Are you a gifted leader? Smarter than everyone else? Trusted like Lincoln? Or, would you just be happy to look like one?
Garrison Wynn, a Houston-based consultant and speaker who also heads up a consultancy called Wynn Solutions (there's more info at wynnsolutions.com), offered an entertaining hour-plus of insights during CUSC's Shared Branching Forum in Austin, Texas last week (cusc.net). The remarks were themed "The Truth about Success-Being the Best vs. Being Consistently Chosen," and were based, he said, upon research done with 5,000 top-performing individuals. Here is a look at some of what he had to say:
* "The problem is that people often know things we don't, but they are also often wrong," said Wynn. "The top 1% of 5,000 top-performers, when faced with someone who is wrong, don't use the word 'wrong.' They say 'I hear what you're saying I don't agree.'" That response, Wynn suggested, often leads others to begin to change their story so they look right in front of other people.
* For CU execs seeking to improve their leadership skills, the key is trust, according to Wynn. "Most books on trust say the same thing: it takes time to build trust, and you must do what you say you're gonna do. A lot of research shows what we call 'the truth about trust.' The truth is you've got people who have known you for five years and still don't trust you and people who have known you for five minutes and do. That's because trust is based on two things: compassion and competence. How do you demonstrate quickly that you care and you're competent?" The answer, he said, lies in the reaction from other people: "I felt heard. I felt listened to. It was collaborative. I could see my input in the solution."
* Wynn acknowledged, "It can be hard to listen to people...If someone tells you they have a problem and you say they don't, they will exaggerate the problem. Other people will think you are telling them they are stupid. And a certain percentage will sabotage a situation just to prove their point."
* "If you only like working around people whom you like, your influence is minimal." Real skill in managing people, said Wynn, lies in whether "you can motivate and work with people who you would not invite to your house."
* The most influential leaders, according to Wynn, are those who, when confronted with a conflict, can say "maybe part of the problem is themselves. That takes the emotional charge out of that relationship. What is means is that now you can work together."
* While the perception is that everyone has a different agenda, Wynn says that's not the case. "The truth is we all have the same basic agenda: love, money, prestige, multiple solutions for a single problem, and we want to look good in what we do."
* Ever sat in a meeting where there are a few hold-outs, perhaps someone new to the organization, when it comes to buying into a strategy or idea? "If you say there is just one way, people think you don't have depth of knowledge," said Wynn. "It's OK to say there are multiple ways to do something, but this one way we have found works best."
* Are you a senior CU leader who has yet to embrace your inner instant messenger, or are you managing someone resistant to change? "No one wants to be a senior beginner," said Wynn. "No one wants to believe that their values aren't as valuable as the day before. What the top 1% do is show the similarities between the old way and the new way first, and show that the old way is the foundation for the new way and your expertise and talent is valuable in this process. When other people see a senior person like you going in a new way they are going to follow."
* Maybe you really are smarter than everyone else-but that could be the problem. "Don't let your brilliance prevent you from making sense," advised Wynn. "The problem is about making sure people get it. If you are truly brilliant you may lack tolerance for people who don't get it. That's why most people who are really successful are of average intelligence. It is clarity, not genius, that creates a movement for change."
Wynn, whose bio says he is a former stand-up comedian, also dropped these lines:
* "If you're having a lot of personality conflicts, it's probably your personality,"
* Noting that the New York Times is written at an 11th grade level and is losing subscribers while USA Today, written at a mid-grade school level, is gaining readers, Wynn observed, "If you don't understand USA Today, you may just be too dumb to need news."
* "If you can't stand certain behavior, you may be seeing yourself. If you spot it, you got it."
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann<at>cujournal.com.