leadership 4|18
A plea for 3D
Spreng Executive Business Coaching GmbH | Hans-Joachim Spreng
Cinema, TV, printers and now... “3D Leadership”. Those of you who know me personally have probably guessed it already: “3D” is, of course, a Trojan Horse. But the end justifies the means. And I hope you can forgive me for that.
The “Jamaica coalition” talks in Ger­many have taught us once again how often communi­cation pro­cesses can go wrong, mis­under­stan­dings occur, and de­ci­sions are taken too late (or not at all) if audiences, spec­tators and stake­holders are given the runa­round, expec­tations for a clear direc­tion remain un­ful­filled, and the en­tire context is out of sync. I am con­vinced that a key reason for this lies within our compul­sory and often care­less pursuit of instant success. If we keep our communication – and ensuing actions – at a superficial level only, we lose our ability for “sublimation”, i.e. careful observa­tion, and ex­change efficiency for effectivity.
As a result, with a maxi­mum amount of effort and resour­ces and within a minimum space of time we achieve: nothing. No “Jamaica coa­lition”. Like most people, I don’t want to waste my time on empty words or sitting in a traffic jam – and wouldn’t we all love Amazon to de­liver within two hours in future (and collect the return package in three)? But being patient, simply waiting, obser­ving and under­standing is a comple­tely different story if it means that we can maxi­mise our success, or even make success possible in the first place.

Craftwork of 2017

Chart of
the week

This is craftwork of 2017. While I was listen­ing to a voice reading „A Little Life“ by Hanya Yanagihara, I was carv­ing lino­leum prints. This are the first prints on the wooden planks of my atelier while the sun threw sha­dows of the win­dow to the ground.

inspiring & vernetzen
Who are the three people you could send this idea to?

inspiring & vernetzen

Have you ever heard of the “Marsh­mallow Experiment”? A group of three-year old children were given a marsh­mallow with the promise that they would be re­war­ded with anoth­er if they didn’t touch the first for at least five more minutes. The chil­dren who demon­strated self-control, managed to wait patiently were, of course, successful. But those who were only focused on the nearest, imme­diately grati­fying goal (the marsh­mallow), gave in to the power of their craving instead of living up to the cultural task of post­pone­ment and deferral.

Leadership always requires the combi­nation of two alleged oppo­sites to be success­ful: cognition and intuition, rationale and instinct, pa­tience and speed. But let’s get back to our Jamaica coa­lition. What if the nego­tiating parties had taken the time to find a more dis­tinctive ex­pression for their project – maybe something like “Mindshifting” in­stead of “Jamaica”? The talks would probably have had a better chance simply because Jamaica con­jures up images of palm trees, reggae, smok­ing joints, and cocktails on the beach rather than serious deliberations.

By the way, the long-term obser­vation and monitoring of the Marsh­mal­low Experiment showed that those children who could post­pone, i.e. “sublimate”, were gener­ally more success­ful than those of the compari­son group – not only in their profes­sional roles, but also in all other areas of their adult lives.

“Take it slow when you’re in a hur­ry”, my granny used to say. It’s common wisdom. So, for your next communi­cation task I recommend trying the 3D communication model: Dialogue, Discussion, Decision

I am convinced that without dia­logue, there is no solution space for construc­tive dis­cussions and deci­sion-making. Etymologically, dia­logue derives from the Ancient Greek terms of “dia”, which means “through, per”, and “logos”, which stands for a variety of meanings such as "word", "speech", "opinion", "discourse”. A dia­logue is a process of mutual under­standing, charac­terised by “AND”, not “BUT”. This stands in contrast to a dis­cussion. A dis­cussion implies debate, argument, and empha­sizes the differences – the “BUT”. The decision, though, only becomes possible when both the dia­logue and the dis­cussion provide the re­quired frame and direction for a fruit­ful solution.

I strongly recommend establishing a communi­cation cul­ture that puts the dia­logue (the “AND”) before the dis­cussion (the “BUT”). This is particu­larly diffi­cult for us Germans, for whom expressing “BUT” is consid­ered a sign of intellect.

Methodologically, the 3D order cre­ates deceleration. It re­quires active listening and under­standing, and authentic and meaningful conversa­tion. Try to avoid rhetoric in phase one (dialogue), and instead encour­age relevant contributions that are designed to meet needs and lead to true under­stan­ding before enter­ing into the dis­cussion phase. Try also not to intermix the two phases. This type of 3D leader­ship will en­large your solution space through better under­standing, greater trust and more stringent differences (dis­cussions), and lead to better and more sustain­able decisions. This does not contradict the notion, though, that a quick decision tops a slower one.

You might now be thinking: “So what’s new? This is nothing I don’t already know”. Perhaps. But... are you putting it into practice? Maybe my Trojan Horse works. Maybe, the next time you read or hear “3D”, you will be reminded of my words.