Last week I was in Dallas where my friend Helanie Scott, CEO of Align4Profit, was giving a two-day corporate seminar on Leadership Intimacy. Helanie advocates and teaches a form of management, rooted in Transactional Analysis, a style that is a realistic fit for the evolving contemporary workforce and is aimed at skillfully balancing accountability and engagement in a modern corporation.
It’s hard to not insultingly oversimplify a serious, original management approach in a short post, but let me try.
Scott begins with the thesis that employees are different than they used to be and want to be treated more consultatively. She bases her definition of intimacy in the word Boma, an African term which means “a place where one can dwell in safety.” For corporate leaders, this may mean transforming from being traditional managers to being employee experts. It also means moving away from a distant management style.
Scott, who’s clients include Pepsico, Cadbury Schweppes, Capitol One, Providence Healthcare, Dr. Pepper, among others, advocates creating a sense of corporate safety and intimacy through a process of executive attention based on a questioning process that trains executives and owners in a coaching, mentoring capacity, carefully balancing accountability and empathy. Her process strikes an equilibrium between Socratic dialogue (asking) and directive communication (telling). Each manager is measured on his or her tendencies by an extensive preliminary psychological test analysis, not dissimilar to Myers-Briggs, but based on the psychoanalytic, humanist, and cognitive approach of Transactional Analysis developed by Eric Berne.
The Align4Profit process seeks to create an executive paradigm that opens up creativity and a sense of ownership throughout an organization. Essentially it ideally creates a through-branded army of mini-CEOs. That dovetails nicely with what I am always striving to do in my own company, Corporate Rain International, admittedly with mixed success.
I think the hardest thing for any of us who attempt such a change is to summon the courage to be open, vulnerable, and honest with our associates. Yet still directive. ‘Tain’t something executives and and entrepreneurs can learn in business school.
Much of Helanie Scott’s teaching offers a practical, fairly simple and user-friendly tool for creating a greater leadership efficacy. My hardest personal obstacle for utilizing Scott’s methodology is summoning the day-to-day courage to stand apart (as The Boss) from my associates without separating myself from them.
Scott is South African and she frequently punctuates her leadership mentoring with the philosophy of Ubuntu, often cited by her countrymen Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Ubuntu is a philosophy of African tribes that can be summed up as “I am because we are.” Mandela, whose 92nd birthday was last week, has said, “Ubuntu is the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”
She recounts the following tale illustrating Ubuntu.
“An anthropologist proposed a game to children of an African tribe. He put a basket of fruit near a tree and told the kids that the first one to reach the fruit would win them all. When he told them to run they all took each others’ hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying the fruits. When asked why they ran like that, as one could have taken all the fruit for oneself, they said, ‘Ubuntu. How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?’”
I guess to fully apply Ubuntu one must ideally exist in a paradoxical plain between a sort of corporate communism and capitalism—a love for all God’s creation combines with a practical efficiency offered by the wealth creating process of personal enterprise.
Martin Luther King said this. (Sermon at Riverside Church in NY, 8/8/65)
“In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All people are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects you directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Thank you, Brother Martin.