We are required to influence 360 degrees in all organizations to be successful. But how can you collaborate with so many different people at the same time? Barry Oshry wrote a fascinating book called Seeing Systems. In his book, he shows us the personal bias that dominates our thinking in large organizations. We unconsciously adopt blindness to accepted 'systems'- whether you are an executive, middle manager or individual contributor, you get acclimated to the destructible dance of your level. This bothered me at first, since we all want to think we make unique decisions and have unique perspectives. Since, I met Barry years ago, I have found what he shares to be true and notice it often in our consulting and training work.
In this overview article of Barry's work, you can see that the diagram has four types of conditions based on an individual's role: Top, Middle, Bottom and Customer. Continuing with the descriptions from the article:
- We are Top when we have designated responsibility (accountability) for some piece of the action whether it’s the whole organization, a division within it, a department, a project team, or a classroom. "The Developer"
- We are Bottom when we are experiencing problems with our condition and/or with the condition of the system, problems that we think higher ups ought to be taking care of but are not. We can be Bottom at any level of the organization. "The Fixer"
- We are Middle when we are experiencing conflicting demands, priorities, and pressures coming at us from two or more individuals or groups. "The Integrator"
- We are Customer when we are looking to some other person or group for a product or service we need in order to move our work ahead. "The Validator"
- Tops seek to strengthen the capacity of what they are accountable for. We inform, involve, ask, give and coach. Under stress, Tops sabotage themselves by taking all the responsibility away from (less effective?) others.
- Bottoms seek to identify and fix things that are wrong. Bottoms sabotage themselves by blaming the higher-ups for messing things up.
- Middles are the web, connecting and coordinating the parts. They share, diagnose, and coordinate. Middles sabotage themselves by aligning to one part of the organization and losing the other (disperse / integrate).
- Customers evaluate the quality of the delivery, and so, improve everything. They partner, set standards, provide feedback and look for the right people to talk to. They sabotage themselves by denying any responsibility for anything going wrong, entitled and deserving of perfection.
"I learned to be sensitive to other's style and emotional state and how to adapt to approach them in a more effective manner."
"I learned I cannot change others, I can only change myself."
"I really enjoyed this class. The topics were relevant and important. The examples were an excellent reinforcement."
Added bonus: it's a great time of year to head to the Indy 500 to check out the preparations for the 100th Running in May. Find out more here.
In this April LearningFlash, I will share mental perceptions, techniques and tools for learning to flow between these conditions and be more effective leading, managing projects and growing teams. Today's highly matrixed work requires the ability to influence 360 degrees- self, up, across, down and wide. Enjoy and challenge yourself with these thoughts to clarify how you play in these systems.