By Nicholas Oddy – Nicholas Oddy Consulting
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Gustav Jung
In the leadership development work that I facilitate with both individuals and organizations I am most often focused on the positive side of development. The aspects of development that might characterize the ‘positive’ include defining aspirations and goals, building new capability, understanding and managing complexity, and taking small actionable steps to achieve individual or group objectives.
While positive development can yield tangible results and help organizations to foster more effective leaders it has become apparent to me that this approach is only partial. A more complete developmental picture also requires a focus on the negative side. More appropriate language might describe the work as helping people to overcome their personal barriers to change. As the earlier quotation by Jung suggests, full development only occurs when we are able to release that which has a hold on us and limits our potential to grow.
One of the most powerful tools that I have been introduced to in order to overcome personal barriers to change is Robert Kegan’s ‘Immunity to Change’ process. Keegan is the Professor of Adult Development at Harvard University and based upon his research exploring people’s capacity to change he developed a process he calls ‘the immunity map’. As well as encountering inspiring stories of personal resilience and rejuvenation that illustrated a willingness and capacity to change he was exposed to numerous examples of the inability many of us have to change.
An example of our sometimes-chronic inability to change is his research into individuals who have a compelling (even life and death) reason to change but still fail to do so. Kegan looked at people with major health concerns who were told by their doctors confronting truths such as ‘if you don’t make dramatic changes to your lifestyle in the next twelve months you will most likely die.’ To his astonishment only one in seven patients who were delivered such an ultimatum were able to make the significant lifestyle changes required. So what limits our capacity to change?
It is Kegan’s contention that what often creates our immunity to change is a core belief that we have about ourselves that most often resides in our unconscious (or subconscious if that is your preference). He calls these limiting beliefs our ‘Big Assumptions’. While we may not all have big assumptions that stop us overcoming something like a major health crisis; to a greater or lesser extent we are all challenged by big assumptions that stop us from developing as completely as we might.
Although we are typically unaware of our big assumptions they can and do influence our beliefs and behaviours in profound ways. An example of a big assumption that lies in the unconscious of individual is: ‘I’m not worthy of success, I’m a fraud and one day people are going to discover this’. It’s amazing how many CEO’s and highly successful business people have an assumption like this eroding their confidence and self-belief. Keegan’s work suggests that the big assumption is often incorrect, inaccurate, or no longer relevant however they become so engrained and powerful that they can author our behaviours and sense of well-being. Other examples of big assumptions that I have heard are listed below:
• I need to be unique and different in order to be loved
• It’s not safe to be honest and authentic in the world
• If I’m not successful people will abandon me
• I need to take control in order to be safe and happy
• It’s not OK for me to speak up and voice my opinion
The immunity map that Keegan developed seeks to provide people a pathway to uncover their personal big assumption/s. By bringing our big assumptions into awareness we can work to overcome them and increase our ability to change and to grow as human beings. The process to identify our big assumptions can take anywhere between two hours and two days but typically follows the (highly-abbreviated) four-step process outlined below:
1. Identify a personal (or leadership) commitment that is highly important and has been challenging to realize.
2. Document the barriers to this commitment. What are you doing or not doing that is stopping you from achieving your goal?
3. Recognise why these barriers have been getting in the way and confront the truth about what is really worrying you.
4. Identify what you are subconsciously committed to based upon your worries and fear and define what you believe your ‘big assumption’ to be.
The process should ideally be facilitated by psychologists or practitioners familiar with Keegan’s work however the book referenced at the bottom of this article can provide powerful insights for people looking to undertake this type of work.
The big assumptions that people uncover are often primal in nature (the unconscious tends to work this way) and many have developed during the formative stages of our lives. The important thing to recognize is that they are just stories that we have been (unconsciously) telling ourselves and they can be overcome using the tests and processes Keegan illustrates.
The ‘immunity to change’ model may not be suitable to everyone and most healthy adults can live full and meaningful lives without having to confront the shadows that lie within the recesses of their minds. For those of us willing to take the journey however the immunity map can help us to overcome some of the self-limiting beliefs that stop us from becoming who we truly want to be. It is hard enough fighting the battles of the outside world, it is harder still when the toughest enemy is our very self.
Nick recently joined Mindshop and specializes in leadership development and innovation work. He delivers two corporate postgraduate leadership subjects for Swinburne University and works as a member of the Banjar team with Mike Boyle.
By Harry Kras – Family Business Resource Centre
Information about what’s going on in the world of family business keeps growing. Two Australian surveys have recently been released, the MGI/RMIT Australian Family and Private Business Survey and the KPMG/FBA Family Business Survey 2013 conducted by Adelaide University. The surveys are independent and address different aspects of family business, so reviewing the results in tandem leads to some interesting insights.
These issues are consistent with 2 of MGI’s top 3:
1. Lack of growth & profitably (no different to any other post GFC business)
2. A lack of planning and corporate governance
3. Exiting the business is a major dilemma
All of these issues obviously require attention, but as I’m a family business facilitator I’d like to focus on the issues that relate to the interaction between the family and the business and in particular those relating to business continuity, be it by sale or succession.
Some thoughts that occurred as I analysed the surveys:
• It is estimated that family businesses account for around 70% of all Australian businesses. The MGI survey has found that 25% of owner-managers are aged over 65, and that 37% of owners are in the 60 to 69 age bracket. This verifies what we already know. There is a baby boomer bubble that is working its way through our population which will impact on both the business and on the wealth and harmony of the family behind it.
• It’s been said that succession planning is viewed in the same light as diet and exercise – ‘great idea, I’ll get around to it one day’. This is confirmed by findings which indicate that though 65% of owners indicate that their businesses are not exit or succession ready, 56% don’t plan to do anything about it in the next 12 months! Unfortunately, like diet and exercise, succession is not something that will go away or be sorted overnight.
• The extent of business continuity planning is woeful. The KPMG survey highlighted that only
- 10% have a strategic plan in place
- 12% are preparing or training their successor
- 10% have an ownership transfer or sale plan in place
- 8% have a process for appointing a new CEO
Though many say that plans are being developed, it still looks like a lot is being left to chance.
• The KPMG survey found that 2/3rds of family businesses intend to pass the business to family members. This is consistent with the 44% that MGI found want to sell at some point. However the MGI study uncovered an interesting issue. 58% of respondents indicate that the younger generation are not as interested in managing the business as the older generation. So who will? Issues such as building effective management teams and identifying a non-family CEO whose values are consistent with those of the family business become major issues.
• 44% may well want to sell the businesses, but the question is – at what price? The GFC has depressed business valuations and it’s certainly not a seller’s market with so many wanting out. But here’s the dilemma. As mentioned above, 2/3rds of owners don’t believe that they are sale (or succession) ready yet more than half don’t plan to do anything about it!
• According to the MGI Survey 66% of owners believe that they have an adequately funded retirement program, however 1/3 of them are relying on the sale of the business, or ongoing family ownership, to provide the cash for retirement. So again, why the reluctance to act?
• From the current owner’s perspective there are a range of financial, emotional and control issues involved in stepping back. The GFC has impacted on superannuation and retirement savings, so personal financial security is a consideration and many are reluctant to let go until their coffers have been refilled.
• Letting go is also a daunting prospect for those on the brink of retirement. They currently lead a vibrant, purposeful and fulfilling life. Why should they willingly step into the unknown? Developing a life plan is crucial, yet KPMG found that only 9% of CEO’s have a retirement plan in place.
So what do we do with this information?
I believe that many family businesses are fast approaching the point of no return. Urgent action is required to plan for the future at a business, family and personal level. It may sound difficult, and it will invariably give rise to a number of contentious issues, but it is not as hard as it may seem. (To get you started we’ve attached a link to the FBRC Family Business Development Process below.)
As some of the issues can be difficult to address internally it’s a good idea to involve your trusted adviser. As KPMG point out, for most people developing a business continuity plan is a once in a generation event. Working with an experienced adviser who has seen it all before, and who can test your strategies and keep you on track will pay dividends in the long run, for both the business and the family.
To download the surveys click –
MGI/FBA Australian Family and Private Business Survey
KPMG/FBA Survey – Family Business Survey 2013
For a short video overview of the KPMG/FBA survey
FBRC Family Business Development Process or video
Harry Kras is a Family Business Facilitator with the Family Business Resource Centre – www.fbrc.com.au
1. Is your sales team full of relationship or challenger sales people?
Greater business complexity and uncertainty is driving a rapid shift in the way customers are buying. Logically this is also rapidly changing the requirements from you and your sales team to achieve success. The perception is that the requirements for a successful sales person in the current business environment is one that has a close, friendly relationship with the customer. However research as part of the book “The Challenger Sale” by CEB (a must read!) have demonstrated that those sales people who are “The Relationship Builders make up just 7% of the top performers in sales while those they define as “The Challengers” make up 39%. The Challengers have a deep understanding of the customers industry, challenge their views and love to debate. So while it is great to have close relationships with customers ensure you and your sales team adopt a “challenger” style approach to gain greater success in 2014.
2. Are you trying to be all things to all people?
Too often leaders in business are expected to be brilliant mentors, visionary, financially aware, sales savy, great presenters, strategic and much more in a long list of attributes. It’s near on impossible to be all of those things wrapped up in one neat package as a leader however socially that is typically the perception when you pick up a magazine or read a blog article relating to a business success story. The most effective leaders are those that have a great self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. They focus on their strengths and surround themselves with quality people to cover their weaknesses. Be careful of the trap of trying to be all things to all people and get clear on your strengths for the year ahead.
3. What’s on your technology stop doing list for 2014?
At this time of the year it’s always a fantastic time to look at what are the 20% of things you do that create 80% of the benefit and what therefore of the remaining 80% of things you do could you delegate or stop doing all together. Many do this for the various day-to-day activities / processes they are involved with but have you done a similar exercise with regard to the technology you have embraced? Between time on smart phones, blog posts, twitter accounts, email checking, phone calls, logging activity into CRM’s, posting to project management systems there is a HUGE amount of waste. Why not apply the stop doing logic to your current technology usage when planning for 2014 and reap the benefits of a dramatic increase in time / capacity.