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Leadership topic - Differences

We hear a lot about what they “are” but how do you really understand what to do about their value to teams and each other?

It has been proven that Teams that have Different voices, talents, perspectives, and experiences provide much better results. And those Teams also have the most complexity in communicating with each other and other Teams. As our individual Differences are being amplified around us daily, how do Leaders manage to bring all of that together. With the start of Van Morrison’s career, let’s explore together.

engaging Differences

engaging Differences

Turning to engage this week, we lost an hour… but that means we gain more evening on Wednesday … to celebrate the gift that Irish have been to the world, particularly to America.  As a mutt myself, I have a special affinity for “… your tired, your poor.  Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”.  And it gives me the excuse I need to write about one of the true giants of music, and hopefully tell some stories that are Different – which is what the musical soundtrack and this week’s theme start with.  Differences – which has received a lot of attention but…

Differences in management

Differences in management

Leadership and management are about making a Difference. Ask anyone who attempts it, and the motivation is to make things better, faster, more efficient, easier. Some definition of Different is embedded in both the role and the calling. Those who are not that role will often look up at them and wonder first why would anyone want that job, and then second, exactly what the heck are they talking about? Clearly, it is some other language, as what they are saying makes little or no sense to them… 

Different partners

Different partners

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  An interesting day like most modern holidays that has a Different story behind it than you may know.  The day is supposedly the day he died and was buried in his adopted Ireland, and to celebrate that, the Lenten season’s ban on drinking is lifted for this day – and probably why there is so much of it 😉  After 20 days without, and anticipating 20 more days until Easter, it is a day to let it all hang out.  And while the Irish were hated by most Americans when they arrived in the 1840s, we were more than happy to embrace any holiday that allowed a party… 

observing Differently

observing Differently

Your brain is an amazing invention, observing and integrating literally billions of bits of information every second.  They measured the bandwidth of your eyes which is close to 9 GigaBytes a second.  For reference, that amazing 4K TV you watch is about 25 MEGA bytes/second… so your eyes can actually send your brain 360 separate programs simultaneously.  Use that when you get in trouble as I do for channel surfing.  One they cannot do well is see a hot pan or in the dark, and in both cases, without other senses, you would get hurt… which is exactly the same in leadership. 

Different wonders

Different wonders

After listening, the hardest thing I work with leaders on is unlearning what they know.  That may seem counterintuitive, but honestly, they don’t know it.  Their brains have made it up… based on facts that it has chosen to observe, and ignoring those that it really doesn’t want to notice.  The fancy name for it is the Ladder of Inference, but Paul Simon says it clearer “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear.. and disregards the rest”.  When you really understand the depth and breadth of this deception, it is really any wonder we know anything… 

Success had been tasted, but also had left some residue for Van to wonder about and resolve.  Now in New York, he was influenced by Bert who helped Here Comes the Night and Gloria become hits to sign a contract that he didn’t read.  He had a few songs collected and was persuaded to go into the A&R studio to record “4 singles” – which is typically 4 ‘good’ songs, and 4 that are the B sides.  Now admittedly his B sides were great, but these were all recorded in only 2 days in March of 1967, and he really didn’t think much more about it… 

… until he was called to let him know his first solo album was being released, including cover art that was highly psychedelic, and titled Blowin’ Your Mind.  Van had never been a drug user, and was adamantly opposed to the release of the album, but the contract was clear that all control had been given completely to Bert, and as such the album came out.  Even after Bert’s death later that year, the contract was in dispute which included a ban on performing without Bang Records approval… and Van was forced to move to Boston. 

He struggled, but eventually was able to work out of the contract and land at Warner Brothers after, I kid you not, a $20,000 drop of cash in a warehouse on Ninth Avenue…and the commitment for 36 more songs.  Van recorded them – on an out-of-tune guitar, with lyrics about Ringworms and sandwiches.  They are known now as the “revenge recordings” and only saw the light of day in a 2017 release by Bang 😉  And… the wonder is that the time in Boston allowed him to work on one of the greatest albums ever… but I am again ahead of the story… 

Like Van and his contract, your brain literally sees what it wants to see… even if that is not real.  It constructs facts that match what it has seen before… unless you can slow it down and wonder what you are missing… what is not seen, or heard, or inferred.  And it is particularly perilous as you ascend into leadership – where the common idea is you are paid for what you … know.  And often that can work… until it doesn’t.  And then you need to have either the ability to wonder yourself what you are missing, or have people around you that see it… Differently. 

Those people blow your mind, saving you from decisions that the “facts’ in your head may support, but are actually wonders of your imagination.  Differences in perspective that you need to either develop in yourself, or in those around you, so that your decisions are based on an integrated view.  Differences that will challenge you, will even raise your anger, but can… in fact… slow down that supercomputer on your shoulders … to actually make better decisions.  They are around you, and, like the hit that started a career that we still celebrate in spite of the contract, may come from a Brown Eyed Girl.

execution Differences

execution Differences

I have been thinking about Teams a lot lately, particularly those that are formed in a crisis.  They typically execute with “show up in a conference room at ….”  and from there, take on a life and a feeling that is hard to describe.  Leaders of those teams have a unique challenge – how to assemble a group that has all of the various skills that might be needed, and then, how to keep them together when there is not a lot that they share.  Differences that bring strength and breadth also challenge you to communicate and lead in a way that says execution is about the work and not about what happens to you or others 😉