We have a new government in Canada. Astoundingly, Justin Trudeau, the underdog candidate early in the campaign, came from distant 3rd place to secure a majority in the House of Commons. The incumbent party at the time chalked off their stunning defeat to their campaign style. Wiser heads have pointed out that after 10 years, it was their leadership style that was up for a vote, and they lost.
Many people scoffed at candidate Trudeau as a lightweight. They questioned his youth, his experience teaching drama v. practicing a “hard” discipline such as law or economics and unbridled optimism and concluded he was “just not ready” for the job. Even after he was elected, they claimed that while you can campaign form the heart, you have to lead from the head. Justin Trudeau disagrees, and has made it clear that he intends to lead as he campaigned.
As a coach, I do not at all see this as a recipe for disaster. In the 25+ years I’ve spent in Corporate Outplacement, I’ve not once seen a senior executive turfed for not being logical and hard-headed enough. Nor is technical prowess ever the issue. The problem is always one of approach. The individual’s stylistic preferences are seen as an indicator that while he or she “can” do the job in terms of performing tasks required of the role and “will” do the job in terms of motivation and initiative, for whatever reason, the individual selected for termination is no longer deemed a good “fit.”
I recall one client facing termination despite having made some significant contributions that extended the company’s service offerings. One idea was deemed so well-suited to the needs of the market that a new department was formed to develop and roll it out. The originator of the ideas assumed the lead role was in the bag. Instead, he was passed over for a peer with less technical chops but a reputation for attracting high performers who would go above and beyond to complete their work. This peer was known for hiring smart people, then using people leadership skills to manage, develop, mentor and coach the team, gaining discretionary effort from engaged employees. In contrast, our client had run out of road and like Steve Jobs getting booted out of Apple, learned the hard way that being brilliant was no longer “enough.”
We see the same phenomenon in our Executive Coaching practice. We were asked to work with a senior manager who had been assigned to salvage a key project that had gone off the rails. Sensing the urgency of the situation, this pro jumped right in with a “take no prisoners” attitude and completed the project on time and within budget. Baffled when referred to coaching v. praised for stellar results, the former superstar failed to realize was that over the years the organization had evolved, but her style hadn’t. There was still an expectation of high task performance, but also attention to how things got done. Complaints from employees seeking to leave the project and comments from peers about how difficult she was to deal with eventually landed her in our office.
Over time both of these clients discovered that the hard driving, logic-based style that had fueled their early success was no longer working. Even creativity could not save the day. The missing factor was “heart,” also known as emotional intelligence or people smarts. Once these failing clients understood their preferred social styles, they were able to recognize and address the gap they needed to bridge. They learned to broaden their range of responses, not tossing thinking out the window, but no longer relying solely on narrow logic plus action.
One of the models we used to help them do this is a simple framework for decision making. While all of us have a preferred means of reaching conclusions, we are wise to approach each situation from a full 360° perspective:
- Sensing: Start by gathering the facts
- Intuition: Look at the implications of each fact and generate possibilities beyond the obvious
- Thinking: Weigh options logically in terms of upside and downside potential of each
- Feeling: Factor in how the decision is likely to be received by those impacted and how it will reflect on you/your organization.
Our natural preferences can be a source of great strength, but if we over rely on them to the exclusion of other perspectives, our decisions are less comprehensive and we are less effective. For example, someone with a strong preference for action may jump right into a decision before weighing pros and cons. An inventive type may be so enthralled by the possibilities of an idea that they ignore inconvenient facts about limitations and parameters.
Our previous government viewed this country through the lens of logic without testing the waning appetite of its residents for increasingly draconian policies. (If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail; if you are suspicious of people from certain countries, every refugee claimant is a potential terrorist.)
Canadian voters decided they had had enough, and elected a very different sort of leader. While future blogs will cover some of the specific implications of the new Liberal majority government in Ottawa, let me start by noting that this is a good time for all of us to take stock. The new wind blowing signals real change for business as well as government. We need to examine our current assumption sets and use all resources at hand to view situations with a balanced approach: looking through the compassionate eyes of the heart, not just the cool scrutiny of analysis. For some of us, this may require greater attention to the Feeling factor‒not some fuzzy do-gooder attitude but the deep logic of the heart.
The clouds have dissipated so whoever you voted for, take a deep breath. Recognize this change as the opportunity it is for you and your organization to grow beyond your current limitations. Sunny ways!