Managing the Gray Areas


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Consultant and author Jerry Manas shares his slide deck on his book, Managing the Gray Areas, about the most common dilemmas most leaders face. Visit Jerry's website at

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Managing the Gray Areas

  1. 1. Leading with Humanity Managing the Gray Areas
  2. 2. A Tale of Two Paradigms… Get out of the way and let ‘em do their thing! Process is everything! Freedom Flexibility Engagement Creativity Process Discipline Security Order
  3. 3. Which Side Are You On? Process-Oriented People-Oriented
  4. 5. Rewiring our Brain
  5. 6. A New Approach…
  6. 7. “ True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.” - Winston Churchill
  7. 8. Seven Gray Areas
  8. 9. Individual Needs Organizational Goals Gray Area #1 How can I be sympathetic to my people’s needs in the face of organizational pressures? Vs.
  9. 10. What’s on your mind? The Day’s Mission
  10. 12. Case Study Bob is frustrated with his job. He’s tired of technical work. He wants to move into customer service. He’s a great technician… but lacks people skills. He’s supporting a sick mother at home.
  11. 13. Holistic Ethics: An Integrated Approach Virtue Ethics What do I stand for? What values drive me ? Consequentialist Ethics What would the outcome be, for the many and the few ( their needs)? Principled Ethics What is “right”? What am I obligated to do?
  12. 14. Not As Easy as it Seems <ul><li>“ Right” according to whom? </li></ul><ul><li>Am I obligated to my people, my organization, or both equally? </li></ul><ul><li>What if satisfying one causes damage to the other? Can I rely on my values? </li></ul><ul><li>Are my values in line with my organization’s values? </li></ul><ul><li>What pragmatic solution can I live with? </li></ul><ul><li>What questions must I ask? What am I missing? </li></ul>
  13. 15. Generalists Specialists Gray Area #2 Is it best to assemble a team of targeted specialists, or should I look for people who can do a little of everything?
  14. 16. <ul><li>Tips: </li></ul><ul><li>A generalist can validate gaps in thinking across the scope of a problem </li></ul><ul><li>Consider a “handoff checklist” or someone to centrally manage handoffs </li></ul><ul><li>Foster rapport between players to minimize handoff errors </li></ul>Sometimes ignore ideas and insights outside their domain Can oversimplify theories and miss crucial particulars Cannot afford to take on too many adjacent areas Cannot afford to dive too deep in any one area Don’t promote them solely on their specialty expertise!! Leadership Candidates Repetition and Focus = Implementation Expertise Broad exposure = Inclusive Diagnosis Specialists Generalists
  15. 17. Gray Area #3: Big Picture vs. Narrow Focus How can I communicate with simplicity, yet provide the big-picture context people need?
  16. 18. Gray Area #4: Structure vs. Flexibility How can I implement internal processes without hurting morale, stifling creativity, or alienating clients?
  17. 19. Structure Flexibility * Adapted from concepts introduced by Garry Booker, Project Frontier Outcome Outcome Outcome Actions
  18. 20. Exception: When Explicit Rules are Needed <ul><li>Safety requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Exact accuracy is needed </li></ul><ul><li>Standards must be adhered to </li></ul>* Ref. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First Break All the Rules
  19. 21. Gray Area #5: Vigilance vs. Delegation How can I ensure adequate accountability without resorting to micromanagement?
  20. 22. Some people need coaching. Practice Situational Leadership * ( Directing, Coaching, Supporting, Delegating ) * Ref. Hersey and Blanchard
  21. 23. But does it work? Should I focus on image/design, or on capability/function/quality? Gray Area #6: Appearance vs. Substance
  22. 24. Appearances Can Help… Or Deceive
  23. 25. Centralization Decentralization Gray Area #7 Should I centralize to gain economies of scale or decentralize to leverage local expertise? Vs.
  24. 26. The Integrated Organization <ul><li>Ingredients for Success: </li></ul><ul><li>Information </li></ul><ul><li>Shared Ideals </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships </li></ul>HQ Hub Hub Hub <ul><li>Role of HQ </li></ul><ul><li>Principles </li></ul><ul><li>Change Leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Support </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge Distribution </li></ul>
  25. 27. The “Through-Through” Relationship A Helical Progression toward Better Knowledge of Better Activities* * Ref. Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, 21 Leaders for the 21 st Century Improvement of Activity Improvement of Knowledge GLOBAL LOCAL
  26. 28. Four Themes of Gray Area Management
  27. 29. If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. 1) Ideals: Standing for Something
  28. 30. Shared ideals keep us rowing in the same direction
  29. 31. “ When values are clear, decisions are easy.” - Roy Disney
  30. 32. What About Growth?
  31. 33. Ubuntu: A traditional South African concept focusing on connectedness to a community “ Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to improve?” - Nelson Mandela
  32. 34. 2) Leading by Questioning
  33. 35. Socrates, 469-399 B.C.E. Why are you saying that? Can you give me an example? How do you know? What causes that? Then what would happen? What else might that affect? Is that really the right question? How else might we accomplish that?
  34. 36. 3) Systems Thinking
  35. 37. “ Didn’t Knute Rockne motivate the Fighting Irish, in his stirring half time speech, to “win one for the Gipper”? The never-asked alternative question: ‘ Would Notre Dame have won the game without the speech?’ I submit that what won the game was the training, conditioning, and coaching that began years before the fateful game. The system won the game, not the oratory . But my version, I admit, would not have made as good a movie.” - Peter Scholtes
  36. 38. The Causal Loop Diagram S=Causes change in same direction as the causing variable O=Causes change in opposite direction from the causing variable
  37. 39. Example: Resource Overload
  38. 40. 4) Empathy and Cultural Awareness
  39. 41. Anatomy of a Team Beliefs Behaviors Social Influences Beliefs Behaviors Social Influences Beliefs Behaviors Social Influences Beliefs Behaviors Social Influences
  40. 42. Behind Every Behavior is a Need Attention Freedom Support Trust Challenge Confidence Inclusion Respect Recognition Purpose Order Guidance Clarity Connectedness Accomplishment Security Understanding Fairness
  41. 43. “ Getting to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depend on the quality of conversations. E verything happens through conversation.” - Judith E. Glaser Author, Creating We and The DNA of Leadership Changing the Conversation
  42. 44. New Language <ul><ul><li>Co-Creation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We-centric (e.g., “What if we…” “Why don’t we” “Let’s…” “Can we..?” “How will that impact us?”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mistakes = Opportunities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Questions encouraged (e.g. “What would happen if…?” “How would…?” “Why?”) </li></ul></ul>
  43. 45. Putting it All Together: The Principles of Gray Area Management
  44. 46. “ No matter how far you’ve gone on a wrong road, turn back.” - Turkish Proverb* * Source: Dennis Littky, The Big Picture: Education is Everyone’s Business . Road to Gray Thinking
  45. 47. For More Information E-Mail: