In our hyper-connected world, rewards will go to those who happily align the goals and integrate the actions of multiple intersecting groups, thus moving all forward.
Here are two examples where integrative skills come into play:
Example 1: An expectation that’s appearing in more and more job descriptions these days is one’s ability to be a good “cross-functional” or “value stream” player. It can appear in the description for a program, project, product or functional manager; or a domain expert, engineer, developer, tester, or document author.
This person will be expected to satisfy potentially competing demands between, for instance: function and project, long- and short-time horizons, value and cost, engineering and marketing, and sales and operations.
Example 2: When Partnerwerks looked for a web designer, we chose the person who quickly demonstrated to us how he manages the creative tension between user value and
cool technology. Other candidates demonstrated either design or technical talent but did not give us confidence that they attended well to both.
The Characteristics of Someone Who Operates Well in Today’s Integrative Space:
1. Treat all outcomes as worthy: Our selective perception combined with a dose of ego and scarcity thinking allows so many of us to ignore the outcome for other people involved. An integrator — one with true Leadership Gift skills — sees all outcomes as valid, not necessarily equal (see “priorities” below), but valid.
2. Appreciate paradox: Supposedly the sign of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two or more competing ideas in one’s mind at the same time. When it comes to the Leadership Gift skills, the type of intelligence required to integrate diverse groups is “emotional” intelligence. This includes the ability to appreciate other people’s perspectives without feeling defensive, inadequate, or righteous.
3. Appreciate language: Words are the most powerful tools used by humans (Buckminster Fuller taught me that). In order to integrate diverse outcomes, people with Leadership Gift skills know that they need to understand and be understood. Listening for how others put their ideas into words and then using their own words with them is a fast way to reach understanding, integration, and alignment.
4. Clarify priorities: As I watch people who demonstrate extraordinary leadership skills, I notice that they are constantly clarifying, confirming, re-checking, attempting to integrate, and even negotiating priorities. Remember, clarity leads to power. Pursuing clarity with others helps each person understand the other person’s actions.
5. Solve multiple problems simultaneously: People with Leadership Gift skills seek to create as many wins for as many people as possible out of one project, meeting, or action. That’s why they want more, rather than fewer, people in a problem-solving session.
5 Tips on How to Develop Integrative Leadership Skills:
- Listen for and validate outcomes (intentions, wants, needs, purposes, missions, goals, and desired results) for groups and individuals. Ask yourself how you can support such wins. Let others know that you support all constituencies winning.
- Practice saying “hmm” while arching your eyebrows and stroking your chin when you hear ideas and outcomes that compete with your own. For most of us in the U.S. and many other cultures, this behavioral anchor will tap into your mental state that acknowledges paradox instead of allowing you to default to denial, attack, or dismissal.
- Practice “play-back” listening by repeating people’s exact words and phrases to them instead of substituting your own.
- Ask yourself and others to identify and clarify the most important priorities in different scenarios.
- Assemble groups in meetings to solve problems between groups by asking them to share responsibility for optimizing each other’s wins. Apply a variety of approaches intended to expand people’s perspectives and to lead to break-through thinking.
Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch
Inventory all the roles you occupy where you experience tension between groups with somewhat competing goals.
Then rate your performance to-date in terms of adding value by aligning the goals and integrating the actions of the groups.
What can you do in the coming days to improve that performance? Commit to doing it.
Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.
Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.
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