This is the second post in the series about integrating new approaches to leadership into our corporate settings.
Like many of you I've participated in personality and emotional intelligence assessments and learned a whole bunch about myself. For the most part, what I learned was instructional. I am more outgoing than introspective, I am more feeling than thinking, etc. Bottom line, Myers Briggs, and DiSC, and EQ all contribute good information that can help develop self awareness.
And that's where the benefits stop, in my humble opinion. These assessments are not predictive or really even helpful to a team or group. The information is surface at best and situationally dependent. It might induce an impulse to change, but it doesn't provide the means to change.
What if we ‘discover’ someone does not possess strong interpersonal skills, or has low empathy? So what. We probably already knew that. What we need to know is how to work with that information.
Where to go for a system that allows the wholeness of a person to be embraced and accepted?
I found what I was looking for when I was invited to learn about the Native People's Ways of the Pacific Northwest. Their system is based on the oldest, most ancient and natural way of organizing a community of people. It's based on the animal kingdom!
Yes, the animal kingdom. Hang in there, it gets better.
Here's a real live example. A client was having trouble with an accounting person at her organization. All the performance evaluations and feedback sessions had not worked. In order to help her and her employee, consultants suggested that they take a bunch of assessments and then use the results as a basis to request better interactions between the team members, including this "difficult" person.
That didn't work either and a year later, this leader was frustrated and ready to fire her accountant. That's when she contacted me. We sat down and had a long discussion, in which she told me about her accountant, that he was a person who made good decisions, but had no interpersonal skills, and it was causing the team environment to suffer.
I said, "He has Badger Medicine."
She looked at me like I'd lost my mind. I explained that the Native People's Way was to see the beauty of each person through the animal they most represented. Here is what the Native People's believe about badgers:
"Badger is vicious and attacks with powerful aggression. Badger is quick to anger and quicker to pounce. The power of Badger is aggressiveness and the willingness to fight for what it wants. Badgers are quick to act in a crisis and they do not panic...Badger's are also quick to express their feelings, and they do not care about the consequences. They often insist on carrying the ball for the touchdown. This does not endear them to their teammates." ***
The Division leader just stared at me. When she recovered, she said, "That's exactly who he is!" to which I responded, "Pretty darn good if this person is your accountant, huh? That's who I'd want as my accountant."
This discussion provided a different lens for this leader to see her people in a new way. It opened up a conversation about this whole team and each member's "animal medicine" and became the foundation for accepting each person's individual unique contribution along with attendant personality traits.
Oftentimes, in corporate America there is no room for the less acceptable personality traits because there is no body of research that approves of or accepts people for who they really are, holistically. We ask them to change to conform and be more like the leaders in the organization. And then we wonder why our companies are falling apart. If there is no room for difference, there is no room innovation, change, or adaptation.
I dare you to try it! When a co-worker seems difficult, try to see what kind of animal medicine that person may represent (see reference below) and appreciate them for the beauty of what they truly bring to the whole.
And remember, animals are not envious. The badger doesn't look at the otter and say, "oh, how cute!" The swallow doesn't look at the eagle and say, "someday I will be an eagle!" They are who they really are and contribute to the whole authentically without judgment, blame or envy.
Wouldn't that be nice in corporate America?!
***Sams & Carson, "Medicine Cards"