Sell Aggression. Buy Relationships

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I saw a list shared on twitter of 25 books for CEOs from 2015. The above image was attached to the tweet. I reacted immediately to the macho impression of the attached image of the covers. Then I looked more closely and realised many of the subtitles run contrary to the general image of the cover. These books look like the typical aggressive competitive advice for CEOs to outcompete, outperform and to go big. However, the actual advice within the aggressive red or yellow cover is far more nuanced. Human relationships matter.

Sell Aggression

This is an old game. Strong leadership sells. We sell aggression. Alpha males rule the chimp pack. Wear red and yellow. Stand in a power pose. Be the best. Be simple. Know the right answer. Do one thing better than anyone else on earth and rule the whole damn thing.

Except this is the cheap shot. Aggression primes our primate brain and gets our attention. Aggression makes us pick up the book. Aggression isn’t what makes change happen and isn’t what delivers results. Aggression is the empty wind of a loud shouting exploitative push economy. Aggression is the bait in a leadership bait and switch.

Buy Relationships

Any successful leader knows that relationships is where the real work gets done. Collaboration and cooperation drive progress, not force. Nothing gets done alone. You don’t want anything done by the coerced. You want commitment not compliance.

Humanity triumphs again and again against the forces of power. Force an outcome and passive resistance will undermine its effectiveness. Bureaucracy rules. For every blustery threat, the real deal gets done in a quiet conversation as power is traded for persuasion.

Win commitment and you will see people’s capabilities blossom. The messy beautiful work of leveraging the capabilities of people happens in rich, complex and unpredictable networks of oh so human relationships. That far less saleable work, but it is the work of value. Relationships are where leaders seal the deal when they switch away from the bait of aggression.

Portfolio for the Future of Work

As our economies become more connected, faster and more complicated, these human relationships will only increase in value. Relationships bring information, trust & authority, critical differentiators, cost-lowering capabilities and fundamental elements of effectiveness.

The portfolio strategy for leaders in the future of work is to be long relationships. Those relationships will make your work far richer and more human. Buy now.

Networks connect. Communities mature.

Connection = Network

Connect is the first stage of the Value Maturity Model of collaboration because connection is what creates a network. Until people are connected together you don’t have any ability for someone to exceed their individual potential.

Connection only gets you a network. One of the reasons many people have been disappointed by their enterprise social network or their social media strategy is that they have not seen beyond creating the connections. A network has no vision.  A network has no purpose. A network is neutral in creating value.

Community = Value

Community creates the value. Community is how people come together to share their talents and create greater value together. Communities can create visions, realise the shared purposes of individuals and work together to achieve more.

Network connection happens immediately. Community develops over time as people learn to trust others and as people learn the new interactions that create value for themselves and others. Sharing, solving problems and innovating together deepens the community and enables individuals to grow in their potential. These communities also always exist within larger communities, like companies and society, that are often more important in shaping the way people act.

People = Potential

Focus on the potential of human communities. Remember that bringing people together in a network is just the beginning of the potential that people can create. Communities will mature with common goals, leadership and action over time.

Treasure the precious relationships

We are relationship busy. Life is short. Communication technologies fill our lives with more people than ever.

Weak network links enable us to do extraordinary things. Strong relationships help make us the people who do extraordinary things.

Strong relationships listen and seek to understand us. Strong relationships push, challenge and make demands of us. Strong relationships support, care and give.

Relationships become and stay strong through time and effort. In a world of buzzing connections, relationships not growing stronger are fading away.

Don’t let the demands of life or the swirl of relationships interfere in your effort to connect with those who matter to you. We cannot leave our strong relationships to circumstances or chance. Build your strongest relationships as you work to create your future.

Treasure your precious relationships. Give them a gift of your time and attention. Your strongest relationships help make you who you will be.

Value creation in networks

The old way industrial of creating value is well understood and commonly implemented. Develop a unique proposition with a discrete market. Create a simple linear process to deliver the proposition by turning inputs into outputs with value creation at each carefully delineated step. Maximise control at the choke points in the process to maximise returns. Manage efficiency and throughput of the process to minimise waste. Reduce risk. As easy as that sounds we have spent over 200 years perfecting the process and still have much to learn.

We know far less about creating value in the massively scaled digital networks that we face today. Mostly we know what doesn’t work. Failure is accelerating. A focus on efficiency will kill a company competing with disruptive competitors. Networks specialise in routing around control points. Parallel disaggregated processes disrupt the linear, particularly if relentlessly focused on key opportunities to create value. Transparency across the process and rapid exchange of information changes the organisation-customer-employers-supplier- community dynamic in radical ways.

Value creation in networks to date has defaulted to the nearest analogies of the industrial model. Build a platform with a unique global scale that you can control. Strip the value creating process back to customer acquisition and platform development. Control advertising revenues ( or less commonly enterprise sales) as the principal form of monetisation. Experiment and acquire relentlessly. Be transparent internally and leverage networked models of organisation internally, but behave like industrial peers to the external market, except for carefully structured communities of co-creation and innovation.

The latest clues in the Cluetrain Manifesto are a reminder that this model is not guaranteed. At the same time, the lessons of the last Dotcom bust documented in Seely-Brown and Duguid’s ‘The Social Life of Information’ are a reminder that we have not yet reached our disaggregated and disinter mediated ‘markets are conversations’ utopia.

What is clear is that we need new ways of working. We will build new practices using our new global networks and relationships to exchange what works and to discard what does not. The key to success will be effectiveness. Effective organisations will mobilise their potential, connections and capabilities to pursue the ever-changing network opportunities, to learn together with their customers and community to realise a meaningful purpose. Embracing the new network economy and networked ways of working is fundamental for any organisation seeking to make this shift. Any organisation that takes this leap is on the path to becoming a Responsive Organisation.

Value has never been created around a board table. That is where value and the resources to create value have historically been acquired or allocated, often poorly. Value has never been created by data alone. People transform the data into hypotheses, insight, decisions and actions. Value has always been created by that action in networks, even if those networks are the crippled relationships of hierarchy. Those are network of people, not data. The organisations that reap the potential will be led by Network Navigators who can help their organisations through the journey.

The network must do the work to create value led by Network Navigators. As Esko Kilpi put it ‘the time for reductionism as a sense making mechanism is over’. The way forward will emerge through practice, interaction and learning in the network. We will need Network Navigators to help us to work on the whole system.

Harold Jarche reminds us ‘the work is learning and learning is the work’. We have entirely new systems and practices of organisations to develop, to test and to share. Like our efforts to date we will begin with fixes and variants to the systems we have. Over time we will make more new sense of the future of work. We will need to learn to trust and enable people to leverage their networks and experiment. Then we have the journey of change advocacy to spread the successful practices. The widespread use of enterprise social networks is just one such step and even it has not addressed the potential of adoption, let alone value.

The fun of value creation in networks has only just begun. Our job is to make that fun a very human and purposeful experience.

Leadership is changing. Leadership in networks is the future of work.

A 1 minute video to provoke some thought on how we best use leadership to realise human potential in the network era.

Transcript:

Leadership used to look like this: powerful grey haired men, standing atop a pyramid.
Now our pyramids look like this.
Leadership in networks is the future of work
And we are slowly realising that anyone can lead, anyone can help make their work better, do more for their customers or their communities
Leadership is how we turn community into opportunity, the opportunity to enable others to create exponential value in networks of human relationships 
Leadership is the art of realising human potential. 
It is time to leave pyramids to the pharaohs and make work more human. 

Distrust in Hierarchies: A Barrier to Trust in Networks

In the future of work, we are going to talk a lot about trust.

We will need to consider trust deeply because it is a critical underpinning to success in our new ways of working. We need to recognise the trust that we choose to grant is a design choice. We are likely to need a new precision in our understanding of trust.

Most of all we need to ensure that the distrust that pervades our hierarchies is not a barrier to building new trust in networks.

Our hierarchical organisations often hide an assumption of deep distrust. Organisational structure, role design, silos assume people must be separated to generate clear performance measures. Performance management and reward schemes assumes people will not perform without extrinsic motivations. Management, monitoring and compliance are often set to treat 100% of employees poorly against a tiny risk of failure. People are assumed incompetent unless proven otherwise. If your processes allow no variations, discretion or exception handling, then there is likely little trust in your organisation. If messages are consistently spun and the real news is on the grapevine, not the intranet, then there is no trust in communication.

Trust will emerge in effective networks. However, trust is reciprocal. If your hierarchy is telling people that they can’t be trusted, then it is getting in the way of the emergence of trust in the networks in and around the organisation.

Remember how you treat your people plays a large part in how they will treat each other and their networks, including your customers and communities.

Don’t expect your people to give and build trust over your distrust in them.

Distrust in Hierarchies: A Barrier to Trust in Networks

In the future of work, we are going to talk a lot about trust.

We will need to consider trust deeply because it is a critical underpinning to success in our new ways of working. We need to recognise the trust that we choose to grant is a design choice. We are likely to need a new precision in our understanding of trust.

Most of all we need to ensure that the distrust that pervades our hierarchies is not a barrier to building new trust in networks.

Our hierarchical organisations often hide an assumption of deep distrust. Organisational structure, role design, silos assume people must be separated to generate clear performance measures. Performance management and reward schemes assumes people will not perform without extrinsic motivations. Management, monitoring and compliance are often set to treat 100% of employees poorly against a tiny risk of failure. People are assumed incompetent unless proven otherwise. If your processes allow no variations, discretion or exception handling, then there is likely little trust in your organisation. If messages are consistently spun and the real news is on the grapevine, not the intranet, then there is no trust in communication.

Trust will emerge in effective networks. However, trust is reciprocal. If your hierarchy is telling people that they can’t be trusted, then it is getting in the way of the emergence of trust in the networks in and around the organisation.

Remember how you treat your people plays a large part in how they will treat each other and their networks, including your customers and communities.

Don’t expect your people to give and build trust over your distrust in them.