July 2002 - Executive Development
"Anyone can be a millionaire, but to become a billionaire, you need an
This month we profile another way of looking at business challenges. Mixed with a strong dose of humor and an equally strong dose of creativity, Kenny Moore offers executives a chance to see things from a different perspective. We hope our readers will keep an open mind when reading this article and enjoy a few laughs.
Between the lines is a more serious message: things are not always as they seem, so lighten up and see what can happen when laughter blesses a situation.
Executive Development and the Fates: A Case Study
By Kenny Moore
It starts with frustration
Iíve used 360-degree feedback with our executives. They donít like it.
Iíve sat them down and delivered performance feedback. They resent it.
Iíve scheduled coaching sessions to remedy long-standing developmental problems. They undermine it.
Through a stroke of luck, Iíve discovered a more viable alternative: I now read them their Horoscopes.
I know itís not professional. Peter Senge would surely deride me. And I donít yet have statistical data to document it as a "Best Practice." But it seems to work. And I may be in good company: Nancy Reagan used it to help run the White House when things were dismal for Ron.
So why not for executives with a somewhat smaller span of control than the entire USA?
Tragedy tomorrow; Comedy tonight
As with most of the business breakthroughs that Iíve stumbled upon, it all started quite by accident. My astrologer friend gave me a copy of The Secret Language of Birthdays by Goldschneider and Elffers as a gift. I read my profile (May 21st) and reeled back in shock. It was uncomfortably ó and hysterically ó accurate. There in public view were my strengths and weaknesses; my intentions as well as my outcomes.
I wondered: if this were true for me, might it be true for others? What better place to test it out than with executives. So at my next meeting with a long-standing cantankerous officer, I brought the book along. A s he discussed his on-going antagonistic relationship with a higher-ranking exec, I squeezed out: "But of course you canít stand her. Sheís a Leo and youíre an Aries."
He looked at me with disdain, but some interest. "What are you talking about?" I went on to read him his horoscope describing his requisite strengths (powerful; inspirational; humorous) and his weaknesses (contentious; emotionally unstable; repressed). Then I read him the profile of his corporate nemesis. They were exact opposites and on a collision course to destruction.
Like me, he was both shocked and surprised by the horoscopeís accuracy. I told him about the long-standing conflict between these rival Rams and Lions and painted in graphic detail its harrowing dynamic. He roared with laughter, informing me that it depicted exactly the tenor of his everyday interaction with this adversary.
As the fates would have it, at that very instant, his archrival walked past the office. "Hey, Carole. Come in here for a minute. I want you to hear this!" and he asked me to read his horoscope to her. "Sound familiar?"
Carole said: "Read my horoscope." It was both damning and inspiring at the same time. They both laughed uproariously together over this twist of fate that had them working together in the same company.
These two serious executives spent considerable time giggling, bantering and initiating the beginning of what turned out to be an improved ó albeit, imperfect ó business relationship.
Not everythingís solve-able
So what happened here?
Iím not sure. I think part of what transpired was that we got to discuss some harsh business realities without placing blame on anyone or having to chart a developmental plan. It was almost like the conflict was pre-ordained and caused by the hand of destiny. They were both just two hapless mortals unwittingly cooperating with the gods in fulfilling their corporate responsibilities.
Another odd thing was present that made this conversation different: humor. This is not a traditional characteristic accompanying our business discussions ó but something George Bernard Shaw must have seen when he quipped, "If youíre going to tell people the truth, youíd better make them laugh. Otherwise, theyíll kill you."
I think we may have lost the ancient art of the human touch in our serious work of executive development. Somehow forgetting that, ultimately, people change when they want to. Quantifiable data be damned if the timing isnít right. Maybe there are parts of peopleís lives that are simply not going to change. A disturbing thought to some.
Companies might need to just learn to live with the imperfection of the human condition as they strive for business success.
Another ancient piece to this puzzle of development is the aspect of mystery in the human journey. Some things just canít be defined, chartered or proscribed. The unfolding of the human spirit is sacred. It is a process we seldom fully know, are often unable to quantify, and are rarely in a position to manage. Weíre well served to recall the advice of the Zen masters for the requisite decorum when confronting the sacred: awe, reverence, surprise.
What to do
Even though Iíve gone on to use horoscopes in my regular conversations with leaders, does this mean we abandon all the tools and trappings of our trade? Not necessarily; although on a bad day that is exactly where I tend to wind up. As with the example of President Reagan, there remains a great work to be done and weíre best served by moving forward ó with or without the counsel of an astrologer.
But in that journey, having a conversation about destiny helps. Recognizing that we live and work with ambiguity helps. Knowing that people change only when theyíre good and ready helps.
And acknowledging that star-crossed mortals will always populate our business plans with both tragic and humorous outcomes greatly helps.
© Kenny Moore, 2002. Article used with permission.
About the Author
Kenny says, "If youíre thinking about writing me, give in to the temptation. I love getting mail ... and being influenced by what you have to say. Please E-mail me at kennythemonk [at] yahoo.com."
Kenny Moore is
co-author of ďThe
CEO and the Monk: One Companyís Journey to Profit and PurposeĒ
(John Wiley and Sons, 2004), rated as one of the Top Ten best-selling business
books on Amazon.com. He has over 20 years experience with change
management, leadership development and healing the corporate community.
Prior to his work in corporate America, Kenny spent 15 years in a monastic
community as a Catholic priest Ė doing a very similar kind of work, but
getting paid a lot less.
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Page updated: May 30, 2011
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