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To achieve their full potential, today's leaders must create intentional space to synthesize a huge amount of information and consider the impacts of any decision they undertake. Transformational leader and agile executive coach, Pat Reed, alongside our take-over hosts, Barton Friedland and Jarno Kartela, share the ways in which simulation technology and visualization tools can help leadership teams have the right discussions that lead to more effective decisions and outcomes. If you are an organizational leader, wanting to empower high-performing executive teams, this is the podcast for you.
- When you provide clarity of purpose, why that team is being invited to tackle a unique challenge because of their unique dynamics of a team, then you've set the stage for high performance
- Teams become extremely high-performing when the outcome is so challenging that no individual on the team can achieve it working solo.
- The person who has the best skills in saying out loud what they think will probably win. If we can take everyone's ideas, put them in some way that a computer understands it, we can simulate possible futures. When we can do that, we can start to objectively discuss what is the best strategic scenario for any complex problem that we may have.
- There is a school of thought that you come from a functional area, and then that is your preconceived notion on how all things in the world will be solved. through that lens.
- Past data will not tell us what customers want next
- Workshop with your leadership team: what's the one thing that might seem impossible to achieve, but if we could achieve it in these series of workshops would significantly affect your ability to lead the organization to where it needs to be in the future.
- Holding space, for creative, or healthy tension is necessary for individual executives to achieve their breakthrough.
[00:00:00] Barton Friedland: Welcome to Pragmatism in Practice, a podcast from ThoughtWorks where we share stories or practical approaches to becoming a modern digital business. I'm Barton Friedland, principal advisory consultant located in Berlin, Germany. I'm virtually alongside my colleague, Jarno Kartela, global head of AI advisory located in Helsinki, Finland. We are your hosts for a special podcast takeover entitled Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.
In this series, we're pleased to bring on special guests to discuss an area of increasing burden for senior management. Decisions, let's get started. In this episode of Decisions, Decisions, Decisions, I want to take you back a bit to the early 2000s. The agile manifesto had just been signed, but not too many people had heard about it yet. If you were lucky enough to meet someone to tell you about it or to better show you how it worked, then you could learn.
You had to, so to speak, drink from the fire hose and one of those fire hoses is our guest today, Pat Reed. Let me tell you a little bit about her. Pat is an experienced agile executive coach, transformational leader, and adjunct professor. She has proven success transforming large agile organizations and developing world-class enterprise agile practices that include domains such as accounting, project management, portfolio management, strategy, release, DevOps, change, performance management, and adaptive career processes and practices.
Yes, you can apply agile to all of those areas. Pat has over 40 years of experience in leveraging cutting-edge technology, delivery, and project management methods to solve challenging business problems. Her experience covers 15 years as executive director at The Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney Pictures and Television, five years at Universal Studios motion picture group, a year as CIO at GameWorks, and leading delivery management services as an executive for eight years where I met her and where she introduced me to agile.
Pat's unique skills include transformational leadership, connecting strategy to delivery, and solving impossible business challenges by leveraging deep domain knowledge of human behavior, patterns, and design thinking, as well as empirical methods with a razor-like focus on value. She also co-created an agile management course at the University of Berkeley, California Extension with Thoughtworker Jim Highsmith. I'm very pleased to introduce to you, Pat Reed.
Pat, it's great to have you on our podcast this afternoon, evening, morning. You've been a friend of mine for quite some time. I think I met you in the early 2000s. As you know, our show is about decisions. Maybe you could talk with us a little about your decision to move to San Francisco and work because you already had a career.
[00:03:49] Pat Reed: Thank you, Barton. A pleasure to be here by the way and indeed delightful to be here with you two, both kindred spirits. Yes, I had a stellar career in entertainment, over 20 years making the magic and creating all the magic behind the magic at Disney Universal Studios. Major motion picture production as you might know is quite magical and quite adaptive.
What drew me was, really, we had an infusion of Disney talent that moved. They pretty much made it impossible for me to say no to come up and to work in retail, which was totally new for me. It was an adventure and the decision as all decisions in my life I've never regretted because it opened new doors and opened new challenges.
The senior executives who were recruiting me knew of my passion to actually take on an impossible challenge of transforming an organization's deep-rooted culture to agility. That's what pulled me to leave entertainment and everything I knew behind.
[00:06:27] Barton: That's great. You talk about achieving the impossible. I've known you for some time. Another phrase I've often heard you talk about is creating high-performance teams. For our listeners, could you talk about what those things mean in this world of overachievement and also perhaps talk about what kinds of decisions are involved with playing that role in life?
[00:06:59] Pat: There's an element of clarity. There's a pattern of clarity that I think actually runs deep in those areas to truly understand and create high-performing teams. You need to provide teams with absolute, crystal clear knowledge of what is the purpose, what is the outcome you're asking them to achieve. When an individual or an individual team has that clarity of purpose, why you're selecting that team or why that team is being invited to tackle a unique challenge because of their unique dynamics of a team, then that team you've set the stage for high performance by giving them absolute clarity of purpose and absolute clarity of outcome.
That clarity helps to set the stage, if you will, for then enabling that team to bring their whole selves to the adventure, if you will, or to the challenge. Then you provide them the support and the feedback as they earn that independence or autonomy. That's, in a sense, the spirit of true enablement. You enable that team through frequent-enough feedback but enabling them to truly determine how they're going to do the work and to truly achieve their full potential. That's the secret behind high-performing teams.
I think there's a little other element of secret sauce in that as well, and that is real stretch goals. Teams in my opinion become extremely high-performing teams when the outcome is so challenging that no individual on the team can achieve it working solo. They understand that catalytic force behind becoming a high-performing team where they truly leverage the full potential of the whole team. That tension is an important element and has always been an important element of my work respecting and understanding healthy tension as a catalyst for extremely high performance.
[00:09:33] Barton: It sounds like one of the things that you're saying is that one of the decisions that people in such teams would have to make is the decision to not be the one that can do it by themselves.
[00:09:45] Pat: Yes, and absolutely discard any false beliefs that I know more than you know, let's say. You'd form that amazing cohesive team by recognizing that the team is so much more powerful than the independent members of the team. The collective is really where that magic happens and then you leverage and bounce and create healthy tension to innovate.
Innovation and true innovation really requires that healthy tension to arc off of each other's energy and they value that. In fact, I have to admit that during my entire career at Disney and everywhere I've ever worked, once I've helped develop strong, cohesive teams, they stay strong, cohesive teams. I have absolute no attrition. They find so much value in being a member of the team. At Disney, I had the same team for 16 years. Nobody left.
We didn't have any because the energy that they got from being a part, the pride of being a member, and the energy of being a part of that amazing team creates real stickiness. Then being able to grow in that role is critically important too so that they really feel they have that autonomy, and they can grow in their mastery along with that collective energy of the team all growing in their careers.
[00:11:30] Barton: Absolutely. I'm thinking also of how this applies to people who might not traditionally think of themselves as a team, senior leadership who might be part of a senior leadership team, but they may not conceive of themselves as a high-performance team. Now, I know that you worked with Jim Highsmith, and you produced a course that is still taught to this day at the University of California on applying agile principles to management.
[00:12:04] Pat: Yes, and Jim and I co-created that and we still worked together in collaborative efforts. Jim actually came to Berkeley and was excited about we working together to kick it off. The program was an extreme success. It's still running today and I think Jim really enjoyed the experience of it.
[00:12:34] Barton: In terms of the application of these principles to management and the consulting work that you've done subsequently with senior leadership teams, what have you found? Is it different working with that group, the senior leadership, and helping them see how they can become a high-performance team than it is working, let's say, with a group of software developers who maybe have a different expectation of what teamwork is supposed to be like?
[00:13:05] Pat: It all boils down to their individual beliefs. Quite honestly, I've worked with executive leadership teams all over the world and some get it. Sometimes an individual on an executive team might get a little distracted by their own zero-sum game or judging each other, right? In fact, some executives, and I think it'd be-- I won't mention names, but of the Fortune One company that I've helped transform and worked with for a five-year period when I started with that group, it was very obvious that these were some of the world's best executives.
They've earned that rank and they would fall into a pattern of sparring with each other. In other words, to stay fit and to build their strength. It would be almost like a sparring game where they would be trying to one-up each other as opposed to really thinking totally differently as if they understood that we all win together. When one of us fails, we all fail. My first kickoff with that particular team is where I invented what you know me to now call my shock therapy treatment.
I sensed this in the room. I sensed this when I was first in the boardroom working with this senior level of executives at this Fortune One company, and I asked point blank. How did they measure the amount of value they create for their customers and their team and each other on a daily basis? You might think, "Well, that doesn't sound so shocking."
For this particular level of executive, they were not accustomed to a consultant coming in and challenging them to validate their value proposition, right? They took it very seriously and they reflected on it. Do either of you want to guess what they actually responded? These are now these really, let's just say, very dominant and the world's best in supply chain executive leadership. What do you think they said when I asked them that question?
[00:15:59] Barton: I want to say that they hemmed in hard a bit, but then they ended up not being able to give an answer.
[00:16:06] Pat: Well, that would be a good guess, Barton. Interestingly enough, I held the space quietly letting them reflect and think about the answer without probing. I simply held the space until someone responded. I'll tell the story in detail if you guys are cool with it. The first person to respond was the CIO executive. The CIO said, "I think we're pretty bad. I'd say less than 30%, maybe 20%." Then, again, I held the space. I acknowledged that and I held that space and I said, "What does everybody else think?" I kept that tension going because they were truly, genuinely reflecting on their answer.
Then one bold individual stepped up and said, "Mine is less than 10%." If I had to honestly assess my own performance at creating real value for my customers and my customers also being employees because at a senior executive level, your internal team are also your customers in the spirit of true agile, authentic team empowerment and leadership. They acknowledged across the room. There were now 30 members of this particular group. There were 30 members. They all agreed that it was less than 10%.
[00:17:44] Barton: I think this is really interesting. I want to just call out for our listeners that a decision happened here, an implicit decision, because you talked at the beginning about this concept of the behavioral patterns that the executives had about sparring with each other, which then caused them not to have the reflective moments and the real conversations if I'm getting you correctly.
[00:18:10] Pat: Exactly.
[00:18:10] Barton: Then the way you asked the question and held the space for them to actually answer it, it implicitly created a space for them to make a decision to look at things differently.
[00:18:26] Pat: Almost a liminal space, Barton, in terms of an altered state of consciousness, so to speak. They'd never been in that situation before. Nobody'd ever come in from the outside and asked them this amazingly profitable executive leadership team who was at the peak of their career, the peak of their capabilities. In fact, they were so good. They received many, many, many accolades on being the best executive group in the world, CEO, and team. Imagine then having this stranger come in because they didn't know me.
There was a reason why I was invited to come to this group, and that is exactly to achieve what we achieved because the executive who did bring me in was at their wit's end who was leading the agile transformation for that corporation. That Fortune One corporation was at their wit's end in the energy drain that was going on by distracting those amazing individuals from achieving their full potential because they were practicing on sparring with each other. If you know what I mean by that expression, they were distracting--
[00:19:56] Barton: I think what you're saying about achieving their true potential is incredibly powerful. I want to pass this to Jarno though too because what you're talking about, Pat, is one of the things that you're known to be good at. There are things that, Jarno, we talked earlier about what you're good at. I want to ask you, Jarno. Have you experienced, in the work that you do, facilitating groups of people but using computational technology as the foil to help them think? Have you observed anything similar where providing people a simulation space or something similar has enabled a different way of looking at things with the groups that you've worked with?
[00:20:45] Jarno Kartela: Yes, and I think this is a topic that we've discussed a lot of times that I think interaction is needed for any type of actual learning. To get to interaction when you have computers, simulation is one of the best tools because simulation allows for people to express what they think about the future, not only about the business today, but what is it that you think about the future?
What is probably going to happen? What are the constraints in which that will likely happen? What does the business model actually look like? If we draw it in lines and boxes, what does it look like? Can we simulate and so on? The good bit about that as an approach is that it builds this campfire around which people can discuss, what is it that they think about the future and the future of the company? Again, talking about senior leadership.
It simulates what's going to happen, but it also draws sets in visual form. It creates this canvas in which people can discuss that like, "Okay, so is this the future of the company as we as a team believe that it should be? What if this is wrong? If something is wrong, can we change it?" While that might sound simple, I think it is pretty elegant because what's happening underneath is, before, people in senior leadership, a lot of decisions were based on, "Let's have a discussion around the topic."
The person who has the best skills in saying out loud what they think will probably win. If we can take everyone's ideas, put them in some way that a computer understands it, we can simulate possible futures. When we can do that, we can start to objectively discuss what is the best strategic scenario for any complex problem that we may have. To me, that's interesting and I think it links to what was said previously.
[00:23:38] Pat: I love, Jarno, the way you equated it to a circle or a campfire. It's that everyone has an equal voice around the circle or the campfire, and also then that eliminated any competitive or dominance kind of. It enables people to listen at a deeper level and synthesize what everyone is saying without judgment, right? Because when you have those primal images of being around a circle, a campfire, it's storytelling at that time. It's not, "I'm right, you're wrong." You don't go to that space. You get pulled into the power of that simulation and the potential, and then you free up your imagination enough to think about future scenarios out of the collective wisdom-sharing and knowledge of the group, so I loved your story.
[00:24:42] Barton: I would say shared understanding is one of the key benefits if you think about it very practically. It can create an environment where there's a much stronger shared understanding because everybody sees their ideas represented. We know about adoption that one of the things that enables adoption is when people feel that they can shape the system.
[00:25:03] Pat: Yes.
[00:25:03] Barton: In this kind of scenario, you get to see how your ideas show up in the system. You're clear that your ideas are being represented, but then let's keep going back and forward in time and see what that does to our thinking. I remember there were a number of points when we knew each other when I was in San Francisco where you had to go to the most senior executives and the board to get their buy-in.
For those really edgy things that you put into place, transforming into an agile organization, do you want to share with us any key conversations? What kind of resistance did you run into? Because this is something that our listeners are running into. Maybe they're not a senior-senior executive, but they need to get the buy-in of those senior people. How did you go about doing that?
[00:26:08] Pat: One way, a good place to start would be to understand the language of the executive and understand the perspective. One thing I've learned very early in my career of transformation is, quite honestly, an executive's number one priority is not process. If they assess or judge that agile is just that thing that the programmers do, they're not going to be too engaged in even coming to a meeting to talk about executive agility if there's too much baggage associated with their preconceived perception. The first thing we did in preparation for that was we created this altered space where a team was enabled to just work at their full potential, right?
We took away all the co-dependencies and all the other things that actually will diminish high-performing agile teams' performance. We created an artificial environment or a room that they could work in where they had all the talent they needed. They had access to all of those shared service people and they had everything they needed in this liminal space. We were able to achieve such phenomenal results. Oftentimes, I think one of the main reasons why people bring ThoughtWorks in is because you can help be the catalyst for those kinds of amazing results. When executives get intrigued--
[00:28:00] Barton: That's definitely what Jarno and I are trying to do here. [laughs]
[00:28:04] Pat: I understand that and it works, right? Because when executives at the most senior level see that magic-- and I am going to call it magic because it does go beyond the normal productivity. When they see that potential magic, they get intrigued. They want to know how it works. I created first that space of this amazing team sufficient enough to get results. Exactly, Barton, and then they were intrigued enough to want to know more, so it was a pull versus a push.
[00:28:43] Barton: Got it, because you used lean principles to draw them in new interests-
[00:28:48] Pat: -and real empirical data to say, "Wow, I want to know how I can benefit from that. I want to know more."
[00:28:59] Barton: That's great. Then going back to you, Jarno, is there something where you've worked with people who had particular preconceptions in their, let's say, strategic planning processes where, through the simulation process, you've seen it dawn on people that maybe their assumptions are not the best assumptions and maybe there's different ways of looking at things?
[00:29:28] Jarno: Yes, absolutely. I think there's two schools of thought in terms of misconceptions. One is based on your context and how you've been brought up in terms of a business leader. What is it that you've been seeing and how do you see the world and the customers and the company and so on? That is, I think, to this day, it is still driven by function. People who come from a specific place in the organization, they think that we can solve this. We get problem by changing the brand. We can solve this. We get problem by changing the supply chain. We can solve this with optimization. We can solve this with something else.
[00:30:29] Jarno: Whenever you go to the strategy director, they will say, "Well, the business model is the problem." That's one. To me, that's the school of thought that you come from the functional area, and then that is your preconceived notion on how all things in the world will be solved. Obviously, when we put all of those ideas into the campfire and start simulating things, it becomes imminent that like, "Well, actually, none of the preconceived notions is the best scenario. It's actually something completely else," or it can be this thing that we didn't feel as that important.
That's actually really cheap to do. That doesn't evolve in any investment but mostly changes how we interact with customers has the most potential of going where we want to go. That's one. Then the second one is the school of thought of you either over-believe in technology or don't believe technology at all. The people who don't believe in technology at all will say things like, "Well, simulation, all of the data science, decision science toolkits will not help in strategic planning because this is something humans are good at."
Past data will not tell us what customers want next, which is true. It's limited as thought. Then you have the over-believers who think that, "Okay, we're going to bring some AI in, and that will just tell us what to do with the entire company and thousands of people and the entire business model and every customer in all markets and so on and then it will be fine." I also want to purchase it as software-as-a-service because I don't like custom stuff.
I'm just going to put a CD-ROM in and, voila, I'm going to be married all year long because that's going to solve all of my complex things. You have the two schools of thoughts. One is from technology and one is from business and functions coming together. It is pretty interesting the first time around when everyone has their own place from which they're commenting. Again, I come back to the original point. If you let them interact with the system and interact with the campfire, that will lead to adoption as well.
If you just go on and say that, "Well, this is the way that we do decisions now," and you're going to just give me some data and some action points and then I'm going to give you the answer with a capital fee, that's not going to work. To me, the interesting bit, we know this from technology adoption in terms of business-to-consumer settings. I don't think we know that in business-to-business executive leadership adoption, or we are just beginning to understand that, "Wait. Hey, it's the same problem."
[00:34:12] Barton: Right, it's almost like an identity problem. It doesn't apply to us because we're a special group. We see ourselves as being in that. I think one of the things that you are saying here and it's reminiscent of the point that Pat was making previously as well that part of the decision-making processes in this complex world that we're talking about is the willingness to allow your perspective to change.
We all have some sense of identity. As Jarno was pointing out, much of that may have to do with the functional training or the functional role that we've had. I think one of the things I hear you saying, Jarno is that by interacting with a model that, that shows all these different perspectives, one begins to look at their own perspective differently and see the perspectives of others differently, which I think we're arguing is a prerequisite from making better decisions. What do you think, Pat?
[00:35:23] Pat: I think that's brilliant, Barton, and I want to amplify a point that you're both making and that Jarno referenced when he's set the stage for clarifying that when he's dealing with these wicked problems, these wicked problems to the kind that elevate us to require us to really think, and I'm going to put a name on that in the risk of oversimplifying it, it requires both and thinking rather than either or thinking that happens at the lower levels when people aren't experienced at solving wicked problems.
One of the techniques that I help particularly executives with is a forcing function if you will, in a tool called dilemma management or polarity management tool, where you force them-- In a sense, you set the stage to force people to look at the wins and loses of both sides of this wicked problem. You do a little quadrant and you look at the pros and cons of each and by working people through that awareness setting. You're actually cultivating.
You are shining a light, if you will, on the benefits of each side of those two poles because a lot of these wicked problems in the story that Jarno was talking about, I could hear the different polls at play and that it's multidimensional, not just two but polarity management, dilemma management tools require you to get clarity around the benefits of both and thinking because then you start to look for a solution that's in the middle to solve that wicked problem.
Not just one pole versus the other, but to use the tension between those poles, especially thinking of now as we're going into even more complexity, that three-dimensional poles. Imagine the power of achieving and cultivating in your own skill set and capability set the both and thinking as opposed to that either and catching yourself when you see yourself falling into it. It's really powerful.
[00:37:56] Barton: [crosstalk] That's exactly the thing that I wanted to discuss with you here. Thank you for bringing that up because that really makes me think about the simulation again. I think the whole point about using computational technology to look at these things is it doesn't matter if it's two poles, three poles, or 40 poles, or a hundred poles anymore.
[00:38:15] Pat: Exactly.
[00:38:21] Barton: With simulation, you can use that as the environment that you're setting the space for people to see those relationships and like you said, the winners and the losers and the things that they're not looking at in their thought process.
[00:38:35] Pat: Exactly. The spaces that are between the competing tensions of all those poles.
[00:38:41] Barton: The other point I want to draw here is that we started off talking about the high-performance teams doing the impossible, which is just a different verbiage for executives solving wicked problems. [crosstalk]
[00:38:55] Pat: Exactly. They're the same continuum.
[00:39:01] Barton: Tell us about a time that you were asking senior management to make a very difficult decision, perhaps one of the most challenging that you can remember and how you navigated that pathway?
[00:39:22] Pat: Interesting. When I reflect back on my experiences, as I was introducing them, the executive team, the senior leadership team to these new ways of thinking, I gave them choices. I used let's say a classic case of introducing the concepts of executive agility by doing it. Rule number one would be don't talk at anyone for more than just sharing that clarity of desired outcome and telling the story and then giving them choices to select.
I can remember vividly now, even though it's a long time ago, giving them choices for them to raise what they believed were the issues that were facing into and put them up on a, let's just say, Kanban board, whatever, and have them vote, dot-vote, affinity map them. They would affinity map their stories. They would write down their impediment or whatever. They would affinity map them. This sounds superficially easy, but then they invited them to collectively dot-vote on which ones were most important and prioritize them.
Then we pulled those priorities, those outcomes they wanted to achieve into the workshop and these workshops are quite brief based on their seniority. Getting them to come was the first challenge. Getting them to really get the most out of it was the second challenge, but it was all engaging them to bring their biggest problems.
I would oftentimes phrase that as what's the one thing that might seem impossible to achieve, but if we could achieve it in these series of workshops would significantly affect your ability to lead the organization to where it needs to be in the future. They don't bring a hundred items that stories that they write, they bring their top three and then they dot-vote an affinity map.
That achieves that same simulation and that same polarity management that we've been talking about, those patterns that we've been talking about because, what it does is it gives people, it broadens their perspective. My problem might not seem so big if I really learn about what my peers, other leaders problems are. This technique worked especially well when I was working through some challenges across our brands, I would bring the CFOs together from each of those brands and achieve this alignment if you will-
[00:42:42] Barton: Campfire.
[00:42:42] Pat: -because they were all competing with each other before that. Exactly create the campfire because then give them the choice of how they wanted to proceed as opposed to competing for budget share. They then became collective campfire of how to ensure that what's good for their brand doesn't actually impede the benefit of what's good for the corporate entity, so in a nutshell.
[00:43:19] Barton: That competition is that the challenge that you had observed before you set the workshop up?
[00:43:28] Pat: Exactly. Right. It's a natural competition when you have brands that are competing for very limited budgeting. Each one of those individuals is solely focused on the performance of their brand. Not to oversimplify it, but I think you get the picture is. Their priority is to walk away with a higher budget than their peers. This goes all the way back from that first fortune one example I gave as well. We created that we all win together thinking as opposed to either or when you lose, I win. If I get a greater share of the budget.
[00:44:12] Barton: Have you seen that sort of competition in the work that you've done with clients, Jarno?
[00:44:19] Jarno: Absolutely. I think it applies like beyond wicked problems. It applies to every problem that's in your arsenal to make. My favorite, because it's so simple, as an example is whenever you go to talk something that's directly shown to customers that being personalization, that being pricing, that being marketing content, something else.
Then you say that the right way of probably building such a system is to build a system that actually tries again, interacts with the world, and learns what's the right choice for specific customers, customer segments, and so on because we know that past data doesn't tell us what customers want next. Then you go on to argue that to accomplish that we need to say, what is a good outcome?
If we take an action, if we show this piece of content that price your business unit's stuff, and that pays off. Was it a good thing? If it was a good thing, how good it was in a scale of one to 10, and then you realize you're ending up in a discussion where all of the business units will have to evaluate from which business units, if we get the win is the most valuable for a total customer value. That's an interesting discussion because you take a tame problem. It's not a wicked problem.
Personalization is not a wicked problem. You take a tame problem, but you make it wicked because you turn the table to say that in order for this to be successful, we need to say, what is a good outcome in order to say, what is a good outcome? We need to discuss the business. In order to do that, you need to go around the campfire and say that what is best for customer lives and value. That's a difficult discussion to have.
[00:46:46] Barton: Had you faced that challenge? How have you taken your stakeholders through situations like that?
[00:46:56] Pat: The story that I was hearing in Jarno's story was that clarity again. The greater good clarity, for the greater good of the company, the greater good of humanity, you know what I mean? At any level, if you force the attention of the campfire beyond a person's, let's say ego or unique personal priorities to be part of the group and the outcome, the greater good priority then you're elevating their thinking to whole different levels.
It's not about I win, if you lose. It's about how can we work together to create an environment which is optimal for everyone. That's a forcing function.
[00:47:52] Barton: We're here at the key point of the episode, because what is it in your experience, Pat about this elevated thinking where people are going beyond their personal interests that produces better decisions and better outcomes.
[00:48:08] Pat: It's that expanded consciousness of clarity. It is clarity. It starts with clarity. What would good look like? If we're not elevating our thinking to really clarify, what's the outcome we're really seeking? Is it this? Is it this? Is it this? What would be the greater good outcome? Then you do get beyond-- There is an element of consciousness, awareness in that, Barton, for the greater good. The elevating, your conscious awareness of what's going to be for the greater good.
I see more and more organizations factoring in this thinking that goes beyond bottom line profitability to that conscious awareness of sustainability for the planet, let's say, or for other noble causes. I'll give it a name of expanded consciousness of going beyond just bottom line, short term profits, but long term. It's required for long-term future-focused growth as well. We don't over-focus on this next quarter's performance at the expense of the end of year or the next five years. [crosstalk] would make sense.
[00:49:38] Barton: We could call this episode moving towards better decisions by moving past self-interest?
[00:49:45] Pat: Broadening our consciousness.
[00:49:50] Barton: Moving to better decisions through aligning with shared interests.
[00:49:55] Pat: Yes. That would be a step, step one. Understanding the shared interest, that whole campfire theme that Jarno's been bringing in. That collective. It's the collective.
[00:50:10] Barton: I'm really fascinated because we've talked about this personally, you and I, Pat, before, you've been doing this a while, I've been doing it a while, but I still feel like you are so much-- You seem to me to be so much more unwavering. I have people that are more junior than me saying, how do you do that? I say the reason I'm able to do it is because I've been doing it a while and I've been through difficult situations and I've seen how staying committed to that perspective can produce positive results, so I do it.
That may be the answer that I'm looking for, but it seems like this way of thinking-- I guess I want to get back to was there ever a point that you didn't think this way, or was there a particular event that occurred in your life that you can recall where it was like, oh, I see, this is how I need to focus my attention in my mind in order to produce the outcomes I'm looking for.
[00:51:22] Pat: There was never a point where I didn't think this way. I started in my life working at a very young age and I've had a very broad experience. From my bio, I was in Criminal Intelligence and you name it. I did it. I've gathered knowledge or I shared a deep knowing from each experience. Being fearless, I was never fearful of failing because I just embraced everything with that zest for learning. I truly believe in the power of learning and the spirit of learning is at the heart of all of it.
As you guys might know, I've been a University Professor for 50 some years, so I'm quite a bit older than you guys. I just bring that knowing to the table and adapting what works in different situations just based on experience. Quite honestly, there's a knowing and there's an experience and there's an active listening part, that's absolutely key. If you go back and rethink all of the stories that I've shared, it was my active listening in each one of those stories that directed the outcome.
I didn't go in with a pre-staged, planned, scripted. I pretty much go into almost every engagement with an open mind and an open heart and open ears of actually listening and sensing, a power of sense-making in terms of reading the room to help, in the spirit of really trying to help individuals identify where their blockers are.
Regardless of whether they're the President or the Prime Minister of a bank or of a country, but really helping them to listen and sense what they need to hear in order to bust through it so that they can get to their full potential, which in a sense at the heart of that is role modeling, real adaptive leadership.
[00:53:47] Barton: Presence. Absolutely. I think what I'm really getting from this conversation that I haven't really gotten before is that, we often associate listening and being open and flexible with, let's say more passive or feminine ideas about how we are in the world. The way that you spoke in the very first example that you gave, where you held the space to the group of executives. This was a very active holding up the space and being willing to be quiet for what was probably quite some time where there was this uncomfortable tension in the room.
[00:54:32] Pat: Exactly Barton. That tension was the key. I never went in planning to do that. I was actually responding to the energy that I felt in the room and I could feel that tension. I knew that by holding that space, that tension was necessary for the individual executives to achieve their breakthrough.
[00:54:58] Barton: In other words, that tension if one can harness it if you will becomes the unravel of the mindset that blocks us from making better quality decisions and it's not magic.
[00:55:16] Pat: In a nutshell, not just one dimension but that tension-- I do believe it's the least utilized executive tool is understanding how to regulate that tension.
[00:55:29] Barton: Creative tension we can call it.
[00:55:31] Pat: Creative positive tension. Healthy tension. That is the essence of going all the way back to your first question Barton about creating an amazing high-performance team, regulating that tension is the key. Giving them the clarity, giving them the affirmations and the beliefs in their own potential, and showing them that you believe in their own potential, but then regulating the tension because you've got to stretch them to achieve that potential through that regulation.
[00:56:06] Barton: It definitely worked with me Pat, because when I think back to where I was in San Francisco and how supportive you've always been to me and where I've ended up in my life, it actually has worked very very well. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to bring you on to our show and share that perspective with others. Jarno, do you have any comments or questions you want to ask Pat based on what you've heard?
[00:56:33] Jarno: Not really on the on the latter part. I think specifically the tension thing is something that I really much relate to and I think it is absolutely spot on, I think it's really hard to regulate though.
[00:56:52] Pat: Oh, yes. It's an art.
[00:56:52] Jarno: It is extremely. At least personally I feel a need to try to give an answer if I feel that tension. Regulating that I think it's certainly a skill that takes a lot of practice.
[00:57:11] Pat: Brilliant because we have a natural tendency to want to release the tension, to want to reduce it. It's a natural human empathetic tendency, but we almost have to re-frame our awareness if you will, or our understanding that regulating that tension is where you get the breakthrough of enabling that individual to get to whole new ways of thinking. In a simple way, it's when you tell them what to do because you know you know better.
You know you know better and you want to give that as a gift because of your domain expertise and your deep knowledge. When you regulate the tension, you're actually giving them a greater gift by helping them get the breakthrough and getting to a whole new level of thinking that elevates their real potential.
[00:58:14] Barton: It's almost like we put the apple before the cart or horse. I can't even remember. I live in Germany now, my idioms are broken. We're often so interested at least I find that I fall into the trap of being so interested to convince the stakeholder that I'm communicating with to see my idea or to approve of my idea. I often forget I'm here to elevate this person. What does this person need in this moment as a prerequisite to me having the conversation that I want to have about what I want them to understand?
[00:59:01] Pat: That is brilliant Barton because at the root of it, if we understand that we're all coming from different levels and they might not be able to hear what you're trying to tell them because your frame is from an entirely different place. If you re-frame that to create a space where they can step into, to be open, to understand at a deeper level, then you see the power of you creating that space.
[00:59:33] Barton: Now I'm really getting this because it's not about doing it in that moment. It's about recognizing it might take a month. It might take a year. It's going to take as long as it takes but that's my intention with this person. [crosstalk]
[00:59:46] Pat: Exactly and they might have it in the shower the next day and then everybody wins, but if they're not ready to hear you in the space they're in, they won't hear you anyway. They won't have it in the shower.
[01:00:02] Barton: Right. In other words, good decisions are not possible in that state because the campfire hasn't happened yet.
[01:00:10] Pat: Exactly right. The setting is not right. The environment is not conducive to that person making that bold leap into the right decision, so a leader's job is to kindle the environment so that those sparks can get sparked. The amazing enlightenment let's call it or that little, that aha moment and we know how powerful that is.
When we have that aha moment you're creating the space and the environment to nurture those aha moments and you're confident in they'll step into that space if you nurture that to the degree that-- If they don't step into it, they'll probably come back and give you another opportunity to learn it, or their life will present that.
[01:01:11] Barton: Exactly. This has been so wonderful, Pat. I always enjoyed speaking with you.
[01:01:22] Pat: Thank you and to both of you as well. Delighted for this opportunity.
[01:01:36] [END OF AUDIO]