí, sino que en este proceso lo que realmente está en juego es la continuidad de la empresa, y en muchos casos también, la cohesión familiar.

Sin embargo, cuando las Empresas Familiares se enfrentan al reto de transmitir sus valores a las nuevas generaciones se encuentran con diferentes problemas:

  • Los distintos “modelos mentales” de las nuevas generaciones: En Axialent entendemos por modelos mentales el conjunto de creencias preconcebidas que cada persona tiene que hacen que perciba las cosas que suceden de una determinada manera. En muchas ocasiones sucede que las nuevas generaciones tienen diferentes maneras de ver las cosas: Lo que para una persona de 60 años tiene mucha importancia, para una persona de 25 años puede ser irrelevante. Por lo tanto, en el ámbito de la Empresa Familiar es importante ganar consciencia que los distintos miembros familiares pueden tener modelos mentales diferentes. Esto nos va a permitir entender mejor las posiciones del otro, y desde este entendimiento compartido estar en disposición de entender la importancia de unos valores que han contribuido a la creación y éxito de la Empresa Familiar.
  • La dispersión geográfica, cada vez más se está convirtiendo en un problema. Hoy en día la movilidad geográfica es mucho mayor en comparación con la existente hace 15 – 20 años. Esto implica que las nuevas generaciones tienen un menor contacto físico con sus antecesores y en consecuencia la transmisión de valores por la vía del ejemplo, por la vía de “contar” historias vividas se reduce de una manera considerable.
  • El tercer problema con el que nos encontramos en las Empresas Familiares con las que trabajamos a la hora de transmitir sus valores es la falta de comunicación. Este punto es un punto esencial, que todavía adquiere una mayor relevancia teniendo en cuenta en el punto anterior (la dispersión geográfica). Desde nuestra experiencia sólo existen dos maneras de transmitir valores: De un modo no verbal mediante la cultura del ejemplo, es decir, siendo un ejemplo y convirtiéndose en un “role model” de los valores, actuando siempre y en todo momento alineado con dichos valores; Y de otra parte, siendo capaz de mantener una comunicación efectiva entre las diferentes generaciones.

Lo que sucede en muchas Empresas Familiares es que las personas están tan enfocadas en el “día a día” del negocio que no prestan suficiente atención a los aspectos que verdaderamente importan y que van a ser la clave para la longevidad de la Empresa Familiar. La comunicación es una habilidad esencial para el éxito y la continuidad de la Empresa Familiar. En Axialent tenemos una manera particular de entender la comunicación, no como una habilidad “técnica” sino como una habilidad “humana” y desde ese punto de vista trabajamos con las personas para que sean capaces de comunicarse de manera honesta y respetuosa. Cuando trabajamos con Empresas Familiares, independientemente de su tamaño, ubicación geográfica o sector en el que operan, nos encontramos con dos tipos de comportamientos: Personas que se comunican de una manera “agresiva”: Dicen lo primero que les viene a la cabeza de una manera brusca sin importarles el impacto que eso puede tener en los demás ( y en él mismo); Y por el contrario, personas que pese a tener una opinión contraria callan por temor al “qué pensarán”… Desde nuestro punto de vista y experiencia, trabajar con los miembros familiares esta “habilidad humana” es esencial para poder establecer un proceso de transmisión de los valores familiares.

Trabajar de manera consciente para disminuir el impacto de los tres puntos anteriores es sin duda, una de las claves para la transmisión de los valores, y en consecuencia, una de las claves para lograr que la Empresa Familiar perdure generación tras generación fomentando la cohesión y los vínculos familiares.

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