Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What's Your Leadership B Side?

Guest post by Suzanne Vickberg and Kim Christfort:


Some of you will remember the days when listening to music didn't mean streaming it on your phone but instead putting on a record. And if that record was a 45, after listening to the hit song on the A side, you had to flip that little black disc over to hear the other song (the B side). The A side was why you bought the record but you got the B side song too whether you wanted it or not. As a leader, you too have an A and a B side. The A side features those strengths that are most coveted by organizations and teams and that make you valuable. Maybe you spark energy and imagination, or instead you bring order and rigor. Perhaps you generate momentum, or rather you draw teams together. These contributions are what set you apart as a leader. But like those old-fashioned records, you have a B side whether you want it or not. These characteristics are the flip side of your strengths, and they’re part of who you are as a leader, too. How your B side will impact your team depends on your leadership style. If you’re the type who focuses on possibilities and inspiring creativity in others, you may also be so impractical that your team is left scratching their heads about how to execute on anything. Or, if instead you provide a stable foundation that mitigates risk and makes people feel secure, your team may end up being too cautious and inflexible for today's fast-paced environment. If your style is to push your team hard to excel and rise to a challenge, you might also prioritize results over people with detrimental effects on the way team members relate to one another. Or, if on the other hand you build trust by prioritizing people and a collaborative culture, you might overemphasize getting everyone to agree, which can discourage differing opinions and lead to Groupthink.

So what to do when you can’t escape your B side?

We suggest you don't go it alone. Leadership shouldn't be a solitary venture and neither should exploring how to manage your own strengths and weaknesses. Bring others into the effort by letting them know what you’re trying to do. Learn together about different working styles, both the positives and negatives that tend to accompany them. Acknowledge your own B side traits and ask for help in managing their impact on the team. The great thing about this strategy is that by making yourself vulnerable, you are building trust with others. And it also makes it okay for others to be vulnerable and to focus on their own improvements. So go ahead and admit to your weaknesses. Your team likely already sees them anyway.

Another way to offset your B side might be to consider taking on a leadership partner, or co-lead, with a different leadership style. If a co-lead of equal rank isn’t the right solution for you, a second-in-command who’s different can also be a good balance. If you tend to get bogged down in considering too many perspectives, choose someone who can help you decide when to cut off discussion and make a decision. If you tend to push your team too hard or fast, partner with someone who might be able to help you see when it’s important to take a breather. Your leadership partner will have a B side too, and assuming it's different from yours, you can also help shore them up. Your team will benefit from more diverse strengths (two A sides!), and the less desirable aspects of your leadership may have less impact too.

Kim Christfort is the national managing director of The Deloitte Greenhouse™ Experience
team, which helps executives tackle tough business challenges through immersive, facilitated Lab experiences, and client experience IP such as Business Chemistry. As part of this role, Kim leads US Deloitte Greenhouses, permanent spaces designed to promote exploration and problem solving away from business as usual.

Suzanne Vickberg, PhD (aka Dr. Suz) is The Deloitte Greenhouse™ Experience team’s very own social-personality psychologist and the Business Chemistry lead researcher, which means she studies how people’s thoughts, behaviors, and preferences are influenced by both who they are and the situations they’re in. She uses Business Chemistry to help teams explore how the mix of perspectives brought by their individual members influences their work together. 

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