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Grow in Public: Leading Conflict Principle 6

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

It’s hard to grow when others are watching.

Even if we know that change is needed, there’s something we need to get better at, and that other people are depending on us – part of us always resists.

Personal change and development feel risky. When we admit that we need to change our behavior, habits, skills, or worldview, we expose ourselves. It’s an admission that something about us is incomplete and unfinished. This shakes us out of the comfortable fiction that we are wholly competent, fully baked, complete.

All of the great leaders I’ve known in my life rebelled against the comfortable fiction of “finished-ness”. They were people forever in motion. Always growing. Centered, yet restless.

Once you:

…then you’re really ready to make serious changes in how you engage with those around you. However, everything of great value requires great effort and risk.

These principles will set your development in motion and create new relational situations and opportunities that demand growth – in others yes, but mostly in you.

As I discussed before, most conflict is creative and can actually be fun and healthy. But with the right mindset, you can even engage to the most toxic personalities and situations with willful cheerfulness if you have the best interests of others at heart.

Are you being bullied by someone? Is your supervisor a tyrant? Are your ideas and input steamrolled at meetings? Is a toxic personality making you dread showing up for work? Do you have a radically different vision about a team project?

If any of those scenarios ring true, then change will only happen when you are ready to act, risk, and hardest of all, to grow in public.

In An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, adult-learning and organizational change experts Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey explore the unique features of organizations proven to maximize employee potential and achieve exceptional creative results.

From hedge funds to tech start-ups to non-profits, Kegan and Lahey discovered that “deliberately developmental organizations” (DDOs) have cultures that encourage radically honest self-reflection and responsibility taking – not only for one’s work, but also for one’s relationships and personal growth.

DDOs accomplish this through intensively collaborative and horizontal employee engagement practices that encourage group learning, decision making, risk taking, and confrontation – regardless of title or position.

However, these organizations also utilize vertical lines of authority that, instead of micromanaging and interfering with the daily functions of units and teams, keep leaders focused on ensuring that lower levels of the organization are taking active responsibility for decision making and personal growth in pursuit of the organization’s goals.

When leaders focus their time and energy on building a culture that reinforces these consistent relational principles, both people and bottom lines tend to grow exponentially.

A deliberately developmental culture is only made by cultivating deliberately developmental people. This requires leaders who are willing to share what it is about themselves that is under development – and to do so publicly.

This also requires humility; the same humility that others on your team will need if you expect them to be honest about the parts of themselves that are still under construction and in motion.

Like a wise man once said, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

Leaders willing to grow in public show team members that discussing one’s rough developmental edges is an act of strength and confidence, not a sign of weakness or ineptitude.

This helps everyone to take off the mask of completeness and embrace the reality that every individual and team is a perpetual work in progress.

That process begins with you.

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