October fest Episode 21. Different Styles Leadership

Arbitrary deadlines

There are people who are always late. If you give them two hours to do something they will take 2 1/2. These are people who are usually good at art. Poets musicians and writers are notoriously invested in the process of development rather than deadlines. Engages part of the mind that is critical for creativity. On the other hand business leaders, manages and those who are responsible for meeting public requirements are masters at deadlines but not necessarily the most creative. The question can become how do you have both which is an important element of being a great leader.

The first answer to this question is to separate management and leadership. There are certain things that do not need creativity and those things other things you do every single day of your life over and over again. So anything that can be repeated or is repeated more than twice can become a process and that process can be automated and become part of management. In order to implement management in circumstances where art or creativity is important it is critical to develop what is called arbitrary deadlines. How long does it take to create a canvas in order to paint a picture well, the artist might take longer to build the canvas than they do to paint a picture and in this way maybe spending far too much time procrastinating. At the same time a business person might spend far too much creative time thinking about something and therefore be fluffing around with creativity in things that should be automated.

Let’s see if we can put some boundaries around this for leadership. If you are fluffing around spending creative time talking about company structure or company culture, compliance with either of these things or development of either of these things you are procrastinating. At the same time if you do not have creative time thinking about company strategy then you are procrastinating again spending non fluffy time talking about things that need fluff.

Engineers are brilliant at this. They quite often apply the engineering brain to everything they do including vision setting and goal setting, company strategy and more. Of course, when it comes to matters of culture and structure the engineering brain is the dream. That strategy requires creativity and if you apply this engineering brain to strategy you are only going to get Groundhog Day repeat and blindsided groupthink.

To put this in context let’s go to Nepal again. It’s 7 o’clock in the morning and we have agreed to have breakfast before we start trekking at eight. Three of the group are still missing from the breakfast room even though their morning eggs are ready on the table at 7 am. I send one of my management team up to find out where they are and of course they’re sitting in the room still trying to put their boots on. Finally, at about 7:30 am these last three people arrive and keep everybody else waiting while they complain about their cold eggs. We finally get on the road at 8:30 instead of 8 am. During the course of the walk for today I have to make up that time otherwise we are going to be arriving at our destination in the dark which is never wise. When I try to cut short our morning tea or lunch the people who are most upset about this are the three who were late for breakfast. Typically, these three people who didn’t know each other before the walk collaborate during the walk because they probably work in areas of life that require significant amounts of creative time. They might be writers or artists or therapists.

After a few days of the trek I get to realise that these creative people do not have the same attention to time as everybody else and in someways don’t care that they hold others up because their primary brain sensors that they use for the day are relatively narcissistic. That is not to say all artists are narcissistic but most people who work in fields requiring a lot of creativity are dealing only with their own emotions and feelings and therefore can become quite emotionally driven. In order to manage these people rather than punish them which is not possible on a paid trek, I create false deadlines. I will say that breakfast is on tomorrow morning at 6:30 am knowing that they will probably arrive at around seven. Throughout the course of the trek for the day I will give them false deadlines such as, let’s be at a certain point by 830 and have a break. Truthfully there is no need to put such a deadline but when we are managing people who use a lot of emotion in their lives we must create these false deadlines in order to get some form of cultural and structural symmetry.

Then there are another group of people who are engineers on a trek. If I say that breakfast is on at 7 am they will be there waiting for their breakfast at 6:45. If their breakfast is more than a few minutes past 7 o’clock they start getting up and asking the kitchen is their breakfast on the way. I have to remind these people that we are in the pool, the kitchen is working using open fire, they are trying to cook everything at once and not burn the rainforest down just for one individual a therefore the timing of 7 am for breakfast is plus or -15 minutes. And so then we have to deal with the other group of people who are the engineering brain who really want everything to be like clockwork even when we are in rural environments. Setting deadlines for these people on a walk is a disaster because that’s all they think about, arriving at 8:30 at a certain point for them becomes the goal not the process of getting there or enjoying the experience and so you can see as a leader you need to understand that there are needs for false deadlines and there are some people who will over focus on the false deadline and diminish the quality of their work. There is a time and place for everything and there is a person who will respond well and a person who will respond badly to generic managerial process.

No because we can’t individualise the process of management we come up with generic process. What’s most important here is not to compromise. What is most often the cause of frustration and loss of motivation and inspiration for a leader is that they have to compromise when it comes to management. Getting this part of leadership right would probably be considered to be the most important and yet the most difficult. How to manage people so that you can get on with the job of leading people without giving the creative emotional types too much space and the engineering logical types too little.

Back in the old days there was a philosophy called management by objectives. This worked for 50% of people especially if they were the engineering types. But creative emotional people did not thrive on this management by objectives because process for them was more important. What is happened in the meantime is a hybrid philosophy has emerged where both false timelines and engagement are considered to be critical components but they are contradicting each other. With this we get what’s called compromise and with compromise we get what’s call frustration and with frustration what we get was dissatisfaction and with job dissatisfaction we get bad leadership. No matter how clever we think we are in selecting teams to work with we will always get a balance of 5050 between creative emotional types and logical engineering types. There are many different names and labels for these types of thinking. Meyers Briggs have a bunch of them.

What is important is to realise that every human being has a balance. That each one of us is both creative and logical. However, some people bring their creative mind to managing their life. This means that their life, schedules, food, exercise, daily routine is managed by their creative brain which means they are always asking themselves how do I feel. But if you follow this person around through all seven aspects of their life you will clearly see them using their analytical brain to manage some other aspects of their life. For example a person may use their creative side to manage their lifestyle but their analytical side to manage their relationship. Every person needs order and chaos in their life and with this emotional feeling based life management they get the chaos and with their logical side focused on for example their relationship, they get their order. Just a note here it’s not wrong. It’s just different.

But equally people can use their logical mind at work and their creative mind at home in their relationship which will be highly volatile and emotional and therefore quite sexual but their work will be very processed driven. We can judge this person at work and say you are a process driven person very logical and analytical but if we followed them aroun in the other seven areas of life you would find their creative side liberally expressed possibly in the bedroom. And so for a leader it is really hard to say that I don’t except this | aspect of a person because it impacts their Homelife as well. If you start to become more demanding for people to be logical at work and meet timelines under their own self management then it’s highly likely you will trigger more creative process at home which is not always that healthy either.

Total human awareness using the seven areas of life is the first step in business leadership in understanding the totality of leading an individual rather than the petitioning model which is currently advertised and sold through most MBAs. What we do with the person at work impacts their Homelife and what a person does at home impacts their work life. What I do on a trek with a person who is late for breakfast will impact the day they hav if I start to become regimented about their process. At the same time I have logical people who have arrived on time for breakfast and will get agitated if everybody else doesn’t do what they think is the right thing. In the end what I did after 50 treks leading people into the Himalayas was to send the group who were on time for breakfast off on the trek with one of my team leaders, and patiently sit and wait for the slowcoaches to come down and eat their breakfast emotionally and have another team leader walked with them along the way. It’s amazing to see that in every group there is a roughly 50-50 percentage of each.

That’s the end of this episode. Live with spirit, Chris

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