Leadership, Leader Development, and the Future of Humankind

Leadership, in our age, implies a non-coercive mode of direction-giving action. It’s an idea that is rooted in two vital principles of moral and political philosophy from the Enlightenment Era.[1] The first principle is the principle of autonomy, i.e., that all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity, as ends, never as means, and that they are most fully human insofar as they act as free moral agents. The second principle stipulates that the proper political system for a human society, thus conceived, is the liberal democratic state.

When we explicitly conceptualize leadership in this way, we are naturally led to consider the central importance of communication practices. They must support an open, inclusive process of conversation that enables all parties to express their ideas, points of views, and concerns, and to argue for their preferred course of action. All parties must have the opportunity to be heard. They must be equally ready to answer questions, explain their views, and to provide reasons to support their recommended course of action.

These same normative expectations distinguish the culture of an organization in which the dignity of all its people is respected. The tricky thing in an incorporated enterprise, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is that management is not only authorized, but duty-bound to exercise an executive prerogative, which at times limits or curtails democratic process in favor of timely and prudent action. As employees, we implicitly accept and defer to this formal authority; it is a constraint on our freedom in exchange for a salary.

Extending principles of political philosophy and the liberal democratic state to corporations may or may not seem necessary or desirable. Some will argue that corporations must comply with law, but beyond that they are on their own, right? Perhaps, but if we regard these principles as fundamental expressions of our nature, normative not only in the moral and political sphere, but also in the sphere of human development, then we may recognize their normative value in promoting organizational health and sustainable performance.

The Golden Rule and Basic Human Needs

In an increasingly global world of commerce and communications, enterprises operate and have effects for good or ill beyond nation-state boundaries. Although it has become fashionable to see “velocity” and “disruption” as positive ideas insofar as they suggest forces of innovation, we must moderate this brashness when it risks offending or alienating peoples and cultures. This applies equally to political, economic, social, and organizational change. When people feel heard, respected, and free to co-determine their destiny, peace prevails.

That is why I pin the “future of humankind” to leadership and leader development in my title. We are all able to help or hinder the cause of peace and prudent economic development in the world through our actions as leaders. When we think globally and act locally, we act with sensitivity to the place, its people, their values and culture, their identity. When we act with propriety, an “old-fashioned” word given renewed meaning by Wendell Berry, we act as if we are not here alone. We find reason to care about others.

We can ground such shared normative assumptions of what we owe to one another in moral themes that arose long before the Enlightenment (18th Century). Indeed, they emerged all over the world in antiquity – in Persia, China, India, and in the Greco-Roman world.  A good example of this moral common ground is an ethic we today refer to as the Golden Rule. Earlier versions of it can be found in Confucianism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and in the philosophy of ancient Greece. It’s obviously had broad appeal and resonance.

It can be traced to the “Axial Age,”[2] between 800 and 200 BCE, when we witnessed the birth of the great religions and the emergence of classic Greek philosophy. All of these systems of belief held some version of the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It was a period when peoples and civilizations were beginning to encounter one another, and this gave them reason to give more thought to how they might be able to coexist. Some chose war, but most also found reason to recognize the humanity of others. 

Even now, and in spite of the events of September 11th, it is the generally accepted norm of the Golden Rule that we will invoke when expressing moral outrage. It seems, therefore, that the articulation of dignity, autonomy, and liberal democratic practices of governance are grounded in something fundamental to human nature and basic human needs. In a variety of cultures, a consensus norm arose in the Axial Age, i.e., that we treat strangers with respect, even as guests. We recognized that we are not alone as persons or peoples.

Based on this brief, scattered, historical sketch of the origins of social and moral norms, we can see why extensive research into organizational engagement has found that the central value all employees want to see demonstrated is fairness. When we believe, based on experience, that we’ll be given equal opportunities for desirable assignments, for advancement and recognition, and that there is fairness in evaluation and compensation, then we’re more likely to form bonds of trust and loyalty with our organization.

We might argue that the job of leaders is to create these conditions.  It’s a job that is both more important and more challenging to realize today because we are operating in flatter, faster-moving organizations, and we depend upon more diverse markets for our customers and our talent (regionally, culturally, and generationally). This is the context in which our emerging leaders (mostly Millennials) must find their way, often with fewer resources, less time, and more concerns about job security as compared to their predecessors.

It is with these conditions in mind, that we designed our Emerging Leader Development (ELD) Program. We encourage you to check it out and also to learn more about the Leader Identity Questionnaire (LIQ), a multi-rater assessment tool created to help emerging leaders realize their aspirational identity as leaders, and to make a difference in the world!

Contact Info:

You are invited to contact the author directly with questions or comments. He can be reached at bill.macaux@generativityllc.com or phone at 401.885.1631.

[1] These, of course, are also the same principles that influenced the thought of our founding fathers in the United States of America, and that are pervasively evidenced in our Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

[2] This historical framing of the origin of the world’s major religions and philosophies was proposed by the famous German philosopher and psychiatrist, Karl Jaspers.

What Leaders Can Learn From a 3-Year-Old

My title may seem playful and provocative, but it’s intended quite literally and seriously. In fact, it represents the core insight I drew from a recent moment of reflection after observing a three-year-old. Let me explain. 

Being a grandparent of three little ones, I’ve been given a fresh opportunity to watch three-year-old behavior. The difference: Now I am often free to observe them without any parental duty of oversight, intervention, or care. Here’s what I was noticing most recently. 

In one moment he is talking spontaneously about what’s on his mind. It could be in dialogue with his mummy or more in the form of a running commentary as he interacts with his toys. Then, as his mummy initiates interaction with him, and especially if she suggests some direction for the play or in-process activity, he will assert his capacity for control with gusto. Often, this begins with, “No mummy.” He is claiming power. 

When mummy accommodates his assertion of control and simply plays along, offering her observations and expressing interest in the objects of their shared attention, the child may suddenly ask, “Why mummy?” He’s changed his tune. His spontaneous expression of curiosity contains an implicit admission that mummy probably knows more than he does, things that he would also like to know and better understand. 

What we can learn from this three-year-old is the natural ease with which he expresses two developmental needs: first, the need to take charge and actively shape his experience; and second, the curiosity and desire to learn, which require that he reveal his ignorance. The other thing we should notice is that these needs manifest in the safety of a caring relationship with his mother, someone whose intentions and love he trusts.  

No Mummy & Why Mummy 

What we witness here is the expression of recently discovered capacities for Autonomy and Initiative. These capacities underlie development of Will (autonomy) and Purpose (initiative). Both are necessary if we are to cultivate a potent sense of agency. Good parenting encourages development of these virtues. It also corrects their excesses, i.e., willfulness and stubbornness. As Aristotle taught long ago, virtue in all things consists in moderation as regulated by wisdom.  

Aristotle, like modern-day expert in psychosocial development, Erik Erikson, believed that in the early years, regulation by wisdom is contributed by parents, in the family. When children learn from experience, constructive feedback, and corrective guidance, their capacities for agency matures. But, if they’re not encouraged, if parents are dismissive, domineering, or judgmental, children are likely to experience feelings of fear, shame, and impotence that suppress agency.   

It’s a funny thing, when children learn that they cannot safely assert autonomy and initiative in their voice (including “no mummy”), we notice that they are also less likely to express curiosity (“why mummy”). What suppresses expression of agency in this way is fear. What liberates its expression is a special kind of love. This love manifests as an abiding presence that is there to encourage. It’s also as a safe harbor to return to when one suffers failures or is overwhelmed. 

This special kind of love augments the child’s emotional and intellectual capacities to sort out frustrating and overwhelming experiences, to gain fresh perspective, to regain confidence, and to venture back out into the world. The resilience achieved in this parent-child interaction is internalized as a stock of wisdom and a growing independent capacity for perspective-taking and judgment. The “training wheels” are taken off. The child is able to ride the bike herself.  

Lessons We Carry into Adulthood 

Our felt needs to assert agency and our curiosity to learn and grow are vital, co-equal forces that promote healthy, prosocial development throughout life. Similarly, our experiences of fear and our needs for love and encouragement are perennial. And, of course, that means that our capacity to draw upon relationships and helpful relational dynamics to cope with periods of acute challenge is also of continuing importance. 

This applies to us as individual leaders and to our role in encouraging the development of others, especially emerging leaders. To deny or suppress notice of our fears is to lose data that alert us to concerns that need to be understood and addressed. To stubbornly persist in actions that are not working is no less maladaptive than “bad” behavior in a young child. But as with the child, the corrective intervention should not serve to shame, but to redirect the person. 

A difference in adulthood, is that we are often able to catch ourselves staying with a course of action or ways of behaving that are maladaptive. If not totally from self-awareness, we often have others who signal to us, even if subtly, nonverbally, and gently, that what we are doing is not working. In these moments, we must remind ourselves that deficiencies are merely a sign that we are mortal, imperfect. And If that comes as a surprise, we’ve got a different problem!

In closing, I would remind you that dialogue with another person – whether it is a spouse, colleague, boss, or perhaps a professional coach – can be just that source of “moderation regulated by wisdom” that Aristotle advised. But we need to do is decide which we fear the most, failing in our role and duties or admitting that we need help. Agency without curiosity and openness to learning (humility) is foolhardy. Believing we can do it all is hubris, which as Greek tragedy suggests, never ends well.

Contact Info:

You are invited to contact the author directly with questions or comments. He can be reached at bill.macaux@generativityllc.com or phone at 401.885.1631.

Contingency and Leader Action

The Practical Effects of Contingency

There is no universal guidance for how to be a good leader except that you must meet the leadership needs of the persons, presenting situation, and challenges of the moment. It is for those who lead to figure out the rest, day by day, moment by moment. Leaders must appraise and respond to this action imperative, often without having all the time and information they would like. Indeed, that is where the notion of contingency comes in. “Stuff” happens and leaders must act.

Let me distinguish my point here from two common elements in leadership training: First, I am not talking about "situational leadership" or some other model of leadership that provides a typology of needs and responses. Theory and models are useful, but they're not as immediately relevant to the scene of action I have in mind. Much of the time, leaders are required to act in the moment from intuitively guided judgment, more affected by their state of mind and facts on the ground than a model or theory.

Second, I am not suggesting that leaders act contrary to the goals, strategies, and operating plans they’ve formulated in management meetings. But, if the reality is that leaders must often act under time constraints that make intuitive judgment unavoidable, the task of internalizing and “metabolizing” these plans is even more crucial. It makes a difference whether such plans are in the desk drawer or active as purposive guidance in the background of our mind. In either case, however, leaders will act.

Leadership as Identity Work

Given these considerations, I believe we must recognize the vital importance of leader identity. After all, a leader’s mental state and personal presence are an expression of his/her identity. And the appraisal and response to presenting situations, the persons involved, and the business aims they share are mediated by how they are processed in the leader’s mind and discussed and acted upon through his or her overt actions and interactions with others.

Human beings are highly adaptive creatures, and emerging leaders are often rather driven, highly action oriented people. Thus, their ongoing adult identity development is frequently shaped by an unrelenting appetite for challenge and the adaptive development required to succeed and thrive in those initiatives. The steeper the challenge (complexity, scope, time pressures, etc.) of the task, the more learning and strain there will be.

When the duration of strain and struggle is extended, and the results of the leader’s efforts fall short, the leader may begin to question him/herself. Coping resources – cognitive, emotional, and social – can be exhausted, leaving the leader feeling depleted and at risk of failure. Unless appropriate coaching support for this leader has been provided, this escalating pattern of exhaustion and anxiety may also induce the leader to retreat in an attempt to conceal his or her failure and not be “found out.”

Implications for Leader Development

The live, everyday practice of leadership makes regular demands on leaders to make decisions and take effective action based on intuitive judgment. This judgement concerns prudential issues of consequence to financial performance and stakeholder interests, as well as cultural and organizational matters affecting human performance (execution and engagement), capacity building, and sustainability.

Ultimately, we must trust our leaders’ capacities to exercise this kind of judgment, and to quickly learn from mistakes along the way. To the extent they can do so, we are able to count on them to run the business without a great deal of supervision. It is this kind of leader development, reaching down into the lower and middle levels of management, that ensures an ample supply of senior leaders in the future, and the capacity to function faster and more effectively in a flatter, globally dispersed organization.

So, how should we approach this kind of development for emerging leaders (cultivating individual capacities for leadership) in order to ensure we are building our enterprise-wide leadership capacity?

1. A Scalable Approach to Assessment-Based Coaching. The development approach that is best suited to this situation and purpose begins with the use of multi-rater (360) feedback of a specific kind. We must assess personal qualities and relational tendencies that shape our identity and that are particularly relevant to leadership and adaptive adult development. Emerging leaders must have a grasp of who they are and how they exemplify these characteristics today, and how their work as leaders indicates a need to further cultivate and apply these kinds of behavior prospectively.

2. Highly Individualized Development and Group Learning. Assessment of individuals must be situated within the unique context of their lives, roles, and operating environments. This context is social and is defined by roles, goals, processes, and relationships. It is in and through this constellation of factors that leaders discover their challenges, resources, and opportunities to experiment with more adaptive ways of thinking, feeling, and relating. The curriculum may not directly address key technical-functional skills and knowledge, but it does enable leaders to use such "hard" resources more effectively.

3. Sustained Practice and Growth. Intensive use of strategies #1 and #2 gets action-oriented emerging leaders off to a quick start (90-120 days). We do this by engaging them in action learning, applying their insights and developmental action strategies to real, high-value work. However, to prevent them from being totally consumed by a task focus and neglecting attention to enabling patterns of behavior (thinking, relating, doing), follow-up measures and feedback specific to the leader’s work and role are deployed. They are placed in the driver’s seat, integrating and validating their gains - it's quite reinforcing.

Holism is the Key

Openness to taking a fresh look at yourself in the context of a stretch assignment or new position, and sharing what you see with someone else requires humility and courage, patience and persistence. Your mind is the primary tool that you have as a leader, and it encompasses thought, feeling, and action tendencies. We all have acquired habits of mind that govern how we see things – self, others, relationships, and situations. These habits are engraved in well-worn neural pathways that have generally served us well up to now.

However, when we choose to take on the role of leadership, just as with taking on the role of parenting, we may find that change is needed. It requires active learning that will blaze new neural pathways and trigger additional synaptic connections. Some of the learning affects our rational-analytical left hemisphere, which thrives on logic and the stuff of semantic memory (facts, knowledge, ideas). Some of it affects the right-brain functions, which sharpen attentional focus and transmit intuitive data from subcortical regions upward to influence judgment, while also enhancing emotional self-management and our abilities to moderate reactive tendencies.

In closing, let's keep a few simple points in mind. First, all of who we are and what we become depends importantly on what we want in life and what we value. These considerations authored by us have a great deal of influence on the re-wiring of our brain. Second, as I like to remind leaders, positions with core leadership responsibilities are usually a choice, elective, even a privilege in most firms. Fortunately, so is your capacity to learn, grow, and develop. Finally, just as you did not become who you are on your own as a child, you will not do it as a leader either. Indeed, becoming a great leader involves learning this lesson and paying it forward.

Contact Info:

You are invited to contact the author directly with questions or comments. He can be reached at bill.macaux@generativityllc.com or phone at 401.885.1631.

The Paradoxical Effect of Enlightened Self-Reliance

A Tale with Two Perspectives on Middle Management

Today flatter, faster, global is less often the hyperbole of some promised future state and more often the familiar trajectory of change, or a well-worn, if not optimized, mode of running the business. And sandwiched between senior management and the ground-level agents of execution, those who actually deal with customers, is a lean pool of increasingly stretched middle managers. Many are members of the so-called Millennial Generation, a demographic most firms are struggling to “understand”.

Of course, understanding implies perspective taking. After all, facts, feelings, and the interpretation of both arise from a point of view, which is nested in a social-organizational context. When we see people as a segment of the population, in aggregate, we look for and usually find their shared qualities as a demographic group. We attribute objectivity to this understanding. We hope to find ways to keep them engaged, make them productive, and retain the “best”. Understandable aims.

But there are two vantage points from which to view the situation in which achievement-oriented, mid-level managers find themselves today. First, there is the corporate standpoint from which they’re seen as a resource, input to the “talent pipeline”. From this view they’re also an expensive resource that must be leveraged for maximum return. The second perspective is from the subjectively lived experience of a middle manager, how it looks, feels, and unfolds for them as unique persons with a life outside of work.

Even the most benevolent and humane of corporate strategies – those that place a premium on human resource development – will ultimately regard middle managers somewhat impersonally, as assets and a significant expense item in the operating budget. When times are tough and the prevailing judgment is that we can and must run leaner – remember 2008 – the more aspirational and contingent nature of such strategy commitments becomes very obvious quite quickly.

If that strikes you as negative or cynical, please consider this. Just as upper management generally believes their middle managers are empowered to act, and to overcome or mitigate potential barriers to performance objectives, I believe it is equally plausible to assume that management has more choices available to them than layoffs when financial shortfalls occur. In my opinion, there is little excuse for either party to play the victim when they find themselves in the face of daunting challenges.

That said, my aim in this article is to address the middle manager personally, individually, and directly. For them, I believe that macroeconomic conditions and organizational norms must viewed as relatively fixed factors to which they must adaptively respond and accommodate. When they take this approach, we come upon the paradoxical effect I allude to in the title, i.e., a certain kind of “enlightened” self-reliance, which turns out to yield win-win results for middle managers and their management.

I shall only briefly highlight the main threads of this thesis here. The full body of theory, principles, and the ways in which both are translated into an innovative development strategy for those in the middle will be addressed in a forthcoming book that I am presently working on.

Self-Empowerment, Not Life on an Island

Those in supervisory and middle manager roles in today’s world of business represent about 25 million people, about 16% of the U.S. workforce. Most are Millennials, but I will not dwell on their characteristics as a demographic group; we’ll leave that to those in workforce planning. What I have to say to the career-oriented, Gen Y manager is less about their generation and more about the social-organizational reality they face as persons and how best to navigate it.

To briefly make the context of challenge clear, I enumerate below ten “thesis points”, all or most of which are supported by research. My purpose here is not academic, so what I offer is a point of view that I believe the you can intuitively evaluate for descriptive accuracy and plausibility. In sum, I hope these thoughts provide at least the suggestion of a mindset and approach for how aspiring Millennials might take charge of their career-oriented personal development.

Thesis Points Concerning the Context for Middle Managers:

1. The transition from being an individual contributor to managing and leading others is a big change, it requires a level of adaptive development similar to life’s other milestone events, e.g., parenting.

2. There is a difference between learning technical-instrumental skills and leader development. The former concerns doing, the latter affects our capacity to function in and through relationships.

3. Leading others is largely dependent on our capacity to form, shape, and sustain trust in our relations with others. Abiding trust is required for a robust sense of personal and interpersonal security to form.

4. Identifying “high potential” candidates for development is an imperfect “science”. “False negatives” and “false positives” occur. Management usually catches the latter but often misses the former.

5. The felt contingency of a firm’s commitment to us induces a felt sense of insecurity. Each of us also have our own personality-based sources of insecurity. We must manage both sources of insecurity.

6. A major mistake we make when lacking security is overpromising and taking imprudent risks. It is often an unnecessary act of desperation, overcompensation, not evidence of realistic confidence.

7. Life can’t be divided neatly between demands we face at work and at home. We are one. Rewards and stresses from all directions intermingle and affect us in all directions, often unconsciously.

8. A mature sense of security is required to adaptively self-manage risk-taking and self-advocacy, and to correct for the asymmetry of power between the individual and the organization.

9. Unless our sense of security is sufficiently strong, we will disempower ourselves. Our confidence in taking the realistic risks associated with stretching and growing will be adversely impacted.

10. The mature sense of security needed to promote career-oriented development in an organizational context will most reliably arise in a high-trust, professionally competent relationships.

Relationally-based personal development does not come without significant effort. That’s because when we attempt to revise long-standing habits of mind, emotion, action, and interaction that block adoption of the new habits we need as organizational leaders today, we are essentially faced with “rewiring” our brain. Through focused reflection and dialogue, we jointly explore our self and situation, figuring out what helps/hinders forward progress, what needs to change, and then daring, with a mix of supportive encouragement and “tough love”, to do things differently even when it feels uncomfortable at first.

It requires that we obtain a deep understanding of ourselves, including the less conscious feelings and fears that affect our capacity to act from security with mature judgment, and relate to others with true confidence. Out of this a fuller sense of self emerges. As we build forward in career relevant areas of behavior, it is rare that our growth does not also generate significant rewards outside of work as well.

The Paradoxical Effect

What I have observed is that when developing leaders acquire and internalize this mature, career-oriented sense of personal security, they get “smarter” and more effective, and they become more valuable to their company. They learn how to give to others more of what they themselves needed in order to bolster their own felt security. They recognize and deal with people as persons first, leading and collaborating for ends they all have reasons to care about.

Thus, we discover that enlightened self-reliance is born, lives, and thrives in healthy, adaptive relationships. It is in and through these kinds of relationships that genuine loyalty emerges. While this may prove to create a contagion of healthy relationships and engagement at the organizational level – and that would be great – it is only through the initiative and personal concern of individuals that we can count on it. So be the change you wish to see happen!

Contact Info:

You are invited to contact the author directly with questions or comments. He can be reached at bill.macaux@generativityllc.com or phone at 401.885.1631.

Wanted: Courageous Clients

Those who know me well know that I am not audacious, so why the provocative title? Perhaps that will be better answered at the conclusion of this article. But one thing for sure is important to address at the outset: What is it that I mean in my use of the word "courageous", and why do I single out that characteristic as a most-wanted quality in a client, a client for you or a client for me?

About Courage

Battlefield bravery, standing on moral principle, facing threat to one's career or the well-being of oneself or one's family, or exploring one's own feelings of fear and insecurity. Courage refers to a willingness to approach rather than flee our fears in quite a variety of situations that we find daunting. Here, I shall limit my focus to the courage required to face challenges in personal development.

That should be of interest to all whose goals include advancing to roles of greater responsibility. I know, that could sound like resume talk, but it's not. What I'm referring to is the actual, felt experience of fear when answering a call that requires you to stretch, enter spheres of thought, action, and interaction that are new to you, or perhaps new to all those in your organization.

Perhaps you've already found yourself in a situation of much greater complexity and difficulty than you anticipated. Indeed, it may be one of those "Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into" moments. Hopefully, if this is your situation, you've also concluded that you cannot simply "fake it until you make it"; you need to sort things out, and soon.

Enough, then, about the situations that call for courage. What is the distinctive quality of courage that I am looking for when I say I want courageous clients?

The kind of personal development I am describing is elective, thus it's also avoidable. After all, we need not choose to take on more challenging levels of responsibility at work. But if we do, then we will show courage by acknowledging and responding to the objective and subjective dimensions of the challenge. Moreover, the latter must dealt with first. Let me explain.

Our desire to be the man/woman "they" think we are or hope we are can block our capacity to recognize that what they see in us is potential, a trajectory of capacity, not the actuality of that capacity. That is, it is expected that we have the ability to learn, grow, and develop if we are to become the further evolved leader that they and we want and expect to emerge.

About Fear, Love, and Performance

You've heard the expression, "don't let them see you sweat." Well, that can be apt in a crisis or in the context of an event, but it's flawed advice where personal development is concerned. "Sweat" in this context is fear - anxiety if you prefer - and courage involves getting close to it and deconstructing it, especially the parts that shake our confidence, cause us the greatest concern and self-doubt.

Okay, we all have egos, that conscious aspect of self that is who we are as an agent of self-conscious action. But our ego identity can also lead us to suppress parts of our true self, namely, any experience that may be incongruent what who we think we are, i.e., the experience of fear, doubts, and worries about being sufficient. When that happens, the ego becomes not who we are, but who feel we must pretend to be.

That pretense must be set aside to enable development. None of us is as able or intelligent, or as ready for the next big assignment as we might think we are. But many of us have unconsciously suppressed our fears because of an intense desire to advance - this is the "fake it until you make it" strategy. That may be a passable strategy in early career moves, but it seldom works for true stretch assignments that move us into senior leadership.

If you can't find a way to drop the mask of invincibility, to dwell with your fears and discomfort long enough to understand them, you won't be successful in your efforts to grow past your current level of competence. It's really that simple.

What helps us approach, examine, and overcome our fears? It's a certain kind of love. Specifically, in the presence of a skilled helper, we must experience the unconditional positive regard of the other for us as a person. It’s when we feel the helper's confidence and belief in us that real change becomes possible. We must also be able to experience their confrontation and challenge as love.

This kind of love does not conquer fear. Rather, it consoles, heartens, and encourages us in the face of fear. As Albert Schweitzer pointed out many years ago, given these conditions the "doctor within" is called to action. We find our will, trust, and faith in the relationship and in ourselves, which is sufficient to calm our fears and focus our energies.

Conclusion

Whatever business you're in, I suspect that you'll find this phenomenon applies to you in your work with customers and clients as well. Recognize that you cannot make the relationship work and yield sustainable success if your customer or client is not equally invested in that effort. Be honest about what you know and what you need to understand better about appraising that potential and cultivating the conditions for effective engagement. Then act on it.

We all face the need to "fish or cut bait" at critical moments in relationships with others. It's difficult to recognize that something can't work right now in a client relationship despite our best efforts, but often it is in addressing the issue directly that any potential changes of heart and mind do occur. And if they don't we've likely given ourselves and our client time to pursue other more productive and satisfying opportunities.

Follow-up Contact:

You are invited to contact the author directly with questions or comments. He can be reached at bill.macaux@generativityllc.com or phone at 401.885.1631.