I recently read an article in the Kansas City Star titled We can heal the nation with these five rules, authored by Congressman Roger Marshall and leadership coach Dr. Ramon Corrales. That article prompted this blog post. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both Roger and Ramon and their five rules for healing apply not just to politics but to all aspects of life, and in particular, they apply to working with people inside a business.
In this post, I offer my thoughts on how these five rules apply to business:
1. Find common vision, not common ground.
In business, it is paramount that we are aligned toward a common purpose, mission, and vision for our organization. Our progress towards success starts with a fundamental question: “Where are we going?” We must first agree on the goals that we collectively want to achieve because it is this purpose that is the starting point of all achievement. This foundation allows us to budget our time and our money. It helps us allocate resources. It helps make us more aware of opportunities related to our purpose especially when we have a burning desire to achieve our goals. It even helps in our decision-making ability because we can always judge whether or not it will contribute toward accomplishing our goals. Once we answer the question of where we are going, then we can answer the next question: “How are we going to get there?” Having a defined purpose and vision encourages cooperation from other people who are inspired towards the same vision. Only then can we work together to strategize how to best accomplish our shared goals.
2. Work for understanding, not agreement.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the late Stephen Covey’s Habit #5 is “Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood.” This habit is about communicating effectively at all levels of an organization. I’ve found that weak leaders tend to be arrogant leaders. They think they know everything. They are hard to persuade. They are always right and never wrong. On the flipside, some of the best leaders I’ve worked with are very humble individuals. They are ambitious yet they have humility. They know what they don’t know and they surround themselves with smart people. The really good ones surround themselves with people much smarter than them (or at least in complimentary ways). Strong leaders are humble. They are curious. They lean-in when someone offers an opinion that is very different from their own. They ask questions. They are passionately curious. They want to understand where the other person is coming from. They are hard on ideas but easy on people. Strong leaders are not just curious about other perspectives they are also open to the ideas others have. They are persuadable when presented with compelling evidence.
3. Conduct solution-focused, not problem-saturated, discussions.
Not only are strong leaders humble and curious, they are focused on the possible solutions to the problems at hand. Weak leaders spend most of their time pointing out what’s not working. They are always looking at what is wrong instead of looking at the possibilities with what could work. Strong leaders often ask the question “How might we?” when engaging with their teams. Strong leaders think creatively about options and possibilities. They keep their eye on the prize because they understand the power of focus. Energy goes where attention flows and strong leaders use this to their advantage.
4. Negotiate action, not thoughts or feelings.
Once we understand the perspectives others have, we can use those different viewpoints to reach decisions about what course of action to take to achieve our goals. We can think differently and we can feel differently however we only need to negotiate actions with each other. “What will you do? What will I do?” This is where we can negotiate. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has famously used the phrase within Amazon of “Disagree, but commit” to illustrate that those two aspects (agreement and commitment), don’t have to be one and the same. I can disagree with your decision but commit to supporting your decision by being willing to at least test out your assumptions. We can ask: “Are you willing to commit to at least trying it out?” Perhaps we can run a pilot project as a test. As much as we think we know how something will turn out, I believe not one of us has the omniscience that we sometimes act like we have. Saying “that will never work” is only an opinion because no one knows for certain the future. Let’s find out!
5. Evaluate outcomes based on facts, not ideologies.
In business, we should frequently monitor the progress we’re making (or lack thereof) towards our goals. We can do this without blame or judgement for where we are today. We simply are where we are. No praise, no blame. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served as an ambassador, a senator, and an advisor to four presidents, is quoted to have said that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” At any given point in time, we should be able to objectively measure where we, through the use of data or information. How we respond to the facts regarding where we currently are tells us much more about ourselves than it does about the facts themselves. Most business professionals are familiar with concepts such as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) or In-Process Measurements. In business, we can evaluate our progress based on facts and evidence. We use this data to inform us about the next course of action to take. Information informs us.
Congressman Marshall and Dr. Corrales state that “we must be willing to do the right thing and go beyond being right.” I’ve often found in my life that weak leaders want to be right. They want this more than they want to accomplish the goals they are striving towards. While weak leaders want to be right, strong leaders want results. Strong leaders want results even if that means that they were wrong in their assessment of the situation. A strong leader prefers results over being right.
When we live by these five rules, not just in politics but in all aspects of life including business, we have the chance to be both right (by working synergistically with others) and the chance to achieve the results that we want (accomplishing our shared goals) because Together Everyone Accomplishes More.