This insight struck home, especially as I see this almost constantly in my Coaching and Leadership Development work with senior executives. Many, if not most managers, are left brained; number focused, cost conscious, bottom line obsessed, worshipping the ‘faithful servant’ managers. Their worship has served them well. Many oversee departments or command divisions, even companies.
And yet, in spite of their visible success, many are seeking...
Executives, some openly and some under a little persistent prying, do shed their veil of certainty and share their doubts about their onward journey. They are seeking the gift that they have forgotten. They realize at a fundamental level that “what got them here, won’t get them there” as Marshall Goldsmith put it so well.
Typically a senior manager, in my experience would have a “Herrmann Brain Dominance Profile” (HBDI®) profile that resembles the one below. This double dominant profile is one of the most common profiles - about 19% of over the two million profiles featuring in the Herrmann Database:
Briefly, each of the quadrants signifies a mindset; the blue quadrant is rational – objective, analytical. The green quadrant is about process, attention to details and avoidance of risk. The red quadrant is about emotion- trust, collaboration and a focus on people. The yellow quadrant is about the future- strategic thinking, experimentation and taking risk.
We are a combination of all these four different ‘selves’ or mindsets. We all have a unique profile - the way we think - with dominance in certain quadrants. The important point here is that the sooner we become aware of the way we think - the sooner we would be able to recognize and mitigate the consequences of the way we think in different situations.
Together ‘A-B’ quadrants constitute left brain thinking. Left brain thinking is about narrow sharply focused attention to details. Managers, who are more left brained see things in a more concrete way, pursue defined goals, measure progress and are articulate. Their focus is on facts, constructs based on data and not so much on the individual. On the other hand, the ‘C-D’ quadrants constitute right brain thinking - and those who are more right brained demonstrate a sustained, broad, vigilant alertness - a focus on the bigger picture. Managers who are more right brained, focus more on the individual than a category; see the world as evolving, changing, interconnected and are able to interpret situations in context.
It is this perspective that I find largely missing when I coach successful managers typified by the profile in fig. 1.
The Right Brain coaching conversation
The coaching conversations that I have with leaders, seeks to explore the power of the ‘C-D’ quadrant thinking and what this would mean for leaders in their context.
The budgeting exercise for a CFO was a period of stress for his team; he set targets, planned well and laid down detailed guidelines for his team to follow. Every year the result was similar, the quality of output was average at best, rework was the norm and in the end while the task got done, no one was really happy with the overall outcome. When we discussed this, one of the approaches that we explored was whether he felt the need to explain the situation to his team - communicate the implications, his concerns and his vision of what the budget would achieve. He was quiet and told me that while he took pride in his precise instructions and detailed planning, he had never really considered the possibility of listening to his team rather than telling and involving them as individuals in the task on hand. To his credit, he changed his leadership style and found that the energy levels of the team as well as the ownership of the task substantially increased. More importantly, the budgeting exercise was completed within the deadline with minimum follow up and the quality of the work was superior. The awareness of his thinking preference helped him understand the need for him to make the shift to a different way of managing and leading.
There is a problem with the nature of the two worlds defined by the Right and Left Brain. Reason cannot exist without intuition and the challenge today for leaders is to be ‘whole brained’ as much as possible in any situation. I believe, to succeed today, leaders need to pass the Scott Fitzgerald test:
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.“
The servant must use the gift well!
back to top ^