I've become really interested in polarity leadership as a technique for coaching and supporting leaders of change. Given the complex and constant change in our current environment, polarity management is a great technique to balance these complexities.
Polarity management isn’t a new idea – it’s been around for decades but it's distinct from problem solving. The theory goes that a problem has one unique right answer – polarities are sticky situations that require you to focus on two interdependent, but diametrically opposed right answers – sound familiar????
For example – a polarity might be restructuring and reducing the size of a company (something I am all too familiar with). You need to focus on the costs but, importantly, also the people. But these solutions pull in opposite directions and are not a problem to be solved. They exist together. It is cost AND people.
Like Taoism (an ancient spiritual teaching), Polarity management works by acknowledging and balancing these dualities.
You create a long term resolution by mapping the nature of the polarities, so the leader can become aware of the ups and downs of each side. For example cost savings and over spends, people engagement and potential responses – what would they mean? A map emerges that paints a picture of why balance is needed.
But most importantly we start to see how energy might flow from one side of the polarity to the
other. How does cost saving impact people response?
Where must the balance be struck? Where do we need to delicately trade-off and where will we pay the price?
How does cost saving impact people response? Where must the balance be struck? Where do we need to delicately trade-off and where will we pay the price?
Here's a sample of how your would create a Polarity Map to start your coaching conversations with leaders in your organisation.
The polarity map allows everyone to see, and agree, on the actions to the taken, rather than assume.
And when risks emerge, consideration is given to both sides of the polarity – cost and people in this example, rather than only one side of the equation.
When it comes to working on the complex challenges of today's businesses, a polarity map might be just the ticket.
What do you think? Are you using polarity management for change work? How could it help you in coaching, supporting or leading change?
Talk with us about this, and the many other techniques we use in our approach to Change Design - where we go beyond Change Management and challenge the traditional notions of change!