I would just stay away from it.
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But that took a long time, to be able to understand that. Tippett: So I can imagine somebody listening to this who still has at least one foot, or two, in the mythical world of how it used to work, where there was hierarchy and there were rules. Colonna : And I am not suggesting that, in any way. Let me draw out the process a little bit. In the book, I talk about the fact that three basic motivations, I believe, drive so much of our behavior: the wishes for love, safety, and belonging.
Is it love, safety, belonging, or all of the above? When we can start to see our colleagues that way, all of a sudden the things that actually impede our productivity or impede our collaboration become not obstacles, but the means to connect and actually build something even greater than what we had before. Tippett: And probably still has its messy moments, right? I defy you to paint a masterpiece without getting paint on the floor or in your hair.
It was more that there was the work, and then I wanted to protect the work and allow it to flourish. What do my reactions say about me? Why do I do what I do? Why do they do what they do? What need for love, safety, or belonging might they be trying to meet with their irrational behavior? Even the people who press our buttons are actually helpful for us, helpful to us in our process. Today with the leadership coach Jerry Colonna. Tippett: Or life changes. So how do we make sense of that and navigate that consonantly with this way we want to honor each other?
Colonna : I think your observation that it is a workplace is incredibly important. Oh, my God, this is crazy. Colonna : And that can get really messed-up. Stay away. Colonna : And so the middle way is to recognize that none of us leaves our personal stuff at the door, that we are always seeking to replicate structures from our childhood, and, by reinforcing that we have a shared sense of purpose, a shared sense of mission, and a shared commitment to work, we can use that as a kind of exoskeleton structure so that, internally, we can each do our work but not expect the organization to solve the wounds of our childhood.
When we use our work environments to try to heal our wounds, we are actually opening ourselves up to even more pain and suffering. Now I understand that if you are in — you get irritable every time I send you an email, well, I understand that I need to understand how to operate with you, and you need to understand how to operate with me, and we each need to understand how we operate, ourselves. Tippett: So you do — well, you have a million practical tools. I find that really helpful. So just describe this — the OFNR approach.
Colonna: Sure, sure. So O stands for observation; F stands for feeling; N stands for need; and R stands for a request. It kind of works like this: You and I have a scheduled meeting on Monday morning, and you show up ten minutes late. That is an observable fact. You showed up ten minutes late to the meeting.
That fact triggers a whole set of feelings in me. She never values the meeting. So going back to the structure: Make an observation about value-neutral fact, something that is undeniable. Colonna : It is a fact. And you get agreement from there.
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Just get agreement from there. Then, at the next level, you talk about how it made you feel. You then pause. And you let that person take in the fact that their action triggered a set of feelings. Then we move on through the hierarchy into needs. And we, all of us, are too quick to substitute interpretation for observation. So you change the policy, and all of a sudden, for me, it meant one thing; for my colleague — and all of a sudden, it goes on. We conflate the two. Tippett: No. And so we see a kind of callowness, a kind of inhumanity, constantly perpetuated. And this would be this part of the path of being the same person inside that you are on the outside; of those things working together.
What is enough? How will I know when my job is done? Colonna : Well, I think I can take them in reverse order. And when I can hold that, then I understand that that is the kind of leader I am. I am not the kind of leader that is rapaciously seeking more, more, more. And when I can feel my way into that, then I know that the kind of adult I am, the kind of man that I am, is a man who knows — dare I say it — when to rest.
Tippett: Yes … and in our workplaces. Colonna : There are times in which those who have power need to speak with authority. Psychologists generally define power as control over others, by providing or withholding resources, without social interference. Tapping your true nature, though, begins with feeling powerful. Getting the corner office boosts creativity and reduces conformity.
In a experiment, undergraduates were asked either to recall a time they had power over someone or to recall a time someone had power over them. Some were shown an example creature that had wings. When feeling powerless, seeing a creature with wings increased the chance a student would add wings to his own creature, a demonstration of conformity. Those made to feel powerful, however, remained unaffected by the example, following their own creative urges.
Power also makes people more likely to act on their desires. In one experiment, those made to feel powerful were more likely to move or unplug an annoying fan blowing on them. In another experiment, students were paired for a joint task. We are less deliberative and more persistent in pursuing our goals when we gain power. In one of a series of experiments, researchers asked students to recall having or lacking power, then asked how much time and information they would need to make various decisions, including which roommate to live with or which car to buy.
In a second experiment, participants made to feel powerful spent more time trying to solve an impossible geometric puzzle. In a third, they were quicker to interrupt someone who disagreed with them. Overall, power makes us feel authentic.
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In one study, participants recalled a time they had power or a time they lacked it. Intoxication from power leads us to focus more clearly on whatever goal we have in mind. With clear focus on a goal, we then pursue it. In a review article in the Journal of Management , Williams summarized research that outlines four main categories of traits—personality, individualism, values, and desire for power—that can guide unethical or ethical leadership.
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A German study comparing 76 inmates convicted of high-level white-collar crimes with managers on the outside found that the criminals were more narcissistic. Ethical leadership, on the other hand, arises out of several positive personality traits. In one study, 81 leaders in Dutch organizations were evaluated by their subordinates.
They also rated their bosses on aspects of leadership style, such as ethics and supportiveness. Honest, humble leaders were more ethical than others, while agreeable leaders were more supportive. They served their followers rather than demanding to be served. One study looked at the role of social responsibility among CEOs.
Whether you see yourself as a lone wolf or part of a pack also influences your leadership style. A study of 53 high-level managers assessed their individualism—how much they wanted to stand out from the crowd—and their collectivism—how much pride they took in team success. In a related study, being primed to feel powerful versus powerless made exchange-oriented participants—those who kept score in relationships—assign more tasks to a partner instead of themselves. Culture of origin can shape how individualistic or communal you are—and how you use power.
Hispanic immigrants, on average, have been found to be more collectivistic than European Americans, more inclined to use power to help people, and less inclined to use it to take advantage of others.
As you might think, your values guide how responsibly you use power. Values also guide how we prioritize competition versus cooperation versus individualism. In one study, Dutch students performed a social dilemma task. So each token taken reduced the overall benefit to the group by double that amount. In addition, some participants were told they were the group leader, and others were told they were a follower. Being named a leader increased the number of tokens taken by competitive and individualistic participants, but had no effect on cooperative ones.
The competitive and individualistic leaders took more tokens because as they reported they felt more entitled. But how to bring our whole selves to work, as the saying goes, without descending into chaos or emotional free-for-all? These forces are at work anyway. Jerry Colonna is a bit of a legend inside the world of start-ups and CEOs of tech companies and beyond. And he is, full disclosure, my coach, too. Jerry connects the dots in his own life and work that he asks others to connect in theirs — between a traumatic childhood to success as a venture capitalist, which left him depressed and suicidal.
And he has just for the first time put his stories and teachings into a book called Reboot — which is also the name of the consulting company he founded and leads.
Tippett: I thought I might just adapt my first question, based on where you start a lot of your thinking, which would be to say, how would you start to talk about the religious or spiritual background of your childhood and the relationship of that to the notions of money and success that you walked out of childhood with? What occurs to me is a memory. As a boy, I was raised Catholic. And what just came back, as you asked that question, was being, say, 5, 6, 7 years old in my Catholic school uniform, sitting in a pew, wondering, really wondering, if I was worthy, wondering if I was good enough.
When did you first start to see that? How did you start to see it? Colonna : Well, I think it took me actually stepping out of a work routine to begin to be able to look backwards and see my own relationship to work and then, eventually, in working with clients and hearing their stories, and hearing and holding their stories, beginning to see that. I left JP Morgan when I was 38, 39 years old. And it occurred at a moment when I was clearly in midlife, clearly, at that moment. And I think it was during that period that I began to really question, what was it that work was doing to me, if you will; what was it that career was doing to me?
Tippett: Right. But the more the world applauded, the more my soul ached. I was tired of the man who carried it. Colonna : Yeah. Colonna : Destructive to employees. When you have a leader, someone who has positional power, who is walking around with a bruised and battered and bloodied soul and not actually pausing to recognize that that phenomenon is occurring and then they get to set employee policy, we start to recreate these systems of toxicity — for many of us, similar to those which we grew up with. Tippett: And again, I think that the plain truth that you explore in your work and in your writing, but which is something that we scarcely ever name and are not prepared to navigate, is that the ways each and every one of us survived our childhoods is flowing into leadership and is flowing into how our organizations are structured and our shared life inside organizations.
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What are the forces at work here? Tippett: So a couple things I want to give some definition to, and one is the notion of leadership, because in its traditional and, increasingly, the way it is expressed in nontraditional ways, or new ways — you are often working with founders, leaders, especially in the tech industry, people who are running major industries, major corporations, or really dynamic startups.
And one of the things you talk about is that what this calls all of us to learn to do is to lead ourselves — to lead yourself and learning to lead yourself. So how do you talk about what that means? Colonna : Well, we can come at if from a couple of different angles. And I think what that latter inquiry process leads us to look at the association that I like to make — and somewhat as a joke, but this notion that — leadership as a path into adulthood, that actualization process of us becoming the person that we really choose to be, the person that lives into that quote, the power of that quote that you read at the top of the conversation.
Tippett: That we are not defined by what has happened to us, but what we choose to become — who and what we choose to become. Leadership presents that opportunity to move us down that path, precisely because those leadership situations are so challenging and so provocative and evocative of the past, for us. Today with leadership coach Jerry Colonna. And so that whole self, all those things that we were bringing were coming out in passive-aggressive, repressed, and dysfunctional workplaces.
Colonna : I want to go back to the whole arc of that experience. And then we had this period — and it still goes on. In those moments, we tend to fail to see that when we ask human beings to show up without their full self, without their full, catastrophic self, with all of the messes that they are, with all of the discomfort, when we deny that we hold certain belief systems from our childhood, that we created those belief systems to survive the challenges of our childhood — what we are cutting ourselves off from is the very source of much of our creativity, much of our innovation.
And the result is that our organizations are actually less productive, less imaginative; not just poor workplaces for individuals to be, but poor places for collaboration and creativity and spontaneity and laughter and humor, because we have cut off, if you will, limbs. Tippett: One of the questions — and you name a lot of questions that can guide us …. Tippett: … questions that can guide us as much as any answers.
And I ask it in a way that actually implies genuine interest. Are you tired?
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Are you scared? Are you exhausted? Are you filled with joy? Are you filled with anxiety? Is it all of the above? Is it none of the above? Who is the person I have been all my life? Colonna : But another vector that impacts it, I think, is the fascination with outcome and output. What kind of company do I want to build?
What kind of place of work do I want to live into? Tippett: Right, because if these questions and longings are allowed, then what is present is very complicated. Tippett: After a short break, more with Jerry Colonna. You can find this show again at onbeing. Today with the legendary leadership coach Jerry Colonna on our lives at work as ways to become better humans.
But then we bring that into an organizational life. Colonna : To give some context to that, I grew up with a mother who was mentally ill — it was bipolar disorder, schizoid-affective disorder. And that was sort of a root cause of the chaotic feelings that we grew up with.
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