Sep 29, 2020

Leverage Your Inner C-Suite: How To Bring Your Big 4 To The Negotiating Table

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Week 3 of a 10-Week Plan to Connect with Your Center of Wellbeing

Effective leaders surround themselves with top talent. They assemble leadership teams that complement their skills and compensate for their weaknesses.

Exceptional leaders build the mindsets and skills they need within themselves.

Reaching that level requires developing four fundamental domains within ourselves.

The process begins by recognizing that we are multi-faceted, made of distinct parts with different functions. Just as our physical bodies have different elements that work together — organs, bones, muscles — the mind does, too.

Over time, we push the parts of ourselves that we like out front for all to see, and we do our best to hide the parts we dislike.

Last week I wrote that in minimizing those qualities in ourselves that we believe to be weaknesses we create a “Performance Gap” between how we operate now and how our most powerful self would live and lead.

The challenges of 2020 demand that we close that “Performance Gap” by recruiting all our inner qualities and putting them to work.

It was important to develop these parts of yourself even before this global pandemic struck. Now COVID-19 challenges us as never before, upending our lives, blowing up our business plans and taxing our emotional fortitude. It’s no longer optional.

We all have inner voices that help us negotiate the travails of daily life. Sometimes these voices debate one another inside our heads. One internal voice may beg us to keep our kids home to avoid COVID-19 at all costs while a competing internal voice pleads that the mental strain of isolation so damaging that the kids must go to school.

This crowd of inner characters with their constant commentary inhabits every one of us.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell described the vast range of our inner parts by calling each of us a “hero with a thousand faces.” Poet Walt Whitman expressed the phenomenon in his Song of Myself, writing: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

Teaching leadership to professionals around the world, I realized that mastering a “thousand” faces would take an awfully long time. And it’s not necessary. Instead I identified a handful of nearly universal voices — internal characters — that are fundamental to success in leadership and to satisfaction in daily life.

I think of these inner characters as negotiating parties with their own interests and preferred outcomes. Their voices have a range of styles, motivations and rules of engagement. Call them voices, parts, faces, or characters: I call them the Big Four.

The Big Four represent your capacity to dream about the future, to solve problems, to build relationships and to take action.

Think of them as your inner leadership team, your inner negotiators, your inner C-Suite. They are your internal Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief People Office (CPO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO):

  • The CEO — the dreamer who creates possibilities, sets strategic vision and gives direction;
  • The CFO — the thinker who analyzes data, manages risks and clarifies perspectives;
  • The CPO — the lover who cares about people, feels emotions and manages relationships, and
  • The COO — the warrior who takes actions, reaches goals and catalyzes performance.

These conflicting voices can lead to bad choices and ineffective action if they are uncontrolled, out of balance, and not working harmoniously.

My research shows that most of us don’t regulate the Big Four well, if at all. We amplify one or two of our inner team members — the qualities within ourselves that we believe have the most to offer — and diminish the others.

Leaving behind the other members of our inner C-Suite also means leaving behind their skills, knowledge and unique strengths. Connecting to your core of well-being helps you achieve balance among the different sides of you. That enables you to deliver on the wide range of urgently needed leadership capacities.

To lead in this moment means we need to tap into all four key parts of ourselves: We need our inner Dreamer to inspire people in virtual town halls; our inner Lover to empathize with frightened employees; our inner Thinker to weigh implications of our decisions amid uncertainty, and our inner Warrior to mobilize our teams from a Zoom conference room to take bold action.

Any business can get in trouble if it fails to envision possibilities, take a 360º perspective, care about its people, or deliver top-notch performance. As leaders, we are wired the same way.

To bring our most powerful, complete selves to virtual team meetings and town halls means leveraging the qualities we perceive as lesser into strengths. In this journey toward self-mastery, we must recruit those underutilized or absent members of our inner team and welcome back to the inner table.

As you get to know your inner negotiators, you’ll close some of your Performance Gaps and open the door to using the full range of your potential in a targeted, purposeful way.

Working together in balance, your inner C-Suite will put your most powerful self in the driver’s seat.

Next week: Managing “The Big Four” of your inner C-Suite.

Published on Forbes.com September 29, 2020