Change the posture of your dialog

Ok, I will admit it; I do not have the best posture. I often find myself hunched over my laptop or slouching in a meeting, but posture is important. Slight changes in posture can have important long run impacts on overall health (e.g. less back pain). This is also true in sports – I grew up playing competitive golf and I remember every instructor stressing the need for good posture at address of the ball. Standing too upright or leaning over too much invited a whole host of issues. Standing in the proper athletic position (think Tiger Woods) increases the likelihood of executing the shot as desired.

So how does this relate to strategy? I asked myself the same question when I came across this section in Playing to Win. According to Lafley and Martin, changing the posture of dialog at P&G was crucial to helping P&G develop and execute successful strategy. Here’s why (from PTW):

No individual, and certainly not the CEO, would try to craft and deliver a strategy alone. Creating a truly robust strategy takes the capabilities, knowledge, and experience of a diverse team – a close-knit group of talented and driven individuals, each aware of how his or her own effort contributes to the success of the group and all dedicated to winning as a collective.

So what did Lafley and Martin do to help foster the collaboration necessary to win? They changed the dialog from advocacy (arguing for your position) to assertive inquiry. (aside: can the internet please create an “assertive inquiry” entry on wikipedia – it doesn’t exist yet!)

Here is the framework that Lafley and Martin installed (aside: I would love to know how)

6-3-2013 7-41-22 PM

Like my hero, Nate Silver, I like to deal in probabilities. I get extremely frustrated when someone on the opposite side of an issue as me, will not admit that there is some non-zero probability that he or she is wrong. That posture feels arrogant and prideful – the opposite of the collaboration that is needed to win.

I love the humility embodied in the questions above. By asking questions, you signal to the other person that you care about their view and you want to hear more. You admit that you could be wrong and you want the group to get to the best answer rather than be right.

As I mentioned above, I am fascinated to know exactly how Lafley and Martin affected this change in dialog at P&G. I have a general idea:

Step 1: CEO begins using assertive inquiry

Step 2: CEO’s direct reports see that assertive inquiry is important and follow suit

Step 3: Assertive inquiry works its way through the organization

So what do you do if your CEO, boss, partner, etc likes to advocate and states their opinions as facts? Try assertive inquiry to get some insights into others thought process. In other words, start with yourself and change the posture of your conversation.

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