The Genius of Opposites | Book Review

The key is to remember that these relationships are most successful
when opposites stop focusing on their differences and use
approaches that move them toward results
(p. 2).

Unity. Dr. Jennifer B. Kahnweiler's observations with many famous and not so famous introvert/extrovert duos over a thirty-year career (p. ix) correlate well with multiple Academy Leadership workshops: Energize2Lead (E2L), Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP), Feedback and Leveraging the Power of Conflict in particular. For example, the [current] individualistic, self-centered career path is shifting toward one of more collaboration (p. 4). Recall that compromise and collaboration are preferred conflict leadership strategies leading to gain-gain and win-win outcomes, respectively.

Five main chapters introduce five essential steps that successful opposites use to navigate the tricky waters of their relationships (p. ix). A useful Opposite Partner quiz (pp. 22-24), allows a diagnostic approach for prioritizing which of the five areas most require focus. Likewise, pairs with highly different E2L profiles (e.g. introvert/extrovert or compliant/independent) will benefit from the process.

ABCDE - Opposites.png

This review links stories in Chapters 3 through 7 (the five steps, respectively) with specific leadership applications employed.

Accept the Alien | Feedback | E2L

Recall the communication process schematic diagram in the Feedback - The Essential Connection workshop and how frequently we struggle with one or more sections. Kahnweiler finds these exchanges can carry misunderstanding, friction, and annoyance (p. 35). Taking the time to better understand what makes others tick, which comes naturally to those with dominant blue E2L profiles, is worth the invested time. A story about Steven Spielberg and John Williams illustrates how partners in all fields learn to read each other's nonverbal signals (p. 38).

Remember the significance of our instinctive traits: How we trust, how we learn, and what we listen for. Kahnweiler similarly contrasts (p. 43) introverts and extroverts (E2L red/yellow and green/blue combinations, respectively):

Introverts                                                    Extroverts

• Energize in quit time                                • Energize with other people
• Think about their ideas                            • Talk our their ideas
• Focus on depth                                          • Focus on breadth
• Get to know someone and                        • Readily share private information
   then share private info
• Thrive in one-on-one conversations        • Get energy from larger groups

One of the more distinctive and essential elements of our leadership philosophy is a strong commitment to receiving feedback in order to grow as leaders. Kahnweiler as well finds successful partners give each other updates and honest feedback regularly about how things are going (p. 47).

Bring on the Battles | Leveraging the Power of Conflict | E2L

One of the most revealing self-evaluation questions in the Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshop asks whether we seek minimum acceptable and preferred solutions in the early stages of disagreement. This particular question regularly has among the lowest workshop scores.  Kahnweiler cites Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas, in Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together:

"We've come to realize that even in the toughest tug of wars
we want what is best for Mulberry and each other."
(p. 53)

These findings correlate to Crucial Conversations techniques, especially getting away from our own point of view and focusing on unity, or common objectives -- an excellent positive use of energy resulting from disagreement.

Kahnweiler calls out energy differences (p. 59) and lists helpful questions (p. 61) such as "Am I letting my emotions hijack my rational thinking?" or "Am I letting my rational thinking hijack my emotions?" or "What should we do differently the next time a conflict arises?"

Six detailed solutions (pp 59-64) are offered, much like the seven Conflict Leadership recommendations in our Academy Leadership workshop:

• Remember Energy Differences
• Tell 'em What You Need
• Manage Crises Together
• Bring in a Third Party to Break Through an Impasse
• Take a Time-Out
• Walk & Talk

Cast the Character | E2L | Feedback

Occasionally, the three-dimensional E2L profile reveals opposite personality traits between two of the dimensions, such as a compliant (green/yellow) expectations [or adolescent] profile juxtaposed with an independent (red/blue) preferred [or adult] profile. In similar fashion, Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, found some salespeople have "ambivert" traits; they exhibited both introvert and extrovert traits (p. 69). This underscores the importance of understanding the difference between what someone needs (instinctive dimension), what someone expects (expectations dimension) and what someone likes to do (preferred expectation).

Kahnweiler recommends we Match Tasks to [Our] Type (pp. 78-79) - and as leaders we may go further by matching team members' job descriptions to their (preferred dimension) types. It's an amazing best practice, which allow us in the leader role to attend to fundamental instinctive needs, and frees up valuable time for coaching. Kahnweiler offers beneficial leadership advice in the form of On-the Spot Coaching Tips on p. 80:

Giving Feedback                                   Getting Feedback

• Ask "Is this a good time for             • Say whether this time works
  feedback?"                                            for you
• Be clear and specific about              • Ask for a specific example of
   what you observed and what              what your partner observed
   you are looking for                               if you need more information
• Ask open-ended questions:              • Paraphrase to make sure
   "Have do you see it?" "Have                you understand
   you thought about this?"                    
• Be specific about what you              • Acknowledge the feedback
   would like to see happen                     and consider a possible change
   next time the situation occurs
• Say thank you                                     • Say thank you      

The good coach champions, or advocates, such as the outspoken Brook; who sees part of her role as speaking up to senior management about the strong results Monica achieves (p. 76). Consider the contrary, the famous Jonas Salk, who despite the amazing polio vaccine, took all the team credit and subsequently never received a Nobel Prize (p. 74).

Destroy the Dislike | Conflict

Deliberate, active measures are usually required when overcoming passionate, yet opposite personalities. Kahnweiler offers the famous film critic pair of Siskel & Ebert as exemplars. Apparently, they made their greatest progress when they stopped competing, got over their initial contempt for each other, and focused their work on their shared audience (p. 85), or common outcome.

Keeping in mind the ideal conflict leadership strategy is collaboration, recall time constraints more often than not lead to use of a compromise approach. In both cases, using a common vision for alignment helps, as when Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker (p. 93) chose the blue-footed booby for corporate icon: "being worldly and informed, curious, constantly learning and taking your work seriously but not you seriously."

Unity and common vision may bring us and our opposites together. Or, when the introverted partner shuts down, the extrovert ideally takes steps to bring him out (p. 89). Kahnweiler shares Leigh Thompson's (see Creative Conspiracy) realization (p. 96):

"I need to find someone who drives me nuts, but that person
is going to be a good check on my behavior."

Each Can't Offer Everything | E2L

A Leadership Excellence Course in London years ago consisted of eleven attendees who hailed from nine different countries. We are in an age of collaborating with our customers (p. 102). Such diversity can bring out exceptional, synergistic differences, but it may also demonstrate How Each of You Can't Offer Everything Breaks Down (pp 104-106):

• One style dominates the partnership
• You ignore preferences (at your peril)
• You fail to prepare together
• You overlook necessary buy-in

Fundamental understanding of our differences, or taking advantage of E2L profile differences can help. Kahnweiler recommends we can match [our] energy to [our] customer's approach (p. 107).

Takeaway | AAR

A common outcome drives the entire process. As with an After Action Review (AAR), good questions may unify even the most polarized opposites (p. 117):

"What is the common goal we want to emerge from all of this?"

Note: Jennifer Kahnweiler generously provided a copy of her book for review.

JE | February 2018