This guest post (which originally appeared on LeadBIG) is from Margaret Seidler, a nationally recognized Organization Development consultant, master trainer, and author based in Charleston, SC. As one of only twelve certified Polarity Management Masters in North America, central to Margaret’s work is Polarity Management®, a set of principles and method to guide people in tapping the power of “both/and” thinking for better, more sustainable results.
After a 360° assessment that was, shall we say, less than stellar, I looked for a magic bullet to improve my leadership abilities.
What made a pivotal difference and accelerated my own abilities was discovering Polarity Thinking — a set of principles and a mapping tool introduced by Dr. Barry Johnson in 1975. I found polarity thinking a straightforward way to both document my wisdom and to shine a light on my blind spots.
Polarities are interdependent pairs of values, often competing, that need each other over time to gain and maintain performance. ~Barry Johnson
The “power of and” (both/and) thinking has been tapped only in the last few decades by U.S. business leaders who recognize the advantages of being able to understand and manage polarities. Today the references are growing.
Leaders can be more successful by recognizing and experiencing polarities within themselves first, before attempting to manage those polarities that exist within their own businesses, organizations or communities.
Doing so brings both the leader’s heart and head into the equation. It embeds the learning on the inside before applying it to the outside world.
Before I understood polarity principles, I often approached situations with an “either/or” mindset, feeling strong in my convictions and beliefs. It wasn’t until 10 years ago that I learned about “both/and” thinking and how it was a much a stronger match for certain complex situations in life.
For decades, I was a “can do” task manager. I valued getting the work done. Whenever I came into a new job, productivity would shoot up and my boss would be thrilled…only to find out, within several months, that employees were burning out and feeling under-appreciated for their hard work. Because hard work — getting the task done — was my sole focus, I ignored the burnout of others and continued to emphasize to all to work harder and smarter!
It wasn’t long before employees began to complain around the water cooler that I didn’t care about them. Eventually, productivity dropped due to those chats, long lunches and rising absenteeism, caused by my focus on task.
What polarity thinking taught me was that I had to continue my strong focus on task and supplement it with another value: relationship. What a blind spot I had for so long!
Once I incorporated focusing on both task and relationship in my management approach, productivity went up — and so did employee satisfaction…a winning combination!