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Thank you for inspiring me to document musings and learnings from the field of leadership, team performance and conscious change. I trust you'll find the exercises, resources and insights useful whether you are a leader, team player, coach/consultant or change agent.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Polarity Management

Competitive advantage requires polarity management. As leaders, we are constantly faced with figuring out ways to reconcile seemingly opposing forces. How do we get the #'s and care about people, think globally and act locally, lead and manage, achieve quality and reduce cost, be environmentally responsible and make money? As we are able to see polarities as "both/and" instead of "either/or" new strategies will arise.

According to Barry Johnson, "Polarities have 2 or more right answers that are interdependent." He also states, "because virtually all of our 'problems' in formal education have one right answer, we automatically shift into that way of thinking when a 'problem' occurs at work." When addressing a polarity this actually makes the issue worse because it can't be solved so it becomes a no-win proposition.

Polarity Management invites us to "capitalize on the inherent tension between seemingly opposing forces." We need both activity and rest, individuals and teams, introversion and extroversion, productivity and engagement, centralization and decentralization, masculine and feminine, safety and speed, inhalation and exhalation, stability and change, right brain and left brain to thrive. To focus on one polarity at the expense of another actually swings an invisible pendulum back and forth, back and forth, back and forth and so depletes energy, time and money.

To experiment with this concept go for a "figure eight" that is considers both sides:
  1. Name an issue you are wrestling with. 
  2. Why is it important to balance this polarity and what is the worry if you don't?
  3. Identify the up and down side of each polarity.
  4. List 2-3 actions to leverage the plus side of both and red flags to raise awareness when you are dipping into the negative of each.