The current global crisis is not an economic or credit crisis at its core. It is a crisis of leadership and trust. This KEY unlocks the understanding of a leadership moment – the pivotal task of leaders and 15 practices that effective leaders carry out. Reflect on this Key and use it. Put the key to practice today. Engage the leadership moment.
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A Leadership Moment
Reality is what we perceive it to be. We all create our own reality. You often fail to realize this fact because of the “reality myth,” which says that there is such a thing called “reality” independent of people’s views, assumptions
When you look at an issue, what “frame” do you use? The reality you perceive is shaped by your beliefs and assumptions. When you interact with another – a peer, an employee, the boss, your client, or a friend-there is no such thing as “pure data.” Even numbers on paper are interpreted with people’s narratives and assumptions.
People have firm beliefs about themselves and others. These beliefs dictate what can and what can’t be done, what is fair and right, and what is not, and the possibility or impossibility of everything. Beliefs and assumptions fashion the narrative, the story we create in our heads which in turn frames and instructs our reality.
The Blind Spot
We interpret what’s happening around us all the time, and based upon this interpretation, we tell ourselves a story about:
- What’s going on
- Why it’s going on
- What is therefore possible or not
This is true even for those trained to be objective, such as journalists and CIA analysts. They, too, interpret the “data” and “reality” within a framework of beliefs about:”What’s going on?” “Why is it going on?” and “What’s possible or not?”
You Create Your Frame
Where one person sees a threat, another sees an opportunity. What seems impossible to one manager triggers creativity in another. Joy and despair live side by side. Destruction and innovation, blockage and flow are next door neighbors. In each case people present you with data and scenarios framed by beliefs and assumptions.
Here is a discovery exercise: Select any news program on any channel and watch it for a half-hour. Use a stopwatch to measure and assess how much of the “news” presented is pure factual data versus a narrated point of view. Last time I ran the test, 92% was opinions, perceptions, assumptions and beliefs and perhaps 8% was verifiable data. Very few of our daily interactions would qualify as reproducible evidence in a scientific experiment. Arguably, a scientific experiment itself is framed inside a set of assumptions.
Never Accept Anything As A Given
Your pivotal task as a leader is to not surrender to people’s biases. Challenge each assumption. Question what seems factual, but may not be. If necessary, interrogate the data. Reframe the case in front of you, so you can discover what it can become and where it can go next. This is your leadership moment!
An old song says: “If you cannot be the miller you must be the grain.” And in a modern version: “If you are not part of the bulldozer you are part of the pavement.”
The challenge of leadership is to not accept anything as a given, beginning with your own impressions, views and beliefs. Most spoken or written assertions are nothing more than unproven assumptions, points of view, or beliefs presented as a fact.
Fact and fiction live in the same zip code. Unless you separate them, you won’t find out. The box already has boundaries and limitations. Your task is to redefine and reframe it.
A Leadership Moment: The Power To Reframe
Here are 15 reframing examples that effective leaders use:
- Reframe the intention: example: “We are not holding our positions; we are only advancing…” General Patton.
- Reframe the engagement: seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
- Reframe problems as opportunities: focus on a desired outcome.
- Reframe the mindset: Instead of thinking “why does he do this to me” think, “what is he struggling with.”
- Reframe the conversation: for example, paraphrasing JFK, “Ask not where the answer to my problem is. Ask, What needs can I help answer?” – It is there that you will find the answer to your need.
- Reframe goals: results over actions; output instead of input.
- Reframe the meeting agenda: from a list of topics to specific questions that need to be answered.
- Reframe the scenario: from a committee where each is pulling in his own direction to a team with a unified objective.
- Reframe the vision: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.”
- Reframe the boundaries: Ask, what is the worst thing that can happen? What is the best thing that can happen? And then explore your range of options on the continuum.
- Reframe the language: from complaint to request; accusation to invitation for mature responsibility.
- Reframe the relationship: with a client from “transactional” to “value-based;” with an employee from directing to delegating; with your spouse from being in love with the idea of the other person, to loving who that person actually is.
- Reframe negotiations: from “win-lose” to “win-win;” from “all or nothing” to “musts and wants,” and from “either or” to “yes and…”
- Reframe the reason:from acting on fear to acting on passion; from “needing to be right” to “facilitating a better outcome.”
- Reframe the focus: from getting to giving; from “what happened” to “what is happening.”
What’s the power of reframing? It’s in FDR’s phrase: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The leadership moment is to challenge conventional wisdom, to reframe what success looks like. To frame what was impossible as possible, and what was difficult as easy. A decision can be hard and hopeful all at the same time. A course of action you need to take may be painful and liberating. It’s all in the framing.
The Obama inauguration was a transformational reframing event. His test, the American test is to now direct the expectation and potential of this presidency to help reframe the discourse and redress the issues on the table, to turn big problems into even bigger opportunities. Leadership is the art of reframing. A leadership moment is
when you stop the avalanche of the “given” to redefine and reframe the case for you and for those around you.
Now it’s your turn. Turn the Key. Step up to the leadership moment. Coach and teach someone to reframe what can be.
© Aviv Shahar
Stepping Into The Unknown – The 11th Emerald Key
When you were born, you entered this world not knowing failure. The concept of failure did not exist. All you cared about was discovering and exploring everything around you. This joyful impulse to live with your senses wide open to discover the opportunities of living is the experience we are seeking in this key. Reflect on your attitude towards risk – do you step up to opportunities or do you hold back? When did you last take on a new bigger challenge? When did you promise to yourself or to someone else to deliver something without knowing how you would do it?
This creative tension is what pulls you up into a “venturi” tunnel of new possibilities – to discover innovation you did not know was locked in you. Great innovators and visionary leaders take on a greater challenge. It develops them to be bigger persons, to discover the capacities needed to realize their dream. It’s the same for you – you have extraordinary capacities that you are not aware of until such time as you face a new unknown circumstance where these capabilities are needed and are pulled out of you.
© Aviv Shahar
Are You In Limbo?
Limbo: (Clause 4) an intermediate place or state; a state of uncertainty
Let’s see, what is in limbo right now…?
For a start, the global financial system is in limbo. The economy and many corporations feel they are in limbo. If you lost your job and are looking for new one, you are in limbo. The stock market is in limbo – in between two trends. The Middle East is in limbo. The new administration is still in limbo. Even NASA is in limbo. India – Pakistan seems to be in limbo. Large parts of Africa are in limbo. You get the idea… This planet is largely in limbo.
The question is – are you in limbo? Chances are that if you are not, you will likely be by tomorrow, at least in one aspect of your life or another. In between jobs. In between homes. In between relationships. In between one clarity and the next.
Between one peak and the next.
You have to become very good at managing the limbo state. Limbo is the point where you are no longer in the safety of what was known and have not found yet a new settlement or equilibrium. It might just be the nature of life in the foreseeable future. Perhaps this was life all along but you hadn’t noticed.
The point is, you’ve got to develop an indestructible core that sustains you through the limbo state. A sense of clarity about who you are and what’s important for you. A confidence and self esteem not subject to the marketplace of employability.
Resourcefulness. Resilience. Gumption. Chutzpa. Tons of optimism. And a good and wide network of friends.
Learn to become the answer to the questions around you. You will then never be alone. You will never be left without work. And you will not lose the sense of self in the state of limbo.
© Aviv Shahar