Over the years, I have met many individuals
who achieved a high degree of outward success, and yet they have an inner
hunger, a deep need for personal congruency and for healthy relationships with
other people. Some of the problems they have shared with me may be familiar to
“I’ve met my career goals and achieved
professional success. But it has cost me my personal and family life. I don’t
know my wife and children any more. I’m not even sure I know myself and what’s
really important to me.”
“I expect a lot from my employees, and I
work hard to be friendly and fair toward them. But I don’t feel any loyalty
from them. I think if I were sick for a day, they’d spend most of their time
gabbing at the water fountain. Why can’t they be responsible?”
“There’s much to do, and there’s never
enough time. I feel pressured and hassled all day, every day. I’ve tried
different planning systems. They’ve helped some, but I don’t feel I’m living
the happy, productive, peaceful life I want to live.”
“I’m busy – really busy. But I wonder if
what I’m doing will make any difference in the long run. I’d like to think
there was meaning to my life, that my contributions made a difference.”
“I have a forceful personality. In almost
any interaction, I can control the outcome, even influence others to come up
with the solution I want. But I feel uneasy. I always wonder what other people
really think of me and my ideas.”
These are deep problems, painful problems that
quick fix approaches can’t solve.
If I try to use human influence strategies and
tactics to get other people 14314y2415o to do what I want, to work better, to be more
motivated, to like me and each other while my character is fundamentally
flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity then, in the long run, I cannot be
successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do will be seen
as manipulative. Rhetoric and good intentions aside, if there is little or no
trust, there is no foundation for permanent success.
Our effectiveness is predicated upon certain
inviolate principles – natural laws in the human dimension that are just as
real, just as unchanging as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension.
These principles are woven into the fabric of every civilized society and
comprise the roots of every family and institution that has endured and
The reality of such principles or natural laws
becomes obvious to anyone who examines the cycles of social history. These
principles surface time and time again, and the degree to which people
recognize and live in harmony with them moves them toward either survival and
stability or disintegration and destruction.
These principles are self-evident and
self-validating: it’s as if they are part of the human condition, consciousness
and conscience. For example, consider the principle of fairness, from which our
ideas of equity and justice develop. Children have an innate sense of fairness,
apart from their conditioning. Definitions and applications will vary, but
there is universal awareness of the principle. Other examples would include
integrity and honesty, the foundation of trust which is essential to
cooperation and long-term personal and interpersonal growth.
I find that long-term thinking executives are
turned off by “motivational” speakers who have nothing more to share
than entertaining stories mingled with platitudes. They want substance; they
want process. They want more than aspirin and band-aids. They want to solve the
chronic problems and focus on the principles that bring long-term results.
Key to Enduring Results
Albert Einstein observed: “The
significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we
were at when we created them.”
As we look around us and within us, we realize
that the deep, fundamental problems we face cannot be solved on the superficial
level on which they were created. We need a new level of thinking based on
principles of effective management to solve these deep concerns. We need a
principle-centered, character-based, “inside-out” approach.
Inside-out means to start first with self – to
start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character,
and your motives. So, if you want to have a happy marriage, be the kind of
person who generates positive energy and sidesteps negative energy. If you want
to have a more pleasant, cooperative teenager, be a more understanding,
empathic, consistent, loving parent. If you want to have more freedom, more latitude
in your job, be a more responsible, helpful, contributing employee. If you want
to be trusted, be trustworthy. If you want the secondary greatness of public
recognition, focus first on primary greatness of character.
The inside-out approach says that private
victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to
ourselves precedes making and keeping promises to others. Inside-out is a
continuing process of renewal, an upward spiral of growth that leads to
progressively higher forms of responsible independence and effective
In all of my experience, I have never seen
lasting solutions to problems, lasting happiness and success, come from the
outside in. Outside-in approaches result in unhappy people who feel victimized
and immobilized, who focus on the weaknesses of other people and the
circumstances they feel are responsible for their own stagnant situation. I’ve
seen unhappy marriages where each spouse wants the other to change, where each
is confessing the other’s “sins,” where each is trying to shape up
the other. I’ve seen labor management disputes where people spend tremendous
amounts of time and energy trying to create legislation that would force people
to act as if trust were really there.
The primary source of continuing problems in
many companies and cultures has been the dominant social paradigm of
outside-in. Everyone is convinced that the problem is “out there” and
if “they” (others) would “shape up” or suddenly “ship
out” of existence, the problem would be solved.
The principles of effectiveness are deeply
scripted within us, in our conscience and in our quiet reflection on life
experience. To recognize and develop them and to use them in meeting our
deepest concerns, we need to think differently, to shift our paradigms to a
new, deeper, “inside-out” level.
Four-Part Approach
The inside-out approach is on four levels.
Each one is necessary but insufficient – executives must function well at all
four levels with all four principles.
1. Personal: Trustworthiness. There are two
components of trustworthiness, and they are inseparably tied together: 1) the
first is the foundation of Character or personal integrity, including
principle-centered leadership; 2) the second is our skills, our competence. Too
often we think trust is only a function of integrity. It is also a function of
competence evergreen, ever-growing competence. Character and competence
comprise our trustworthiness – it’s what we are and “What you are shouts
so loudly in my ears, I can’t hear what you say.”
2. Interpersonal: Trust. Only trustworthiness
will produce trust. You might have a medical doctor with great character, but
if he is incompetent, you won’t have trust. Or if you have a highly competent
surgeon who lacks integrity, you may have an operation that isn’t necessary.
3. Managerial: Empowerment. You can’t have
empowerment without first having trust. Because if you don’t trust the people
you are working with, then you must use control rather than empowerment. If you
do trust them and have performance agreements with them, you can work toward
4. Organizational: Alignment. Structure and systems
must reinforce the empowerment concept. In aligned organizations, everything
serves to help the individual be productive and effective in meeting the
objectives of the win-win performance agreement. If there is misalignment of
structure and systems, you will not have empowerment or trust.
Working at one, two or three levels is
necessary but insufficient. For example, if you work only at the personal
level, you might join an encounter group or attend a personal development
seminar, but you will likely revert to old behavior once back into the work
place. If you work only at the interpersonal level, you will do team building
or take people into the wilderness or improve communications skills. But you
get disappointing results. And if you focus only on the managerial level and
train people in delegation and participative management without building trust,
the training simply won’t take – you will soon go back to benevolent
In my seminars, I often ask managers,
“How many of you have been trained in empowerment or participative
management?” Most everybody raises their hands. Then I ask, “And what
happens when you try to empower people when there is no trust?” They all
say, “It just doesn’t work. You have to go back to a hard MBO approach or
some other control approach to keep some semblance of order in the work
Then I ask them, “Why continue to focus
then on management training?  You give the illusion of solving the problem
when you’re just treating the symptoms – you may get temporary relief from
acute pain but you aren’t treating the chronic problem.”
And then I ask about the organizational level:
“How many of you see the big solution is to get reorganized, to get
alignment.” Half raise their hands. “How many see the big solution is
to redo the systems?” One-third raise their hands. Then I ask, “What
are the consequences of working at those levels when you haven’t worked at the
personal and interpersonal levels?” And the answer: “Disaster.”
The consensus is that we’re working with an
ecosystem, a whole environment. And if you approach a problem with something
other than principle-centered leadership on all four levels, your efforts will
be “necessary but insufficient.”
Fix the Six Percent First
One of W. Edwards Deming’s key insights is that
94 percent of the problems in organizations are general problems (bad systems)
only 6 percent are specific problems (bad people).
Many managers misinterpret such data. The flaw
in their thinking is in supposing that if they then correct the structure and
systems (programs), the problems with people (programmers) go away. The reverse
is actually true – if you correct the 6 percent first, the other problems will
largely go away.
Unless you work on the 6 percent in
significant ways, you can’t work on the 94 percent in significant ways, only in
cosmetic ways. And you will soon revert back to old ways.
Why? Because people are the programmers, and
they use systems and structure as the outward expressions of their own
character and competence. Strategy, structure and systems are the
“software” programs written by your programmers, your people.
If owners and managers lack character and
competence, they won’t give power and profit and recognition to others. If they
do, they feel that they are at risk personally. They must use the inside-out
approach and first work on character and competence to build trust so that they
can have empowerment then they can solve 94 percent of the problems (bad
structure and systems).
Until individual managers have done the
inside-out work, they won’t solve the fundamental problems of the organization,
nor will they truly empower others, even though they might use the language of
empowerment. Their personality and character will manifest itself eventually.
We must work on character and competence to
solve structural and systemic problems. Remember: work first on the programmer
if you want to improve the program. People produce the strategy, structure,
systems and styles of the organization. These are the arms and hands of the
minds and hearts of people.