People are wired to have either more of an analysis focus or a people focus. In this first part of our 3-part series on these two different wirings that leaders have, Jim and Margot introduce the terminology and explain some of the differences, similarities, and common misconceptions leaders have about each other and themselves. Consider your own wiring and the composition of your own leadership team.
Jim [00:00:00] There are two kinds of wirings that leaders have: analysis-focus and people-focus. And sadly, there's quite an imbalance about that. In this episode, we talk about how to work with that and how to try to make the best of our situation, recognizing that we need to bring both those perspectives into our leadership.
Jim [00:00:27] Welcome to The OrgHealth Podcast: conversations about organizational health. I'm Jim Brown.
Margot [00:00:33] And I'm Margot Thompson. We're consultants and coaches to leaders who are creating healthy organizations.
Jim [00:00:39] We talk about leading at the executive level: not just the key points, the highlights... We like to go deeper.
Margot [00:00:45] Under the surface. We like to talk about what isn't obvious.
Jim [00:00:49] And maybe what isn't comfortable!
Margot [00:00:51] Right. And we come at these things with very different viewpoints. Easy, because Jim and I are very, very different from each other.
Jim [00:00:59] (laughs) That's true. But the good news is we've worked together long enough that we see our differences as strengths.
Margot [00:01:04] In fact, they actually allow us to create more health in our team and the teams that we help. And we're going to do some of that right now.
Jim [00:01:22] Margot, we have an important conversation ahead of us, because there is a pattern that we're noticing in the leadership teams that we work with. What's that pattern?
Margot [00:01:32] I think that we see that leaders have a way of getting to where they are right now. So they are the terminology "taking no prisoners" on their way up the ladder to the top. And then once they get there, they are having to deal with the people in their organization and get the results out of those people rather than just being self-oriented and focusing on their own achievement. So the need to understand the people around them, and the need to be able to communicate well, the need to be able to cascade all of those pieces through the organization makes it more difficult for them to follow through at that stage with what they need to follow through with to make the organization healthy.
Jim [00:02:17] Yeah. And, and the truth is that leadership is about working with people, having people follow you. And in the coaching that you do, I know that you find over and over that executives are at this difficult place of, they're very good at doing some parts of the work, except their role now is not to be doers. The role is to support the people beneath them who are leading and doing the work. So this kind of helps us understand. It's almost like there are two kinds of people in the world. It's way more complicated than that, really. But there are analysis focused people who look at the information and figure out answers. And then there are people focused, people who are very conscious of how decisions are going to impact the people that are around them and that they're leading. And ironically, at the leadership level, which is all about people, most of the people sitting in the C-suite actually don't bring a people focus.
Margot [00:03:28] So it's interesting because I think when you look at the difference between people who are analysis focused and people who are people focused, the ones who are analysis focused are using a way more impersonal metric. They're trying to see the value in any situation or in any object or in any person through a very impersonal, practical, logical lens. When you're dealing with others who are more people focused, they're looking at the values, they're looking at how people are actually impacted by the decisions that leaders are making. And the double whammy there is that the leaders aren't providing that layer of people with the focus that they need on their own results and their own actions and their own needs, because they don't, they haven't been used to that.
Jim [00:04:25] Yeah, it's not that they can't.
Margot [00:04:26] No, not at all.
Jim [00:04:27] It's just that that's not been their focus. That's not where they have developed some real strength from the years that they've been working.
Margot [00:04:37] Absolutely.
Jim [00:04:38] And why does this really matter? I would argue that the difficulty is that when we have an imbalance between analysis focus and people focus at the senior level, we don't have a representation of reality. Because if we look at the entire organization, it's a fairly even split between analysis focus and people focused wiring that people throughout society have, so we're kidding ourselves at the executive level if we think. Yeah, but we're doing a good job of leading our people. When in fact, half of them can't even understand why we're talking about things the way that we're talking about them.
Margot [00:05:20] Mm hmm. I think it's really more of a, of a bent towards a particular way of behaving and processing. There are, there's less difference between those two factions, I think, than it sounds like when you say analysis focus or people focus. I think that it's a true statement that both those who are analysis focused and those who are people focused are using an analytical, cerebral process to come to their conclusions. It just manifested differently depending on the way that they're coming at it.
Jim [00:05:56] Yeah. Well, and let's be really, really open with our listeners. Margot and I are kind of opposite in this camp and I'm in the analysis focus stream and Margot and I've been working together for over a decade. Margot, talk about how difficult it was for us in the early days because you're very differently wired than me.
Margot [00:06:21] It was horrible for me, Jim.
[00:06:22] (both laughing)
Margot [00:06:26] No, I think that, I think that there was a bit of fancy footwork happening in the very beginning, trying to understand each other.
Jim [00:06:34] Yeah.
Margot [00:06:36] There's... My default is always to think about how it's going to impact the people around me. I'm very focused on making sure that things are good for the people. You are way more about making sure that it's practical and that it makes sense in a logical way. I think that took some... took some effort to get used to each other. But at this point, I feel like we've combined the best of both into a really good, solid working relationship. And what I really appreciate is that the pieces that aren't natural to me, I can go to you and get a totally different perspective that helps me to be able to look at things in a more holistically healthy manner.
Jim [00:07:20] Right. Very brave of you to see the upside on that.
Margot [00:07:27] Does that mean you don't see the upside, the other way around? (laughing).
Jim [00:07:27] I'm not saying that at all! But I'm admitting that for a long time my default was I believed so deeply in how I saw things that I would dismiss your perspective and your reasoning. And this is part of what we see happen in executive teams. Sometimes there's actually, like, across the board, analysis focused leaders sitting at the executive table.
Margot [00:07:56] Often.
Jim [00:07:57] But it's also not uncommon that there's one person in the room, often the H.R. director—and not surprisingly, the H.R. director!—who's more people focused.
Margot [00:08:09] Right.
Jim [00:08:09] So that person sadly has to listen to all the analysis focused people dismiss their perspectives. Talk about what that felt like for you. And I'm so sorry that that was part of our history. But I know it was! And, and so when I see it happening in the teams that we lead and serve, it's like a stab in my heart because I realize they don't even know they're doing it. They, they're doing it because they just think this is getting the right answer. But there's someone in the room that's getting stomped all over. And I know that that affects you even more than it can affect me. So, yeah, talk about it.
Margot [00:08:52] Okay, so I'd like to go under the surface a bit here again.
Jim [00:08:56] Okay, that's good.
Margot [00:08:56] There are, there are multiple pieces to that conversation. So I think it's really important to make the point that both analysis based people and people focused people use their, use emotion-based considerations when they are deciding the criteria that they'll be using. So...
Jim [00:09:18] So.
Margot [00:09:19] I see the look on your face, Jim. (laughs)
Jim [00:09:21] No! I'm, I'm not disagreeing, but we have to go slowly through this, because I, I admit that I didn't believe it for a long time.
Margot [00:09:31] So as an example, when I think about what we've seen with each other over the last decade, I think that there is a deeper emotion behind decisions when you're using impersonal metrics than it actually looks like. If I use you as an example, I see how frustrated and upset it makes you when people ignore what you see as accurate, sensible and logical. The frustration and the irritation are an emotional manifestation.
Jim [00:10:05] If we have to admit that, okay, I...
[00:10:06] (both laugh)
Margot [00:10:13] Okay. And on the other hand, I think it's important to recognize that those people who are people focused, they are actually on a regular basis ignoring their own emotions. Even though you wouldn't think that—you'd think: this is an emotional person, they are people focused. But often they're ignoring their own emotions to maintain what they believe is right. So social considerations often rank very high on their list of what's important and their values. So it is very common for somebody who is people focused to put aside their feelings just to keep harmony going in an awkward situation. So in fact, they're lifting themselves out of their emotions, although it may not look like that to somebody who is on the analysis side of the equation.
Jim [00:11:00] Because it still appears to be emotional. It might not be your emotions, but it's still emotion, and, as a analysis focused person, I am under the delusion that I am... shelving emotion. I'm just looking at this factually and sober-mindedly and not letting emotion cloud my thinking.
Margot [00:11:29] And don't, like, I think that that's most comfortable for you. I think a point is that analysis focused people do not have a monopoly on analysis. They're just more comfortable basing decisions and actions on facts. And in the same regard, a people focused person is not necessarily inclined to be more emotional than an analysis focused person, they're just more comfortable showing their emotions.
Jim [00:11:57] You're reminding me of a crazy chapter in my history where... I grew up in a household with a father who was manic depressive to some extent, and I remember the day when he was upset. We were working—we were farming. I grew up on a farm. And he came screaming and shouting and swearing and swinging an ax. And I, I held up a two by four between us. And I said, "Dad, you're scaring me." And he dropped the ax and he said, "What are you talking about? I would never hurt you." And I explained that, "Yeah, but, axes slip and I'm not sure that I'm safe." And he was so upset that that was having that effect on me. My experience of my father was: he would be out of control emotionally. And perhaps this is a sickness that I still have to work on. My response was to not be emotional in my head. It was like I'm just going to be level. Which has served me well in some regards. I've been in... You've heard some of my early client stories of being in boardrooms where people are actually throwing fists at each other and I'm just standing in between them. It's like, this is nothing compared to an ax. So, not that big of a deal. I wasn't affected by the emotion in those moments, but I, I recognize now that I am kidding myself if I think that I do not have emotion flowing all the time. I'm not being honest with myself if I think that I set emotion aside. Truth is, emotion is affecting me all the time.
Margot [00:13:47] Yeah, and I think you make a really important point with the word control. I think that there are a lot of leaders who feel that emotion actually signifies a loss of control.
Jim [00:14:01] Yes!
Margot [00:14:02] Because they're in charge of an organization because the responsibility is with them. The buck stops there.
Jim [00:14:08] Right.
Margot [00:14:08] They feel the need to be in control of what's happening around them.
Jim [00:14:12] Definitely.
Margot [00:14:13] Yeah. The loss of control makes them feel like they are not able to make decisions that will be good for everyone.
Jim [00:14:21] Mhm.
Margot [00:14:22] And I think that that's a really important point.
Jim [00:14:26] Well, thanks for being with us for this episode, as always, on our website you will find notes that give you a summary of the key points. Check in there, because occasionally we're able to also offer some tools and look forward to our next episode as we dig deeper into getting under the surface of leading well in healthy organizations.
Margot [00:14:48] Thanks for listening, everyone.
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