Bonding feels good but is a destructive strategy!

Saturday January 9th, 2021 2 comments

Almost nine years ago, I wrote an article titled: “Bonding vs bridging: One of the biggest cause of value destruction”. I recommend you read it (again?) as a complement to this one.

Bonding is an exclusion based reflex or strategy, inciting divisiveness and polarization against a common “enemy” (usually a weak placebo for the lack of a superior, shared and collective purpose). We have seen this lethal mechanism at work with the nazi or fascist movements for example. We also see it in action with the hooligans violently confronting the “other team” instead of supporting their own (again due to the weak purpose they have, uninterested in appreciating the game or supporting their own colours). Bonding tends to be some sort of an identity building and protective “animal” instinct, rapidly drifting into more or less explicit conflicts, blockages, rumours and most of the organization’s energy being inward focused and fear loaded.

Bridging, on the contrary, is a much more demanding but value-creating strategy. It is inclusion based, calls for understanding, respect and defines a shared agenda and Deep Intent. The behaviours one sees in Bridging Cultures are close from IMD’s ex-Professor Chris Parker’s list of eight Value-Building Behaviours:

  • Listen to understand (active listening)
  • Explore and be open minded (ask open questions)
  • Summarize what you heard the other say (both at the intellectual but also emotional level)
  • Support (at least validate authentically a part of what they say)
  • Challenge (what you have problems with or disagree with)
  • Conclude (clarify/decide)
  • Ask for time-out (when the discussion becomes heated and people don’t seek to understand but try to convince)
  • Offer feedback

A bridging attitude is not about conflict avoidance, nor “Peace & Love”. It is about instilling an adult-adult relationship, transforming people from internal opponents into collective problem-solvers, it is about changing a self-interest drive and divisive culture into a generous and creative one.

An old educational video (“From No to Yes”) described this process of transforming a potentially destructive conversation into a constructive one:

  • Step 1 Listen Actively: Show them that you understand that they feel strongly (recognition of the emotion being displayed), what they feel strongly about (their rationale), why they feel strongly about it (the why)
  • Step 2 Win yourself a hearing: Explain your own feelings, refer back to their points (start to bridge), make your points firmly but stay friendly (“Be hard on the problem, soft on the people” as HBS “Getting to Yes” project quotes)
  • Step 3 Work to a joint solution: Seek their ideas, build on their ideas (bridging, support aspect), offer your ideas (challenge) and construct the solution from everyone’s needs.

Bridging cultures don’t emerge by luck nor accident. They are an explicit choice made by the leaders and a constant effort, since, being a negative behaviour, Bonding is always our instinctive fallback behaviour whereas Bridging requires a conscious and permanent attention.

In a recent conversation about the future of our business, one of my senior partners, wrote: “I see a role for us to call out those who are unconsciously perpetuating division and prejudice. Our behaviour should not be to disagree with their position, but to invite them to reflect on the environment they are helping to create.”

Another of our senior members has, since four years, developed a program on “Critical Thinking”, which is the opposite of preparing a critical rebuff to what my opponent says but rather “critically check how I am listening to that person”…

Modest first steps in our collective mission to bring “Bridging” to the top of the corporate and, of course, political agenda? This is where we, as Enablers, intend to start from!

As a symbol, here is the prayer that Senate Chaplain, Barry Black, addressed to his colleagues Representatives and Senators, after the brief interruption due to rioters violently invading the Capitol… Another modest step… but so inspiring.

As leaders of the 21st Century, it is our duty not to miss the opportunity brought to us by the Covid Chaos, to reinvent a fair, sustainable and generous economy. Enjoy your 2021 Leadership Journey!

  • May we take an active part in changing the World in 2021

    Sunday December 27th, 2020 4 comments

    A friend and client, C.E.O. of a chemical company, wrote in reaction to our last blogpost: “Sometimes with brutality, 2020 has placed the values of Life back to the centre of our reflection. I believe that the Future will be different and I wonder if those hastily rushing to getting all back “as it was before”, are not setting themselves…

    Read the full article →

  • When ten observers of the World share what 2020 meant for them

    Saturday December 19th, 2020 0 comments

    In 2004, James Surowiecki (head of the Business Column in The New-Yorker), published a book which still fascinates us nowadays: “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations”. In it, he provides several examples where collective intelligence produced far more accurate, insightful or useful results than…

    Read the full article →

  • Leading Change: think before you leap (Summary)

    Friday October 23rd, 2020 2 comments

    Over the past 30 years or so of coaching and advising leaders at all levels, we have been struck by one frustratingly constant observation: the majority of change initiatives end in failure. Not all of them make the headlines, obviously, and some are only partial failures that can be neatly swept under the carpet. Still, the conclusion remains the same,…

    Read the full article →

  • Do what you think has to be done!

    Friday September 25th, 2020 5 comments

    Put yourselves into the shoes of an employee: A lethal pandemic has hit the World. Your business and political leaders have no clues how to react to it. A wind of panic blows… You are faced with a “Cornelian Choice”: Do I report sick or “at risk” so as to protect my life and my family from infection or do…

    Read the full article →

  • In disruptive times, it is OK not to know, but unacceptable not to lead!

    Thursday September 17th, 2020 4 comments

    Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a brilliant scientist and science-fiction writer. One of his famous quotes is “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread, winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge!” More recently, Etienne Klein (a French physicist/philosopher) quoted an amazing poll published…

    Read the full article →

  • “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” (R. Kipling): why sowing the seeds of defeat in victory?

    Saturday July 11th, 2020 2 comments

    It is 312 BC and the Roman army understands with despair that they don’t have a single chance to escape the trap laid by their Samnites opponents. They are surrounded and blocked at the bottom of a valley and throw their weapon downs. Refusing to listen to his father’s advice on how to treat the Romans (“Make them no harm…

    Read the full article →

  • Board members, if you have been fantastic during the crisis so did your people: So, don’t dilapidate the positive Covid-19 effect!

    Friday July 3rd, 2020 0 comments

    Costa-Gavras is the film producer who most impacted my youth. His movies offer a disturbing reflection on totalitarian regimes from extreme left to right. In “Section SpĂ©ciale”, he relates a historical feat of World War II, displaying the dynamics between French collaborators, members of the Resistance and normal citizens who decide to become heroic under the context’s hardship. Costa-Gavras shows…

    Read the full article →

  • Why we don’t believe in training

    Saturday May 16th, 2020 2 comments

    I recently wrote here an article warning on the fact that Webinars and Distance Learning were not to be discarded of course but would partially or totally fail to address the Ethos and Pathos critical components of any experience intending to produce a lasting impact on the participants. Someone shared with me after that, an excellent article touching a somewhat…

    Read the full article →

  • Leadership in the face of Covid-19: A Matter of Life and Death? (By Michael Newman)

    Friday May 8th, 2020 6 comments

    This post has been written by Michael Newman who kindly offered to publish it here   Who do we try to save and who do we let die? The dilemma has become familiar in stories from intensive care units on the Covid-19 frontline. Most doctors never expected to have to face this appalling choice, but it has been thrust upon…

    Read the full article →

  • Webinars are to Executive Education what Facebook and Instagram are to professional journalism

    Friday May 1st, 2020 2 comments

      Daniel Kahneman was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize of Economics, for his work proving that “Emotional Memory” lasts much longer than “Factual Memory”. Prof. Antonio Damasio earned his fame as top neuroscientist for demonstrating that  people move from intention to action, when their emotional brain is triggered; The rational brain is not sufficient. His colleague, Joseph Ledoux discovered that…

    Read the full article →