Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC, works with clients around the world who seek to develop effective leaders. She understands organizational cultures, what blocks communication and innovation, and what is needed to bring people together for better results. She has coached leaders, delivered leadership, coaching and emotional intelligence programs, and spoken at conferences for clients in 34 countries. She has also presented at many universities including Harvard Kennedy School and Cornell University,
Prior to starting her own business, Marcia’s greatest success came as a result of designing the employee development program for a semiconductor manufacturing company facing bankruptcy. Within three years, the company turned around and became the #1 stock market success in the United States when they went public in 1993.
Excerpts from her books Outsmart Your Brain, Wander Woman, and her latest, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs have appeared in many places including Harvard Management Review, Fortune.com, CNN.com, Psychology Today and The Wall Street Journal and she has appeared on ABC World News.
Marcia’s doctoral degree is in organizational psychology with a research emphasis on the challenges and needs of high-achievers. She also holds two masters degrees in education and communications.
Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my second interview of Marcia.
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Morris: When and why did you decide to write the Discomfort Zone?
Reynolds: Originally, I thought of writing a book for coaches looking to learn more advanced skills beyond the basics. As a long-time assessor for the International Coach Federation and a number of coaching schools, I found that coaches stopped short of taking risks in their conversations, keeping them from facilitating the breakthroughs in thinking needed to be assessed at a Mastery level. When I mentioned my desire to codify and teach what Master Coaches do in a book to my editor, he said, “Write the book for leaders, the coaches will buy it.” Of course! I have been teaching leadership classes for over 30 years. If I could teach these skills to leaders, and demonstrate in case studies the amazing results they would get if they committed to using the skills, then I had the opportunity to change the nature of conversations in the workplace. This has become my purpose. The Discomfort Zone is my vehicle for the large-scale change I would love to be a part of.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Reynolds: The chapter where I teach how to listen from your heart and gut as well as your head was born out of my research while writing the book. I had discovered the science behind intuition some years ago. But creating the actual exercises that teach this skill seemed to be the magic I needed to bring the idea of intuition out of being “fluff” to an actual and measurable leadership competency.
Since I wrote this chapter, I have been leading people through the exercise in workshops around the world. In each session, the majority of people have head-snapping revelations too. There is no better payoff for someone who has been teaching leaders for decades, to find a skill that can actually create a “wow” factor in the classroom, enough that the students will absolutely take what they learn with them out into the workplace. This is very fulfilling for me.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Reynolds: I originally had more neuroscience up front, explaining why these conversations based on insight formation are far more effective that telling people what to do or scaring them into doing something else. My editor reminded me that I had to get into the “how to” much more quickly. If they buy the book, they already know that what I’m trying to say is important. And, the average reader wants to get to the good stuff quickly. So as usual, I had to cut pages from the beginning of the book. After that, the book flowed as planned.
Morris: What advice do you have for supervisors who are very uncomfortable when struggling to prepare for what is almost certain to be a complicated (perhaps contentious) conversation with a direct report?
Reynolds: A good practice is to choose an emotion you want to feel before the conversation. Select one word to use as an emotional anchor you can go back to when your impatience, anger, or fear arises. Consider what you want the other person to feel—inspired, hopeful, or courageous? Then occasionally remind yourself to feel this emotion too. Or maybe you know you need to feel calm, caring, or bold. Choose one emotion word that you can breathe into your body to help you stay focused on the result you want.
Remember that if you are angry or disappointed with the person, they won’t be open to having a conversation with you. They will likely be defensive in return. You need to set and maintain a positive emotional tone.
Also, consider the regard you are holding for the person right now. You have to believe in the person’s potential even if they had disappointed or angered you. They have to feel you respect them to stay open to being with you in the conversation. Consider what the person has done well in the past and what is possible in the future. Hold the person in high regard even before you enter the conversation. They will sense your hope for them even if the conversation feels difficult.
Morris: Let’s say that such a conversation occurs and goes well. Then what? Follow-up by the supervisor? By the direct report?
Reynolds: If you follow the DREAM model in the book, the acronym DREAM stands for these activities:
D = determine what the person wants as a desired outcome of the conversation
R = reflect on assumptions, beliefs, and reactions as the person tells his or her view of the situation (hold up a mental mirror by affirming what the person thinks and feels)
E = explore what needs, desires, disappointments, and fears could be interfering or blocking a different perception
A = acknowledge the emerging awareness
M = make sure there is a plan or commitment for what is next
The M ensures there will be some sort of follow-up, but you will determine these together. You will ask them to clearly state their next step, even if it is to give the conversation more thought before getting back to you. Then together you will determine if and when the next conversation will be.
Morris: My own opinion is that much of the counsel you provide could also be helpful to parents as well as to teachers and coaches who enter a discomfort zone when addressing behavior issues with young people. What do you think?
Reynolds: Whenever I teach these skills to leaders, they always ask the same question, “Can I use this as a parent?” I believe anytime you have the opportunity to help people think more broadly for themselves and discover solutions on their own, you can use The Discomfort Zone skills. The book is useful for coaches, parents, consultants, teachers, and friends as well as leaders.
Morris: Back to basics. What is a discomfort zone?
Reynolds: In order to define who we are and make sense of the world around us, our brains develop constructs and rules that we strongly protect without much thought. When someone asks you why you did something, you immediately come up with an ad hoc answer that fits the situation even if the response doesn’t make complete sense. These quick interpretations actually constrain the brain, making human beings narrow-minded by nature.
To help someone think differently about a situation, you have to disturb this automatic processing. This is best done by challenging the beliefs that created the frames and surfacing the underlying fears, needs, and desires that are keeping the constructs in place. Through reflective statements and questions, you can help someone actively explore, examine and change their beliefs and behavior. This is what I call having a Discomfort Zone conversation.
Then, when you make people stop and think about what they are saying, their brain will frantically try to make sense of what they are now seeing, causing a moment of discomfort for everyone involved. Then a burst of adrenaline could cause an emotional reaction, anything from nervous laughter to anger before an insight emerges. If you act on this moment, you have a chance to solidify the new awareness. If not, a strong ego may work backward to justify the previous behavior.
The Discomfort Zone is the moment of uncertainty where people are most open to learning. Leaders who use these skills provide a chance for the person to develop a new perspective, see a different solution to their problem, and potentially grow as a person.
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To read all of Part 2, please click here.
To read Part 1, please click here.
To read the first interview, please click here.
Marcia cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
To go directly to download resources and read about The Discomfort Zone, please click here.
You can rate your ability to deal with discomfort by clicking here.
Tips for trainers and mentor coaches on how to teach the techniques in The Discomfort Zone: Please click here.
Eric Siegel, PhD, founder of Predictive Analytics World and Text Analytics World, and Executive Editor of the Predictive Analytics Times.com, makes the how and why of predictive analytics understandable and captivating. In addition to being the author of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, he is a former Columbia University professor who used to sing educational songs to his students, and a renowned speaker, educator and leader in the field. He has appeared on Bloomberg TV and Radio, Fox News, BNN (Canada), Israel National Radio, Radio National (Australia), The Street, Newsmax TV, and NPR affiliates. Eric and his book have been featured in BusinessWeek, CBS MoneyWatch, The Financial Times, Forbes, Forrester, Fortune, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and MarketWatch.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Predictive Analytics, a few general questions. Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Siegel: Yes, it was in 1991, my summer between college and Columbia’s doctoral program, when I realized I wanted to pursue machine learning: the ability for computers to learn from experience/examples (aka, data!), which is at the heart of predictive analytics. With this technology, the computer pours through examples to learn how to PREDICT. (A big contribution that summer was touring Vancouver with my old buddy Alex Chaffee, who whispered into my ear some magic words he’d learned at Reed College on the topic.)
Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?
Siegel: Innovative technology doesn’t sell itself, and its sale is dependent more on a gradual social process (or “social experiment?”) than on a perfectly-written speech or white paper, no matter how well put together the pitch is.
Morris: First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Siegel: I’m so rarely asked that question! I like to think my main strength is the ability to explain a technology to any audience (specifically, with the most passion, topics within my very favorite field: predictive analytics). Looking back, I can truly see how so many enthusiastic teachers in technical fields as well as various humanities – from high school on up – contagiously infected me with what it means to effectively 1) understand, 2) find excitement in, and 3) communicate. It’s kind of a particular socialization process.
So, in answering your question, instead of deifying one person, I’ll deify the education system! This includes public schools in Vermont, Brandeis University, and Columbia University (where I was later on the faculty), where I was lucky enough to have too many strong mentors to count (see my book’s acknowledgements for a few of them).
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”
Siegel: Yes – a consultant’s job is often to make his assistance seem only supportive of the client’s successful execution.
Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”
Siegel: Ah, yes, humility is important. In fact, I’ve been working on my humility and I think I’ve got it down better than anyone I know. (That is meant to be humorous.)
Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”
Siegel: Checks and balances before triggering a project!
Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?
Siegel: Beyond again invoking “checks and balances,” I’ll also tie this to predictive analytics specifically: There are too many tactical decisions to manage manually, so it is the collective capacity of DATA that will inform each one, thus tweaking the aggregate effectiveness of so many tactical decisions.
Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?
Siegel: Nice point. Change comes of monitoring and managing a gradual social shift. Each such cycle could be a novel.
Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”
Siegel: Yes, you see the social process, as people are ambivalently shepherded through change — change that they fear so greatly and have build walls of rationalization against.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Eric cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Predictive Analytics link
Predictive Analytics World link
Eric’s Amazon page link
What an amazing concept that Siri Hustvedt exposes in her new best-seller, The Blazing World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014). As described in The Wall Street Journal, “to expose sexism, a female artist asks three men to be fronts for her work. The stunt goes terribly awry” (p. C8). The book has only been released one week, and it is rapidly climbing the list of fiction best-sellers on Amazon.com.
Who is Siri Hustvedt? She is the author of five novels, The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved,and The Summer Without Men. She also published three collections of essays, A Plea for Eros, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, and Living, Thinking, Looking, in addition to a nonfiction work: The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. She is the recipient of the 2012 International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities.
I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:
With The Blazing World, internationally bestselling author Siri Hustvedt returns to the New York art world in her most masterful and urgent novel since What I Loved. Hustvedt, who has long been celebrated for her “beguiling, lyrical prose” (The Sunday Times Books, London), tells the provocative story of the artist Harriet Burden. After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art behind three male masks, concealing her female identity.
The three solo shows are successful, but when Burden finally steps forward triumphantly to reveal herself as the artist behind the exhibitions, there are critics who doubt her. The public scandal turns on the final exhibition, initially shown as the work of acclaimed artist Rune, who denies Burden’s role in its creation. What no one doubts, however, is that the two artists were intensely involved with each other. As Burden’s journals reveal, she and Rune found themselves locked in a charged and dangerous game that ended with the man’s bizarre death.
Ingeniously presented as a collection of texts compiled after Burden’s death, The Blazing World unfolds from multiple perspectives. The exuberant Burden speaks—in all her joy and fury—through extracts from her own notebooks, while critics, fans, family members, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of who she was, and where the truth lies.
From one of the most ambitious and internationally renowned writers of her generation, The Blazing World is a polyphonic tour de force. An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle, it explores the deceptive powers of prejudice, money, fame, and desire. Emotionally intense, intellectually rigorous, ironic, and playful, Hustvedt’s new novel is a bold, rich masterpiece, one that will be remembered for years to come.
You can read a full review of this book by Clare McHugh, published in The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2014, p. C8, at this link: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303795904579431460059821576?KEYWORDS=Vengeance+by+Deception&mg=reno64-wsj Ms. McHugh is an expert reviewer, currently an editor at Time, Inc.
You won’t see this one at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, because we do not present works of fiction, unless they are business-related. One example of that we might see is The Circle by Dave Eggers (New York: Knopf, 2013), as I gave this book to Randy Mayeux for Christmas. I’m not sure he’s finished it, and it is not on our selection list yet, but we only announce books one month in advance, so we will just wait and see.
Regardless, you might put this one on your escape reading list. It looks great!
I look forward to some future month at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas for a presentation on a new best-seller, Talk Like TED: The Nine Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014), written by Carmine Gallo. The book debuted this week at #6 on The Wall Street Journal best-selling list, and is currently #3, #4, and #7 in three different Amazon.com business best-selling lists.
Who is Carmine Gallo? This is not his first book! Carmine also wrote The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, The Apple Experience, which was the first book about the the Apple Store and how other brands can elevate the customer experience, and Fire Them Up, which identifies the seven secrets of the world’s most inspiring leaders. You can find synopses of some of these books for sale on our 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com site. Interestingly, Gallo is not associated with TED talks.
Here is a summary of the book that I found on Amazon.com:
Ideas are the true currency of the twenty-first century. So, in order to succeed you need to be able to sell yourself and your ideas persuasively. The ability to sell yourself and your ideas is the single greatest skill that will help you accomplish your dreams. TED Talks have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and become the gold standard for public speaking. TED—which stands for technology, entertainment, and design—brings together the world’s leading innovators and thinkers. Their online presentations have been viewed more than a billion times. These are the presentations that set the world on fire, and the techniques that top TED speakers use are the same ones that will make any presentation more dynamic, fire up any team, and give anyone the confidence to overcome their fear of public speaking.
Have you never watched a TED talk? When I teach presentation skills at the University of Dallas in its College of Business MBA program, I require students to watch and critique five presentations from this site. It’s a goldmine. You can access the site here: http://www.ted.com. At Creative Communication Network, we teach a custom presentation skills program based upon intensive individual coaching. You can be sure that we will be updating the program with some of the techniques from this book, in order to offer our clients the newest possible information to help them be successful.
I do not know which month this will be at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. We only publish our schedule one month ahead. But, you will have ample notice of the session when we will present this one. The synopsis of the book will be presented by either Randy Mayeux or myself, depending upon our selections. However, I do know it will be coming up very soon. This is already a blockbuster best-seller.
Rita Gunther McGrath, a Professor at Columbia Business School, is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation with particular emphasis on developing sound strategy in uncertain and volatile environments. Her ideas are widely used by leading organizations throughout the world, who describe her thinking as sometimes provocative, but unfailingly stimulating. She fosters a fresh approach to strategy amongst those with whom she works. Thinkers50 presented Rita with the #1 award for Strategy, the Distinguished Achievement Award, in 2013. She is also in their top ten global list of management thinkers overall. She has also been inducted into the Strategic Management Society “Fellows” in recognition of her impact on the field. She consistently appears in lists of the top professors to follow on Twitter. McGrath is the author of four books; the most recent being the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage : How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business(Harvard Business Review Press), rated the #1 book of the year by Strategy+Business.
Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Rita. To read all of Part 1, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing a few of your books, here are several general questions. First, to what extent (if any) have your students’ aspirations, issues, and concerns changed in recent years? What do you make of that?
McGrath: In our MBA programs, we’ve seen a big shift away from the heavy emphasis on consulting and finance toward entrepreneurship, social enterprise and management. In our Executive Programs, we’re seeing more concern about new technologies, short-lived advantages and what you might think of as “black swan” events. Digital marketing has been quite a growth area, as has our programs on innovation.
Morris: There has been significant criticism of business schools in recent years, even of – especially of — the most prestigious ones such as Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, Michigan, and Wharton. In your opinion, what is the single area in which there is the greatest need for improvement in business school education?
McGrath: We need new models for developing and coaching students – so much about the way we work comes from the past. Just as an example, take the structure of academic departments – we’re set up by functions, such as finance, marketing, operations, management, and so on. Companies have learned years ago that operating in silos like that can create significant blind spots. I think we need to re-think what helps learners best come out of our institutions with skills that their employers will value, as well as with better analytical toolkits.
Morris: Given your response to the previous question, here’s a hypothetical question. Assume that you have total control and unlimited resources. How specifically would you respond to that need?
McGrath: It would depend on what kind of school I was running. If I were at a top-brand school like Columbia, I wouldn’t be too concerned that my franchise was going away, but I would probably redesign the MBA experience with the desired outcomes in mind. So we probably would do a lot more with entrepreneurship, design, technology and other elements that future technologists would need, and I’d try to design a really coherent student experience.
If I were at a mid-tier or lower-tier school, the question requires a complete rethink. I have a white paper on this if you are interested.
Morris: What was the original mission of Columbia’s Executive Education program and to what extent (if any) has it since changed? Please explain.
McGrath: I think the original idea was to provide more life-long learning opportunities for business people with more seasoning than our MBA-aged students. That is still in many ways our goal. We once had a tagline “learning that powers performance” and I think we still want to strive to do that. The main things that have changed are the topics and issues executives come to us with. Interestingly, we’re doing a review of our strategy for executive education, so there may be some new twists on the mission which come out of that.
Morris: To what extent (if any) have you changed your approach to classroom instruction?
McGrath: Now that has really changed for me. When I first started teaching in the MBA program, we used a ton of cases, printed our overheads on acetates and projected them with overhead projectors and did a fair amount of lecturing. Today, I use practically no canned Harvard-style cases as they just go out of date too soon. We use different technology in the classroom obviously, and the pedagogy is more discussion and debate oriented. I probably lecture less and discuss more.
Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Entrepreneurial Mindset. To what specifically does its title refer?
McGrath: How to think about innovation in corporations with insights informed by the way habitual entrepreneurs think.
Morris: The mindset you describe seems to be one that any executive should develop, whatever the size and nature or her or his organization, be it a start-up or a Fortune 50 company. Is that a fair assessment?
McGrath: It certainly can’t hurt – finding new opportunities, thinking in a fresh way about your competition, deeply understanding your customers, and planning with the right disciplines for the uncertainty you face are all pretty practical and important topics.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, in it you recommend a process by which to identify, evaluate, and prioritize opportunities, then pursue them with appropriate strategies. Please explain this process.
McGrath: We walk our readers through a series of “lenses” they can use to identify potential opportunities to put in an inventory of opportunities. Then we talk about screening for the best ones, given the constraints you have. We describe how to test assumptions at minimal cost, and how to do ‘discovery driven’ planning in which the goal is to plan while recognizing that you don’t have enough knowledge to do a conventional plan. We also spend a little time on how to enter the market and assess competition. The Entrepreneurial Mindset was cited by famous entrepreneur Steve Blank as one of the foundational ideas behind the lean startup movement popularized by Eric Ries.
Morris: In your opinion, are the challenges of entrepreneurship more difficult, less difficult, or about the same today as they were when you wrote The Entrepreneurial Mindset more than a decade ago? How so?
McGrath: Less difficult. Today, you have access to unbelievable assets and talent that you can use to assemble the operations of your business with very low investment. You can get computing power from Amazon, office space from Regus, staff from Staff.com, programmers from oDesk, and the list goes on. It’s also true that companies today can operate in a very lean way which also reduces the investment required to innovate. I mean, Whatsapp, with only 55 employees was just valued by Facebook at $19 Billion! That’s with a B – with only 55 people, which is quite amazing.
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To read all of Part 1, please click here.
In Part 2, we will discuss The End of Competitive Advantage.
Rita cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Here’s a link to her website.
Here’s a link to her HBR articles
Here’s a link to her Columbia University faculty page
Here’s a link to a recent video.
Here’s a link to the MarketBusting website.
Here’s a link to the Discovery-Driven Growth website.