Commentary

Leadership from Within

I’ve recently re-read C. Otto Scharmer’s thought-provoking article "Uncovering the Blind Spot of Leadership” – thanks to Sharon Quarrington of Horse Sense.

I am struck once again by the clarity of his thought and the compelling argument he presents which most of us in leadership development persistently ignore. He begins with a simple but irrefutable suggestion that we all need to listen more deeply than we do, especially if we seek to lead others. He then proceeds to describe a journey that we must take, as individuals and collectively if we are to create real and sustainable change.

There’s no magic here, it’s not too difficult to comprehend and it’s unambiguous. So why doesn’t it happen?

Simple – it requires more time and effort than most of us are prepared to invest. But let’s take a closer look at that; if the return on the investment is enough, why would we not make the investment? If I were to give you a gilt-edged guarantee that a $10.000.00 investment would earn you a five-fold return - $50,000.00 – within thirty days, wouldn’t you find a way to scrape together the $10,000.00 and in a hurry?

Now, what if I told you that if you were to make the initial investment, gain and retain the return, you would then be eligible to repeat the process whenever you wanted with absolutely no limits and no risk of loss? Would you not be interested?

This is exactly what C. Otto Scharmer is offering us. Instead of dollars, it’s leadership effectiveness. Once you’ve mastered the process for yourself you are free to extend it to anyone else and derive secondary profits. What would that do to your prestige? What difference might that make in the foundational quality of your life?

Try it! Risk nothing as you test the merit of the system. If you’re not totally blown-away by its potential then walk away and leave it; but if you suspect that it has incredible merit and potential then invest whatever time and effort that’ might be required to master the process. I shall be doing that, precisely.

At this point there are two actions you can take to explore this further. The first of these is to read his original article in Leader to Leader magazine (Winter 2008 edition) attached. Second, download the executive summary (overview or full version) from his website.

So will you make the effort to investigate this opportunity?

Let me help you with a few reasons why you won’t:

  • You already know everything you need to know about leadership.
  • You’re already so far down the path to success you don’t have need for another approach.
  • If the idea / approach was that good you’d already have thought about it yourself.
  • You’re really busy right now so you’ll get to it later – much later, as I did when I first heard about it.
  • You know there are no ‘silver bullets’ in leadership so this one can’t have real merit.
  • If the approach takes that much effort, no one else will have tried it so it is unlikely to work.
  • It will work but only for those who are more senior / junior / specialized / generalized / etc. than you.
  • You likely won’t have enough opportunities to use it in practice so it’s not worth the effort.
  • It’s really designed for management consultants, teachers, coaches, etc - not for real leaders.
  • Shall I go on?

Or will you invest ten minutes and check it out for yourself?

Who Knew? Responding To A Negative Performance Review

..............Written Anonymously – for Polaris Digest

I had no idea so many people received negative performance reviews – until I was one of them. For those of us in multi-national corporate context, with highly formalized review systems, the Internet is replete with advice on how to respond.

My day came after eight years working in the same industry sector for two different corporations, always as a high achiever.  First things first: on telling a confidante about it, he presumed that I was exaggerating because my standards are high: "You probably got 75 per cent, right?". No, if I was marking it, I’d estimate it to be a 57.  I knew very thoroughly that this year had raised difficult challenges to my ways and style. Nonetheless, in the eight years, I had always "exceeded" on reviews; here I was with some "partially met" scores. I didn't quite comprehend those: what were the tasks I didn't do?

And so I took a deep breath. Then, as one does in our Age, I hopped on to the Internet. Advice for those in my situation generally fell along two lines: it is an end, or it is a beginning. That is, "they" are trying to fire "you" by making it your idea to quit, or instead, they are sending you an earnest message as to how they see you, albeit suddenly, as inadequate to their agenda - especially if the agenda of the corporation has changed. The key to determining which is the main point in your situation, according to Internet sources, is to view the review through the prism of your corporate culture: how do they tend to deliver good or bad news?

After reading several sites, I decided that I may never know all of the motives behind my employer’s review. Motives are always mixed. Far better to spend my time on, "What can I learn?" than "what does it mean?"

Even after deciding to take the "learning" route, however, advice is divided as to how to respond. Some sites advocate a simple response to the negative review. That is, these advisors say: register your objections, in brief, summary form. Don't be drawn into a Q and A that is just going to be demoralizing, use your allotted opportunity to respond in writing, and leave it at that.

Other sites recommend getting into the whole review in detail. "You say here, for instance, that I was "repeatedly late. However, I have records to show that..." This gives the fact-based critic a basis on which to adjust his or her score.

My review wasn't quite that fact-based. Maybe therein lies a clue as to how I can most productively respond. Up until now, the value I've added has been in the general areas of client relationships, credibility, thought leadership and understanding of the legal marketplace. I believe I have exceeded at those contributions; and I suspect my employer would admit so too. So perhaps there has been a shift in the measure of my contribution – is it now more quantifiable? Or is it that the job requirements have changed because the corporate agenda has changed – this too, is all about the facts.

Midway through my research and thinking as to the most effective response to my negative performance review, I do like this notion: rather than challenging my boss with my interpretation of the facts, I am contemplating asking him, and his colleagues, "What are the facts on which this is based; what measures went into this review?"

With these in mind, the learning, and thereby, the career advancement is bound to improve.