This article was based on episode 260 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get a slide deck to help you prepare for important conversations. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
Ask the most successful managers in the world about their outlook on life and you’ll notice a surprising trend: they’ll inevitably start talking about a mentor or experience they had growing up that fostered a sense of their own power.
From his research into this topic, Dr. Stephen Barden discovered that we develop a “navigational stance” to the world early on. This navigational stance is our basic assumption of our power in relationship with the world; whether the world can overpower us, is ours to be dominated, or if we can partner with the world and find mutual success.
Dr. Stephen is an accomplished coach and author specializing in developing top-level leaders and organizational cultures. He has experience in the media, technology, and communications sectors, including ten years as a CEO. Stephen is also the author of How Successful Leaders Do Business with Their World.
Stephen explains that our navigational stance dramatically impacts our behavior and response to situations. He walked me through a few of the key behaviors of successful managers who possess the winning mindset of a “partnering stance”.
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN WORK WITH YOUR WORLD?
A person’s navigational stance develops during childhood as they explore the world. Ideally, we develop a “partnering stance” or belief that we have agency to successfully navigate various circumstances the world throws at us. However, when things go awry, we may develop an unproductive navigational stance. The four common stances are:
Those who have gone through abuse may believe that “The World Is So Powerful”. They may hide from the world or use destructive, defensive tactics before it destroys them.
A few privileged people believe that “I Am So Powerful”. They might feel they don’t even have to bother thinking about the world, and instead just harness it to suit their needs.
Others develop an oppositional approach of “I Need To Compete/Prove Myself To The World”. They feel a pressure to make their mark or cling to an identity, always with a combative, winner-take-all approach.
Successful leaders believe “I can do business with the world”. They see themselves as powerful actors who can manage through situations as they arise.
BEHAVIORS OF THE PARTNERING STANCE
Through his research, Dr. Stephen uncovered specific leadership behaviors linked to the partnering navigational stance. These behaviors are how the most successful people approach work, colleagues, customers, and themselves.
See Your Organization As An Ecosystem
A manager with a healthy navigational stance will approach work from a holistic point of view. They focus not just on getting the work done but on building and sustaining relationships. Look at your organization like an ecosystem, where a choice made in one department will have an impact on another. This wider view allows managers to better understand how their work may have unintended consequences on other teams, customers or the business. When you regularly take this holistic perspective, you can make better decisions and maintain better relationships.
Encourage Your Team To Challenge Your Assumptions
Great leaders are not afraid of being challenged. They challenge their teams’ thinking and they encourage their team members to challenge them. We want our colleagues to not only feel free to challenge our decisions but also to challenge the assumptions that led to those decisions. Model this approach at team meetings by offering your own assumptions, asking what assumptions others are working with, and debating all the assumptions. When we allow even our assumptions to be challenged, we develop stronger thinking and are much less likely to fall into unproductive groupthink.
Do Your Best Possible Until It’s No Longer Best
Being a successful manager is about being able to pivot. We always want to be doing our best, but what’s best can change as the world or circumstances shift. When what you’re doing is no longer working, it’s time to take a step back and reconsider what’s possible. Sometimes you even need to rethink your purpose. Take time to review your purpose yearly. Examine your strategy, products and services, and processes to uncover if they’re no longer the best in their current iteration. Let everything be open for discussion.
Navigational stance is all about perspective. Do we see ourselves as always needing to prove ourselves to our colleagues? Do we feel pressure to compete against others, instead of building thoughtful relationships where everyone succeeds? Are we allowing ourselves to challenge not only what we do but why we believe what we believe? Before we even get to the work itself, we need to stop and examine the lens we use to look at the world. If we believe the world is a safe place for us to work with and explore, our team will also believe that they can get their needs met while doing great things together.
KEEP UP WITH STEPHEN
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This article was based on episode 260 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.