People who exchange perspectives tend to encourage dialogue around new ideas and information.
In a dysfunctional situation, a leader may do the opposite; present information without room for discussion.
I was part of a team once that had to select chaperones for an international youth trip. The chairman explained exactly how the selection had been made four years earlier. He didn’t ask questions, or seek input. He just said – with good motives – “let’s not reinvent the wheel here”.
What the chairman didn’t know was that there were three people in this group who had previous experience chaperoning a very similar trip more recently, TSA had changed procedures, the airline had changed their group ticketing policy, and some other bits of destination info had evolved for security reasons.
Therefore the group was caught off guard when they embarked on the trip, leading to tension, inefficiency, and hurt feelings.
Leaders who shut down discussions and exchanging perspectives can really cause harm.
The same M Booth team that handles Shop Small works on something related, and at least as important: the annual State of Women-owned Businesses Report.
For many years, American Express used data from an outside organization to examine progress for women-owned businesses, but when M Booth EVP Mark Schroeder took a fresh look, a new idea was born:
What if the effort was moved internally, extracting the exact data needed, creating a robust set of information that could be used to measure AmEx efforts to promote women-owned businesses, as well as providing a rich report for others to use.
Mark exchanged perspectives with Rosa Alfonso and consultant partner, the late Julie Weeks of Womenable. Mark and Julie refined the opportunity, garnered buy-in from teammates with further exchanging of perspectives, and moved forward.
American Express’s State of Women-owned Businesses report is used and cited by media, policy-makers, chambers of commerce, advocacy organizations, college professors, state and federal legislators, and even the United States Census Bureau. The data can be broken out and reported in many ways, including industry, geography, or diversity.
Any one of the initial decision-makers at M Booth or AmEx could have stopped it by saying, “We’ve been doing it the same way for years without putting any of our team members on it and it’s worked just fine.”
Now, it’s the number two most covered initiative of this team, next to SBS. American Express is now the thought-leader on the issue of women-owned businesses in the United States. And this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Mark, Rosa, Julie, and their teams
exchanging perspectives as opposed to presenting information without leaving things open for discussion.
What exciting developments are you missing when you don’t exchange perspectives during dialogue?
Exchanging perspectives is a leadership behavior that helps drive Dialogue during the Alignment process of the Work of Leaders.
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This is the ninth post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.
For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.
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