The morning after the Brexit vote I received a smug email from an American friend which said, “the Brits had lost their long-cherished right to claim that Americans were significantly dumber than they are”. I had to wait almost 6 months for the election of Trump, before I could reassert our British bragging rights.
The juxtaposition of the word disruptive has never been so crystallised as it has been by the behaviour of Mr Trump and the lessons it carries with it for our Business Leaders.
Two years on and a few days after Mr Trump’s visit to the UK, much has been said about his disruptive style – some of my commercial contacts have trumpeted his superior negotiation skills in bringing tyrants, presidents, prime ministers and countries to the table with his abrasive and combative style, which they find both refreshing and effective. A style publicly positioned as a masterclass in disruptive diplomacy. Whilst others have taken to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to protest about the disruptive danger to our global economy, society and environment.
Depending on your mindset, which is often formed by immediate (emotional) pressures, the word disruptive can be both a positive and a negative, and depending on your mindset, you will require a different approach to addressing the Disruptors in or required for your organisation.
In the negative they can be: troublemaking, unruly, disorderly, undisciplined, upsetting, attention-seeking, turbulent; unmanageable, uncontrollable, unrestrained, truculent, fractious, divisive; errant, uncooperative, rebellious; disturbing, distracting, unsettling, noisy, raucous.
In the positive they can be: innovative, inventive, ingenious, original, innovatory, new, novel, fresh, unconventional, unorthodox, off-centre, unusual, unfamiliar, unprecedented, avant-garde, experimental.
One welcomes discussion, the other closes it down.
One listens to other views to understand, the other listens to retaliate.
One provides supportive arguments, the other sound bites.
One tries to convince, the other tries to cows.
One tries to construct, the other throws grenades.
But in their own way they can both achieve what they set out to achieve, with varying degrees of associated collateral damage.
It’s much easier spotting whether they instigate negative or positive disruption, than it is to know how to apply your leadership to channel their disruption for the benefit of the organisation, with minimum damage. I’ve worked with one or two Teams and Boards that have allowed the negative disruptor to continue (in the short term) in the hope that they might be able to provoke a reaction from some of their “inactive” colleagues – and in turn address, what is a clear performance management issue that they should be addressing separately.
The challenge comes down to the leadership style of the person at the top and their mindset; which is shaped by the environment in which they find themselves and the demands for results being made on them. For instance, have they been afforded the time for a root and branch culture change or do they have to deliver results fast to survive in the role.
Diplomat, Influencer or Danger, you decide what your situation needs but be sure to know how to get the best from the one you give your support too, with the minimum of collateral damage.