This following blog post is an excerpt from Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes’ Founders Session speech, delivered at the 2011 Adizes International Convention in Vilnius, Lithuania. (This is part 2 of a 6 part series)

Mutual Trust and Respect

Why is MT&R so important for learning, and for changing? Because you don’t learn from sameness.

There is a Zen Buddhist expression: If all people think alike, none of them is thinking too hard. When you go to a meeting and everyone says, “Oh, I agree, I agree,” it is boring as hell. You don’t learn anything.

When do you learn? When someone disagrees with you. Granted, you don’t learn from all people who disagree with you. Some people have nothing to say but they have to say something. They waste your time. Ignore them. Look instead for people from whom you can learn something. These are called colleagues, from the Latin words for “arrive together.” Colleagues are supposed to disagree with each other, but they end up together. How? By respectfully exchanging information. That’s why we say, “May I respectfully disagree with my learned colleague.”

A colleague is someone who disagrees with you for whom you have respect. You respect him because he enriches you with his disagreement, and you enrich him with your disagreement. At the end of the disagreement you’ve created something new that did not exist before. It couldn’t have happened unless there was an interaction between people who disagree.

Disagreement is cross-pollination. If everything is the same, it’s called a cemetery. You need diversity in order to cross-pollinate. Ecological balance requires diversity, because diversity cross-pollinates. We benefit by being different.

That is what we are trying to teach people: to be open-minded, to learn, and to be willing to change. You don’t learn by contemplating your navel. I disagree with Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, who sat in a barrel trying to contemplate what life was all about. You will not find the meaning of life sitting in a barrel. I support Socrates, who went to the market, challenged people, and learned from the disagreements, discussion, and discourse. Get out and learn from others who do not necessarily agree with you. Learn from diversity.

That is what we are we trying to do with the Adizes Methodology: teaching people to appreciate diversity. But diversity can be constructive only if there is mutual trust and respect.

On a company level, we have been very successful. People start realizing there is benefit in diversity. The benefit lies in not rejecting our differences, but appreciating our differences, because they enrich us. That is what creates synergy.

What is synergy? Two plus three is not five; it’s six. The interaction between two and three, interaction between differences, creates a new value.

That is, to me, the meaning of “to be.” To be willing to change, to learn, to go out to the street, talk to people, learn from people.

 

Integration

We know that a medical doctor will tell you to listen to your body, because if you don’t listen to your body, you are going to get sick. Years ago I was practicing yoga, trying to learn from yoga what it means to change. I was doing a pose and my back was hurting. So I told the teacher, “Hey! You are hurting me!” He said, “I’m not hurting you. Your back is telling you: ‘I need help. I’ve been frozen for so long.’ Your back is talking to you. Not me.”

To whom should heads of companies and top executives listen? To the body: Listen to the workers; they’re the body of the organization. Too many companies have their head detached from the body, and the body’s crying; the body is hurting, trying to tell the head something, but the head does not hear it.

What we are doing with Adizes Methodology is putting the head and the body together, so the head can feel the organization, feel the pain, and do something about it. That is integration, God forbid your liver doesn’t talk to your kidneys. God forbid your heart doesn’t talk to your brain. The whole body has to be integrated.

In an organization, everyone is important. Integration must extend all the way to the workers on the line, because they know what’s going on. That is what we try to do, and that is where the real results are.

Listen to the body. Integrate the whole organization, from the bottom up. Listening doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, or that you have to do what they say, but listen. As the leader you still keep your independence. But listen! That is what we try to do in the methodology.

Once again, what does it mean to be? Not to know it all, but to be open-minded, having no fear of disagreements, and to learn from every problem, because every problem is really a chance for learning. Every disagreement is an opportunity to develop or be developed by a colleague. That is why we need mutual respect. Pay attention to the word mutual.

We have to surround ourselves with colleagues—colleagues are not necessarily management. Don’t look at “management” or “leadership” as elites in an organizational hierarchy. Management is a process. Anyone who can contribute to the company’s success is part of the managerial team. Everybody. Workers on the line are colleagues, too. If you’re willing to learn from a stone why not to learn from a worker? You will find out that people who don’t have too much education can teach you a hell of a lot, because they have common sense.

What we try to do with the Adizes Methodology is eradicate elitism. In Hebrew it is called talking to people at eye level—not from above, not from below, but at eye level. That is how you learn. That’s mutual respect.

Mutual trust is when I believe that you have my interests at heart and I have your interests at heart. We are in it together. Those who share common interests are called friends. A friend is someone you trust. Because my friend has my interests at heart, I’m not afraid to turn my back to her. She is not going to stab me, because if she stabs me she hurts herself, too, because my interest is her interest. We are one.

That is what the Adizes Methodology tries to do in companies: create a culture where people feel they are one, not us against them, not management against the workers, or workers against each other, or unions against management.

 

Healthy Organizations

The secret of the market economy that made capitalism so successful is bringing adversarial relations, competition, into the marketplace. The mistake is that this adversarial culture has penetrated companies. What is good for the marketplace is not good for the companies. Adversarial relations are even penetrating families: Look at the divorce rate.

It is good to have competitiveness in the marketplace, but leave it in the marketplace.

What we try to do with the Adizes Methodology is change organizational cultures. Our aim is not just to make more money. If a potential client says, “I want to know how to cut costs, and make more money,” they have the wrong consulting firm.

We are in the business of making organizations healthy, a result of which is that the organization will make a lot of money. We look at money as a result, not as a purpose. The purpose is to be a healthy organization.

What makes an organization healthy? Integration. When you are not integrated, your immune system is too weak and any change makes you sick. But when you are very healthy, change invigorates you.

We make invigorated companies. When there is a change, labor and management work together to make a needed change. In a disintegrated company, when there is a change, opportunity, or a threat, people start fighting, and as they start fighting each other, they miss opportunities.

In our forty years of experience, all our clients that work with the methodology eventually become leaders of their industry, or receive a prize for entrepreneurship, or for being the best company that most people want to work for. This success results from creating an environment where people want to work, and where they are not afraid to speak.

I have an emotional reaction to this last point: Many times I have wondered what the hell I am doing, working so hard, traveling all over the world, teaching, lecturing, writing. Why am I doing this? I have two memories that give me the energy to continue.

The first is of a company in Houston, which was doing a Syndag corporate diagnosis. There was an immigrant from Russia, an engineer, in the group. At the end of session, when we opened the discussion—with respect and trust, no finger-pointing, no attacking, but discussing things openly—he started to cry. It was very emotional. We asked him why he was crying. He explained, “This is why I came to America: to have an environment where you can talk, where you can share, when you can be listened to.”

The other experience was at the beginning of my career. I was working with a company in Atlanta. One vice president there was dying from cancer, and didn’t have much time to live. He did not want to sit at home and wait for death; he was going to continue to be of value until he died. At the end of the Adizes session, he came to me and said he wanted to drive me to the airport. The guy was dying, and I wondered why on earth he wanted to waste his time driving me to the airport. I suggested that I could take a taxi. He said, “No, no, no. I insist. I want to take you to the airport.” As we were driving, I asked him why. He responded, “I pray for you in church.” I was in shock. It was he who was dying, so why was he praying for me? He explained, “For years I tried to change this organization. I couldn’t do it. Finally, we’re changing it. It will happen before I die. Thank you.”

That is the business we are in: enabling organizations to change in a way that is safe, constructive, supportive, and loving. Truly loving.

This kind of change calls for a leader who commands and grants respect and trust. It is not easy to be that kind of a person. (I am not the model leader, either.) The reason why it’s not easy is because of change. A high rate of change threatens respect and trust. Change causes you to be tense: Why do we need to change? What should we do? What’s going to happen?

In Adizes we teach people to develop trust and respect, and nourish that culture, while the company is nevertheless changing. As a result, the company is very successful. We have a great track record, second to none.

Just thinking.

Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Stay tuned for part 3 next week.