Leaders need strength to be successful. While this obvious truth is widely recognized, opinions differ on what constitutes “strength.” In the eyes of many, strength means standing firm, winning your position, exuding confidence, and minimizing vulnerability. At PMC, our clients are often surprised to hear that we see vulnerability as a key source of leadership strength. Which is stronger, a leader who advocates a position and stands firm until others bend? Or a leader who advocates a position while remaining open to different views, even inviting challenge from others? Leaders who take the path of openness will naturally feel vulnerable. Paradoxically, this vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but rather a clear indication of leadership strength.
Back at the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) this month, again to teach a 2-day course on Conflict Resolution. Really enjoy working with the esteemed leaders at NHHC, so looking forward to this one!
WashU at Brookings, a collaboration of Olin Business School and the Brookings Institution, offers premier executive education for government and business leaders. Paul Paese, of PMC, has been a part of this collaboration for many years. The Brookings Institution and Washington University share a common benefactor and visionary in Robert S. Brookings. WashU at Brookings delivers on Robert Brookings’ desire to “teach the art of handling problems rather than simply impart accumulated knowledge.” This month Paul is teaching the open enrollment course, Leading High-Performance Teams. This 2-day course gives leaders practical tools for garnering buy-in, improving collaboration, and getting results in workplace teams. WashU at Brookings offers a wide range of executive education courses. In addition to the teams course, Paul also teaches Resolving and Transforming Workplace Conflict for WashU at Brookings.
Contrary to what many people believe, conflict is not inherently a bad thing that needs to be minimized or removed. Conflict, rather, can be a tremendous source of creativity and productive output, but it has to be managed well. Managing conflict productively requires know-how and skills that, for many leaders, are lacking or underdeveloped. Hence the 4-week digital course, Resolving and Transforming Workplace Conflict, offered this month by Olin Business School and taught by PMC’s Paul Paese. Through a mix of synchronous discussion and asynchronous learning activities, this course shows first hand that our outcomes in conflict situations depend critically on HOW we engage inevitable disagreements, both small and large. Participants in this course are given tools for resolvingunproductive conflicts, while also learning how to transform day-to-day tensions and disagreements into productive action.
Ever since the “Agile Manifesto” for software development was published about 20 years ago, Agile teams have been growing exponentially in number. At the risk of oversimplifying, Agile is an iterative approach to software development in which developers work collaboratively in small teams and deliver measurable work products in short time frames; in so doing, Agile teams are able to adapt and respond quickly to always-evolving client needs. Documented successes naturally led to the spread of Agile principles from IT to other organizational divisions. Recently, however, an article in Forbes declared “The End of Agile,” due to its scope of application having far outgrown the contexts for which Agile methodology is well-suited. But not so fast! As argued powerfully by veteran software developers Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick in their recent book, Agile Conversations, most failures of Agile are traceable not to the methodology itself, but rather to the inability and/or unwillingness of its participants to regularly engage in the challenging conversations necessitated by the Agile framework. At PMC, we’re not at all surprised by this conclusion. As our teacher Chris Argyris pointed out decades ago, promising workplace initiatives will continue to turn into “passing management fads” as long as people avoid the hard conversations that will help them truly learn from each other. For more on the why and how of difficult conversations in Agile teams, we highly recommend Squirrel and Fredrick’s excellent book.