Featuring Judith E. Glaser | Innovative Yangzi Delta Region, Volume 2
Published by the Education & Training Department, Yangzi Delta Regional Institute of Tsinghua University, Zhejiang.
The target audience was alumni of the department all around China.
"Our company name is Benchmark Communications, Inc..
We have found that identifying benchmarks — metrics for success — and working to ensure that organizations have created internal conditions that allow them to move in a positive direction relative to those benchmarks is the key to seeing an ROI in training investments.
Every company has benchmarks for success. Every person has benchmarks for success. Often we don't even know that we have them, or that our mind is constantly judging everything we do relative to these benchmarks, but these are the guideposts that motivate and propel individuals, teams and organizations forward. Benchmarks are how we measure our ability to achieve our goals. Benchmarks frame our identity as individuals, teams and organizations.
A leader may desire, for example, to move his or her organization into new product lines to be more competitive in the marketplace. He sees this strategic move as a way to create this year’s success story in his industry — that by getting an exciting new product out quickly he will achieve industry dominance over his competitors. The leader will drive his organization forward toward that goal of “being #1 in the marketplace.”
However, our research indicates that even when this goal is very clear, leaders are not always skilled at identifying and articulating benchmarks – which includes how they will measure success as they progress toward their goal. As a result they create obstacles as they move from vision to execution. Execution requires collaborative effort among lots of people; it requires coordination of those efforts; it requires decision-making at many levels; and it means sharing resources when they are limited.
When leaders get frustrated by slow progress in achieving the goals they have in mind, or when they experience a high level of conflict that arises while people are negotiating for resources, they start to shift the signals they send from confident and supportive to disappointed and judgmental. Sometimes the leader doesn't even realize this shift is taking place; she just knows that she is frustrated, and believes she needs to push harder to get people to see what's important.
We have studied this pattern of communication for 30 years, and it occurs in all organizations, with all leaders. Stress from the job of leadership steps in and causes leaders to resort to communication that is less effective– less influential and motivational and more judgmental — yet they don't realize it. They think they are pushing people to see and support the company’s goals in ways that they believe provide successful outcomes, while instead they are pushing people into stress, fear, and defensive behaviors.
We work with our clients to help them understand the conversational dynamics that take place whenever people are under pressure to be successful, and we give them new frameworks for building trust, relationship, understanding, and shared benchmarks for success. We teach them how to stay in a place of truth-seeking and truth-telling with each other. We help them focus on being empathetic and compassionate about the process of change. We show them how to motivate, not dictate.
By creating an environment where leaders and their employees can openly, honestly share what we call their “personal movies for success” with each other, the workplace shifts from an “I-centric” workplace to a "WE-centric” workplace. The result is a cultural transformation to a workplace vibrant with engagement, learning, and the drive to achieve mutual success.
The Impostor Syndrome
The level of transparency and trust needed to build this type of culture is higher than most leaders realize, and their first major hurdle is fear that people will learn that they don't have all the answers. We call this “the impostor syndrome.” We all have this fear, along with many others. Paradoxically, once we put these identity threats on the table rather than hiding them, leaders feel a sense of relief and expansiveness that becomes a catalyst for change and openness in others. Everyone gets the feeling that they can finally share what is really on their minds, which leads to creative problem-solving and ingenuity.
Benchmark Communications has studied neurological research from scientists around the world, which has given us insight into how the brain works when human beings are at our best. When we are performing at our peak, we are using mirror neurons in the brain to create meaningful, empathetic connections with others, to share the movies of the future that are a natural function of our brains and hearts, and to support each other in the journey to success. This state of mind builds the highest level of success in organizations – helps organizations achieve the biggest ROI – and allows these businesses to identify, create, and surpass the benchmarks I describe above.
Trust the Heart of the Matter
My new book on Trust is about getting to the heart of a process that we have defined as moving from I-centric leadership to WE-centric leadership. It's all about how to create a platform for trust that is strong enough to weather the uncertainties of a volatile business environment.
I-centric leaders make themselves and “their movie” the center of their universe, while WE-centric leaders make the organization's purpose the center of the universe—for themselves and for their workers. WE-centric leaders create conversations that enable people to feel “we're all in this together,” which promotes an atmosphere of openness and creativity.
I-centric leaders live in a world of constant drive to achieve their goals and are not good at giving feedback or working with others to achieve mutual goals, while WE-centric leaders become expert at having the sometimes-difficult conversations when people don't agree. WE-centric leaders see conflict as a way to create a bigger platform for mutual success, and they are brilliant at working the gaps that often occur between “how I see the world and how you see the world.” They are expert communicators.
I-centric leaders are caught in the past. They are entrenched in their own view, and focus on persuading others to move toward that view, while WE-centric leaders adapt to changing conditions by creating a vision for their organization that is bigger and broader than they alone can hold.
We've learned from our research that the ability to adapt to a fluid economic environment separates those organizations that are successful from those that are not. Successful leaders and organizations create goals and benchmarks for reaching those goals. Then the emphasis shifts to interpersonal dynamics. WE-centric leaders build trust between employees, using specific strategies to overcome our brain’s hardwired tendency to see differences as threats and move beyond them to synchronize our mental movies of the future, so we can all move toward that successful future together.
Published in 2011: Volume 2 of the journal named as "Innovative Yangzi Delta Region"- published by Education & Training Department, Yangzi Delta Regional Institute of Tsinghua University, Zhejiang. Target audience is alumni of our Dept. all around China.