Charles J. (Chuck) Palus, Ph.D., is an Honorary Senior Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership (retired 2020). He studies, teaches, and develops leadership as a relational process within the context of the vertical transformation of leadership cultures. He is co-founder of CCL Labs, a community-based innovation laboratory with a line of products including Visual Explorer™, Leadership Essentials™, Transformations™, and the Early Leadership Toolkit™. He is co-author of the award-winning book The Leader’s Edge; and the papers: Making Common Sense: Leadership as Meaning-Making in a Community of Practice, and Evolving Leaders. His work appears in Leadership Quarterly, Harvard Business Review, the Harvard Business School Handbook for Teaching Leadership, the CCL Handbook of Leadership Development, the Handbook of Action Research, and the Change Handbook.
John McGuire, Principal of the McGuire Consultant Group, an Honorary Senior Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, co-founder and practice leader of CCL’s Organizational Leadership Transformation practice, and an Action Inquiry Associate charter member. He specializes in Vertical Leadership Culture as the core mechanism in his change leadership methodology for transforming executives, their teams, and organizations. As an action-research practitioner, speaker, and author, John’s innovation essentially reforms traditional change methods to be consciously driven toward senior leadership’s culture, developing interdependent beliefs and practices. Since 2006 his publications comprise the book Transforming Your Leadership Culture, and articles in Leadership Quarterly, Forbes, and the Washington Post. John has assisted organizations across market sectors in transforming toward Interdependent Leadership Cultures and previously practiced vertical transformation through senior business management positions across industries. He holds master’s degrees from Harvard and Brandeis Universities.
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Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate, and conversations-to-text do not always translate perfectly. I include it to provide you with the spirit of the conversation.
Scott Allen 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome to the phronesis podcast. Thank you so much for being with us today. Today our guests we're continuing the series on adult development and leadership at that intersection. As always, I have my co-host, Jonathan Reams, with me. He had edited a book called Maturing Leadership, and John McGuire and Chuck Paulus both have a paper in that edited volume. John McGuire is the principal of the McGuire Consulting Group an honorary senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, co-founder of CCL's organizational leadership, and transformation practice, and an Action Inquiry Associate Charter Member. He specializes in vertical leadership culture as the core mechanism in his change leadership methodology for the transformation of executives, their teams, and organizations. As an action research practitioner, speaker, and author, John's innovation essentially reforms traditional change methods to be consciously driven toward senior leadership's culture, developing interdependent beliefs, and practices. embedded in leaders' strategic mindsets and implemented through organizational systems, structures, and processes, the MCG transformation methodology improves the performance of collective leadership and organizational operations simultaneously. Since 2006, his publications comprise the book Transforming Your Leadership Culture, professional journal articles from Integral Review and Leadership Quarterly, to forbes.com and HBR. Multiple handbook chapters from Sage to Harvard Business School to CCL, Op-Ed columns in the Washington Post and other popular press, and an action research series of CCL vertical white papers. John has assisted organizations across market sectors and transformation toward interdependent leadership cultures, and previously practiced vertical transformation through senior business management positions across industries. He holds a master's degree from Harvard, and Brandeis Universities. Our other guest, Chuck Paulus is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, responsible for research, innovation, and product development. He is a co-founder of CCL Labs, a community-based innovation laboratory with products including Visual Explore, Leadership Essentials, Transformations, and the Early Leadership Toolkit. He has researched, partnered, and published widely on the topic of interdependent leadership, leadership culture, and vertical development policies a contributor to the CCL, Handbook of Leadership Development, and the CCL, Handbook of Coaching. He holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Boston College. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us today. We, are so thankful to have you here. And Jonathan, I know that you want to jump in with some questions, I know that you're chomping at the bit, and you have a list that you want to get to. But before we begin, Chuck and John, is there anything else people need to know about the two of you?
Chuck Paulus 3:00
Well, there's a lot that they should know about John and me, we've been friends for about 20 plus years, as well as colleagues, and we go on adventures together, we research together, we work with clients together, we write together, we have a good bond.
John McGuire 3:14
Yes, we have a lot of interests in common. We both love the outdoors. And I think the thing that strikes me most is that we have both a kind of commitment in the world of art. And a commitment to the world of science. And we're very interested in the integration of individuals and collectives and societies are the kind of balance between those basic human qualities.
Jonathan Reams 3:42
So one of the things that I thought is interesting about you guys' work is that, to me, there's this bridge between CCL and their work. And there's been some podcast conversations around that. And Bill Torbert and the wonderful grand world he has opened up for so many of us. And could you guys start by saying a little bit about how you guys are bridging those worlds or how they fit together?
Chuck Paulus 4:10
Yeah, I could comment on that. First of all, I want to say that CCL has just celebrated its 50-year anniversary in doing leadership development, and from the very getgo, they were doing a transformative work period, which I think is just amazing. And they didn't frame it back then as something called vertical. But you know, vertical has been in the air for a long time. Erik Erikson, for example, was one of the early entrants, and all that it's really part of the bloodline at CCL. And then we met Bill Torbert. Oh, I, you know, I met him in graduate school at Boston College, so over 30 years ago, and I met Bob Kegan, even sooner than that. So I've had my toe in this water for a long time. And when I came to CCL, I found out that hey, you want to go into people's offices that shut the door and pull out Bob Kegan's work, and they'd say, "Hey, have you met Bob Kegan? What's the like?" you know, and so there was this whole underground at CCL vertical. And then I do remember John coming into the organization and saying something like, how come the organization signs on to this? And I said, Hey, John, we're here. Let's do it. And oh, around that same time, 20 years ago, we were in dialogue with Bill Torbert, Susanne Cook-Greuter, and a number of others. So it's always been there. And I'll tell you, and this gets into the topic of what we're talking about. The vertical stuff seems hard to approach directly. And maybe that's one of the reasons it was sort of in the water, but you know, not in the air, so to speak, is because people have misconceptions about it. It's a complicated topic. People overcomplicate it. And so we were sort of putting it aside. And so Bill Torbert really obviously helped us a project head-on, you know, he's, he gave us the kind of courage to be academic and intellectual and professional about our work. And so that's the genesis of it.
Jonathan Reams 6:00
I noticed you mentioned that people would "close the door." So I get the feeling that it was a little bit underground, and maybe not safe. So was there active resistance to the ideas? Or was it just not considered credible? Well, what was your take John, when you came in?
John McGuire 6:17
Well, I was so relieved to find Chuck because I found a certain, very certain resistance to anything that had to do with collectives. Although there was a gentleman who had preceded me who had done some work as teams, and it was acceptable at that level, that to move beyond the individual into the culture was not invited, right, at first, we had to sort of make room for that and make way for that, and I think it was Torbert's book in the 80s, of Managing the Corporate Dream in which he first suggested that there was both individual and collective possible in the world of research and development and action research and in fact that the substance of action inquiry itself, was involved in that. And that changed my life when I read that book because I would have grown up in that Harvard, that integrated school out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where all these people came together, that were studying adult development and vertical work, from the points of view of identity to cognition to morality, even to stages of faith. So culture was embedded in the idea of, for me from the beginning
Jonathan Reams 7:25
So one of the things that I think is quite interesting in your chapter is that you focus on polarities. So why use polarities as a lens to deal with vertical?
Chuck Paulus 7:38
Yeah, so the polarity that got us started on all this is the polarity of individual and collective or individual and relational is sometimes the language used. And when we got to CCL, CCL was very much an "individual heroic leadership" kind of environment. It was perhaps the epitome of Western civilization of heroic leadership, right? Were you important individuals, you know, generals, from the military, corporate leaders, I mean, it was very heady stuff! And they were all mostly men at first, the elite leaders of their field. And the idea was that you really focus on each of those individuals and develop them as much as you can off-site away from their context, then you put them back in their pond and see what happens. And of course, one thing that happened when they went back to their pond is the ponds change them back to whatever they used to be; not in every case, there's a lot of transformational work that happened, but very much of an individual focus really was sort of Kegan in our heads, I think at least it was for me. And we started writing about, actually, we wrote a paper some of you out there might have read called Making Common Sense: Leadership as Meaning Making in a Community of Practice, which introduced the idea that meaning-making was a collective endeavor in which sure, individual leaders participated. But the important thing or equally important thing was that there's a collective that's responding, and that idea later became our idea about leadership culture. And you know, that was really the thing that was pushed back against the hardest because the cultural paradigm of the heroic leader was so embedded that people just didn't want to hear the other side of it. And we realized that there was the tension in this. Well, for one thing, because we got smacked over the head with it. People said, "collective community, so you don't think individuals are important to you?" And we're like, "oh, wait, no, that's not the case at all, like excuse us!" But to be fair, we had punched so hard in the other direction that people did get the actually real impression that we were disparaging the individual leader somewhat. And I think we had to make a course correction. And it was a maturing, honestly, on our part, to say yes/both, and we just have to be adept at the both/and part of that, and I think we did become adept at both individual and collective and we saw it as kind of a tension. It wasn't just, you know, you had both. And that was it. It was a kind of attention. And then we started looking around, and there were lots of other tensions in the field. So we explored those. And that was really the genesis of the chapter actually, is that we said, hey, we got one polarity, right, let's, let's unpack the others and see what happens. And I think it was good.
Scott Allen 10:20
So when we talk about polarities, are we going straight to the work of Barry Johnson here? Or is there some other foundational source you would draw from for listeners?
Chuck Paulus 10:30
I would just say it's not important to disparage Johnson's work. We know Barry; I actually had the pleasure of teaching vertical development to Barry Johnson with some colleagues. So that was incredibly fun. And actually, after that was over, I said to Barry, you know, Barry, what do you think of all that, you know, how are you processing that and a barrier without actually speaking, it was pretty cool. He walked up to a flip chart, put seven dots on a flip chart in a circle, right for the seven stages, and then started drawing loops around them. All right, I wish I had saved that flip chart as an artifact from our field. But of course, he said that the stages are multarity. In his later language, the stages themselves are part of a multarity, and they're all sort of functioning in tension with one another. But in the paper, we actually draw on some of the thinking of, you know, Chinese philosophy, the Yin/Yang, kind of complementary dualities idea. So in a sense, it doesn't matter, It's really this underlying Yin/Yang idea of balance of things that seem very different, but they're, in fact, a unity. And that's what we want to emphasize.
John McGuire 11:36
So Chuck, I would just say in terms of the question about, you know, polarities, it was our observation for a very long time that organizations that are interested in transformation, or begging for some kind of experience and capability that's post-conventional, to be able to go beyond either/or thinking to move into some kind of critical thinking, to move into both and thinking, almost always, in our experience was required, because the strategies themselves that they've constructed, were basically post-conventional, interdependent, and require that that kind of leadership capability. So, therefore, this interest in polarities was a requirement at the basic level for individuals in their collective to move beyond their own limits and restrictions.
Jonathan Reams 12:29
I think you'd said something quite interesting there, John; I can imagine many organizations draw up or conceive of strategy in a more post-conventional way. But when they turn around to act, they somehow... it falls out the window or falls off the scaffolding. And you talked in the chapter about an imbalance in how vertical leadership development is expressed and experienced. And I wonder if this is a touch of the express the strategy in a way that's very empowering and post-conventional, but the experience of what people know how to do with it seems to lack something. So is this the tension that you're speaking to?
John McGuire 13:14
Yes, I believe it absolutely is, in our Vertical Leadership Culture practice, around the focus of individual and collective. It was, in fact, that the breakthrough was to help people understand their levels of readiness. And one of the reasons that we accelerated the success factors from only one out of four organizations actually achievING any significant change they set out. And we significantly improved that simply by helping executive teams understand, "no, you're not ready for that strategy; you're going to fail, don't give another consulting company 25 million." And so we actually help them come to a divide in which they understood, "oh, we're not ready, we need to get, we need to go get ready, or we are ready. We're going to advance now into using this methodology."
Scott Allen 14:01
And John, what were some indicators that accompany wasn't ready or that the team wasn't ready?
John McGuire 14:06
Well, Chuck, I would like for you to talk a little bit about, you know, our tools and our practices in the way that we did that because our tools were all designed around the kind of qualitative data that was generated by the clients themselves. Rather than being consultants coming in and measuring them and telling them what was wrong. We experientially helped them understand and come to the realization of "oh, this is conventional, you know, conformance thinking, and this is post-conventional, sort of interdependent thinking and acting and influencing"
Jonathan Reams 14:38
you guys talk in the book about gasoline or spotlighting vertical development. And so what I think you're talking about, John, is that you built a lot of scaffolding so people can experience something without getting geeky about the theory. So, Chuck, do you want to describe some of those tools for that?
Chuck Paulus 14:56
Yeah, that's a good point, Jonathan. When we go into a room and work with the senior team, we would never, or rarely, I suppose, talk about vertical development except in a sort of offhanded way. Because, you know, again, it scares people. It's too intellectual. It's too academic. It's a little too unbalanced. Right? And so what we did is we built some friendly, inviting tools to get a dialogue going with teams, then that is a part of action inquiry with Bill Torbert has really nicely defined as action Incorporated, which is, by the way, why we really love working with Bill, because he's one of the people in the field that really have stressed this idea of action inquiry, which is being mindful at the moment to possibilities and then acting on them and reflecting on them. And that was the spirit we brought to senior teams previous to that CCL, really, and this is what actually happened, that CCL teams would go in and teach people that stand up in front of the room, much like they would in a classroom and treat it like a classroom. And you know, hey, they're getting paid as the experts, and that spend, you know, half the day on the podium saying, this is the result of your tests. And this is what you should do. And this is how you are; this is how you have compared to other organizations; any questions, goodbye. And that's what we understand as expert action logic. And so we were trying to nudge the teams toward action inquiry through saying, okay, a tool, like we fondly called it, the snowman. And surprisingly, never got any resistance to the gender on a gender basis. But I think that would be different these days. But somebody called it a snowman; it's just sort of a loose Venn diagram with three circles stacked, hence the snowman. And the bottom circle was dependent. The middle one was independence, and the top one was interdependence. And those words, the language was fortuitous, as language often can be. And people kind of immediately grasp that that's a pretty powerful name and would explain a bit about what those cultures looked like. And then would invite people up to a flip chart to put a line across the snowman over where do you think you are now? And people do that? And okay, where do you need to be to achieve the strategy that you've told us about, and then invariably put it up towards the interdependent level? And in a way, it was kind of a trick because it's hard for people to sort of not to put the lines in those places, I believe. But I think that's just because it's so damn obvious that people were being in a dependent and independent kind of frame. And it was a relief for them to hear that "oh, yeah, there's a name for that. And there's a way out." And actually, it's a way up; if you're unpacking the vertical language, I'd like to say the vertical just refers to growing up. And so it's inviting people in the room to grow up a bit. And I think that's kind of the secret sauce that CCL has always had and hadn't been able to articulate it, but it's picking people's individual developmental needs into the collective developmental needs. And as we would work with people and introduce them to sort of individual epiphanies and collective epiphanies, the magic really would happen with those two would link up. And people would say, "Hey, I'm not just here. To make my company richer. I'm here because I can grow up a little bit, I can become a more effective, complex thinker. And that's exciting to me."
Scott Allen 18:30
Well, one reason I just very much appreciate the work of CCL is that you have just some incredible scholars and thought leaders, and they're working with the client, day in and day out. And there's that both/and there that is such a powerful combination. Because sitting in an ivory tower, so to speak, and just coming up with a theory is wonderful, but how does that actually interface, with people and with people doing the work? So I think it's such a powerful combination.
Jonathan Reams 19:04
Yeah. So you've talked about the polarities between individual and collective. And I mentioned this spotlight and scaffolding, but you have a table here with a whole list of these. This is a lens that you have found useful as a way of helping people make distinctions or make sense of their experience in a way that's different from the "sage on the stage" expert mode download into them. Could you highlight, you know, three or four other of these polarities that you found really useful?
Chuck Paulus 19:39
So, John, let me comment on that. And I'd like to toss it over to you to talk about stages and states. But I want to make it clear that in the chapter, we perceived the main audience really as practitioners in the field or theorists in the field because it was our own colleagues that seemed to be unbalancing the dualities and empty sizing one end of them as compared to the other. And then that translated into the classroom. So the most common way was that our faculty, brilliant people, well-meaning doing their work, absolutely. But they would fall back into this kind of "sage on the stage" point of view and become experts in vertical and became very academic, very quantitative, very distorted. You know, there are seven stages, and it's the famous kind of Stairway to Heaven, kind of metaphor, and people are crushed, you know, if they proceed, somehow they're on lower on the stairway than other people. And that is such a sad thing in this context of human growth. And that really bothered us. So really, we were speaking to our colleagues in the field, which, you know, one end of the spectrum, because of our way of thinking, our colleagues in the field are also the participants, right? Everybody's in the same boat. And our aspiration is actually what we sometimes call democratizing this work. Hey, I spend a few hours showing you what I know and what we can do; I introduce you to the tools, and like, hey, the tools are designed to be pretty straightforward. And you, too, can do this in your own environment. So even the boundary between colleagues and participants got blurred. John, I think you could describe one or two of the other polarities.
John McGuire 21:22
Yeah, that's very important, Chuck. So one of the polarities that were so important to us was this idea of "stages and states," most of the individual work that's done is really focused on stages. And in some ways, (Ken) Wilbur is one of the few people who also like to talk about states. And so our insight was that when we go into a very dynamic environment and work with executives, and their teams, and you know, the top 100 people, etc., we had an active head and gut level kind of appreciation for what we were finding and what the center of gravity was. Within the snowman, you know, are they a dependent conformer? Are they independent achiever? Are they how much collaborator are they? And how much of that is required to move towards the strategy? So we experimented with this idea of, or a hypothesis of, what if we could take a team of people either in the lab or on the line, actively in the work and create a "state" in which their belief got boosted? from, say, achiever to collaborator, where a great deal of interdependence was required? Could we hold them in that state for a while and help them practice a different kind of belief and practices associated with that? And then let it go and then come back and do it again? Could we practice this idea of elevating states in such a way that would help them with what we call headroom? Could we help them get bigger minds collectively? Could they practice that and come to an actual experience in which they were all behaving in a different stage together? And could that stick with that work over time?
Jonathan Reams 23:12
Yeah, I have this image when you describe that also of the polarities work. And I can imagine that if you see that, they're trying to move between stages, that this can be states they experience in transition, and you can use the polarities to help them understand how they're vacillating between or inhabiting both of those spaces. Is that little how it worked?
John McGuire 23:38
Absolutely, yes, that's exactly how it worked. We were hypothesizing and attempting to do developmental work in the individual and the collective simultaneously over time. So you need to understand that we work with these teams in these organizations for 2, 3, 4, or five years, we found that it worked and, and back to the previous idea of readiness, those that weren't ready, it was clear that you're not going to you've got a collaborative strategy, and absolutely conformer culture, you're probably not going to get there. But if you have enough of a mix, that's close enough; we think we can work with this. And what we found was that there's a great willingness to fake it till you make it for a lot of people who don't quite understand what's happening but are willing to go along and we solve development within the collective over and over and over again.
Scott Allen 24:31
So I'm gonna go back to kind of a definitional question. So when we're talking individual and collective, Is it almost as if we're simultaneously engaging in leader and leadership development? As (David) Day would define it? We're doing a both/and there.
John McGuire 24:49
Chuck Paulus 24:51
And David Day spent his sabbatical at CCL when we were working on those distinctions, and so he helped us define that It's interesting, if you look at the evolution of the I think there are three versions editions of the CCL handbook for leadership development. If you look into introductions to those, you can trace the development of the idea of leadership, and with leadership increasingly being this sort of superordinate idea that you know, leadership is a process of meaning-making, etc. Whereas a leader is a participant in that process.
Jonathan Reams 25:24
Another one of the tools that you guys talk about and that I've had practice with is the cards, the transformation card decks. And
Scott Allen 25:35
I and for listeners, he has the cards in his hands right now; he's holding them up. He's a card-carrying member of this conversation right now.
Jonathan Reams 25:45
Because Chuck generously shipped some of these to me when they were coming out. And what I noticed is it gave people visual ways and metaphors to talk about the different states they would experience either in their past or in the presence, diversity, or aspirations in the future, without having to get into analyzing what level they were performing on. But having a felt sense of, Well, we tend to act like this, or I see I was there, and maybe I matured a little here. But they're not putting those into a kind of definitional framework. So can you say more about the cards and how that has helped people and organizations or teams go through this journey of maturing and growing up?
Chuck Paulus 26:36
Yeah, the cards were exciting to develop; they were partly inspired by our experience with visual explorer, which used imagery to have dialogue. And that points to yet another one of the polarities is the left brain and right brain polarity. And we realized that a lot of the pedagogy of the vertical was, again, it was very left brain, very analytical, very verbal, you know, it's almost like you have to be hyper-verbal, to be a developed human being, and probably there's a correlation. And yet, it's almost like a game that was played in order, you know, you had to be able to articulate these fine points to get it. And that seems so counterproductive. And so we really love experimenting with more visuals, kinds of things, the cards you held up Jonathan, the transformation card deck, we had a wonderful artist that we worked with, that captured actually feel it's almost like a little living community of animated beings on the cards that were having experiences. And it was all very visual, and obviously, that's attractive to people. You know, it bridges a lot of domains too, you know, because we aspire to do more of this with younger people, high school students, or maybe even younger people with English is not their first language as a second or third language, where again, language would get in the way, we've actually had them translated in different languages. So that's helped enormously want to tell the anecdote that we developed these cards in collaboration with Bill Tobert, the initial spark, I could remember, like, almost the moment I have the spark, I'm reading one of Bill's papers and buried way down deep in the middle of it. In the data analysis section, he said, Oh, it was almost an offhand observation, by the way, when we have people self-estimate their stage of development in a kind of organized fashion, that they're actually about 90% aligned with the formal, very expensive, very difficult sentence completion test. And I've just about fallen out of my chair, like, "Okay, why are we doing the expensive, prohibitive sentence completion test?" That turns most people off, and why aren't we working more on the self-estimate? Because we always said that there is social desirability, and people did not have sufficient insight to self-assess, which is pretty insulting to human beings, really, when you think about it, that they can't be led into a process in which they see their own cognition somehow. The cards were developed to help people see their own cognition and to play with it. There's a polarity here of "play and serious," and the name for it is Serious Play. Ken Gergen first coined that phrase. It's this idea that, hey, we're deadly serious about this, and we're playful. The idea of play was often missing from approaches to dialogue.
Scott Allen 29:26
Well, and John had mentioned at the very beginning of the episode before we even got to this topic very far, far from it, but just you mentioning John, the passion that both of you have for art so that that lens through which we can help people make sense of some of these concepts and get into some of these conversations. Again, I just think it's wonderful. It's...I mean, it's another avenue, right?
Chuck Paulus 29:48
That reminds me that our dear colleague Elaine Herdman-Barker at Global Leadership Associates, who was one of the pioneers of this, helped us develop the card deck and etc. a major contributor to the field. I went through training with her. And she doesn't use words on slides when she introduces the stages. Obviously, she uses a lot of words when she speaks. But in every example where she's presenting something about the stage of development unpacking it, it's an image. It's a work of art, she's collected, and they're very provocative. They're very detailed and appropriate to the context, but she has people engage with those and interact with them, rather than her just being present on it. And it's just amazing how people are just; you can almost hear them being, you know, drawn into this universe of right brain ideation. Again, as opposed to "Okay, here's five bullet points on the strategist stage," which is,
Scott Allen 30:47
and I will now lecture you on those in this dark room. Got it, John, you wanted to jump...
John McGuire 30:55
149 slides in. We got four
Scott Allen 30:59
hours to fill, let's do this.
John McGuire 31:03
So if I could just say what I think is really essential about Chuck and David's work with their cards. And it's theoretical, but it's also the most practical tool I have ever used. And that is, the whole idea of transformation for individuals and collectives is the subject and object relationship; we all are aware of that. And you have to be able to take the subject and hold it as an object; you've got to be able to see yourself see it; you've got to be able to have a relationship to move to the next level and the next stage. And what happens and the brilliance of the cards that Chuck has created is that the cards themselves are the object, and you can walk into a room and have enemies of the most conflictual team, executive team members, and through the cards, they can almost immediately have a conversation through the cards because it's not about themselves. It's about this projective identification. It's about this objectification it's about, and it always works.
Scott Allen 32:09
Jonathan Reams 32:10
I can vouch for that.
Chuck Paulus 32:13
So a little anecdote, my dear colleague Steadman Harrison was prepared to use the cards with a group that he was told was not entirely friendly to this event that was going on, and they were coming in with a chip on their shoulders. And so what Steadman did is he spread the transformation cards out on a big table in the room. And as people came in, they saw these cards, and he hung back. And instead of greeting them, just letting them sort of self-organizing, they started looking at the cards on the table. And they're like, Well, what are these? And it's like, start picking them up? Well, this is interesting. And it's like, I think these are supposed to be about us. Like, well, here's one about me, I think this is this one's about us, you know, and they, they pretty soon that, you know, a facilitated exercise and vertical development just broke out spontaneously with a hostile audience.
Scott Allen 33:05
Wow. That's great.
Jonathan Reams 33:07
So the last, almost like a meta-question that I have is, you talk about the imbalances I mentioned before and how vertical leadership is expressing experience, but the term vertical, I mean, there's been critiques of it from various places, what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages or limitations of that kind of conception, what it evokes in people and what it doesn't evoke?
Chuck Paulus 33:35
So I think that it's a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because I think it actually came from Susanne Cook-Greuter's writings, but she didn't really emphasize it, you know, we didn't; I asked my colleagues about this. Like, we're always using the term vertical. And I swear, a decade ago, we were not using the term vertical. And what happened? And I think what happened was Nick Petrie, our colleague, picked it up from Susanne, integrated a whole bunch of stuff, and declared that, okay, the field is defined as vertical versus horizontal. And then he stepped back to see what would happen, and people liked it. I mean, a lot of people liked it; a critical mass of people liked it. There was something, you know, there's something frankly, sort of linear and left brain about it. It's a Cartesian coordinate, right? It evokes that. And that's the blessing, but people picked it up as language and seem friendly like constructive developmental theory does not seem friendly. Sorry, folks. Whereas vertical versus horizontal, it appeals to executives somehow because they sense vertical Hey, that's probably going to be about me rising up. And actually, it's not completely wrong, either. So that's the blessing. The curse is that you know, it is Cartesian and does imply a real cont, a sharp contrast. And the first thing that often evokes in people is a hierarchy. And so we've had trouble using it in a lot of contexts. It's good, but it's flawed. We struggle on.
Scott Allen 35:07
Yeah. You know, I mean, I think Keith Eigel had done it because Keith Eigel and Karl Kuhnert have adopted vertical. And Keith will say, Look, you know, a group of executives in a room gets it fairly quickly. And to your point, Chuck, you know, if I start talking about CDT (constructive developmental theory), we're losing them quickly. And I was listening to a podcast between Bob Kegan and Keith Heigl. And Kegan said, "Well, for me, it sounds like shrimp scampi" vertical development, right? He just felt like it was redundant in a way. And so it's interesting now the only thing I've ever seen Keegan right. And it was in a book, I believe, by Mezirow, a chapter in a book by Maduro. And he said that, you know, he called it transformational development or "transformational learning" and "informational learning," were kind of how the terminologies he was using, to distinguish,
Jonathan Reams 36:05
I brought it up because I wrestle with this a lot, too, because I agree that the simplicity of it is accessible. And at the same time, it's reductionistic. And the reality is so much more dynamic and messy and interdependent, but that is more systemic understanding, which we know is not so common. And so, you know, we deal with what we can,
John McGuire 36:34
I've been using the term vertical for decades, never seemed that important. And as Chuck mentioned, since he and I were working together, we used the term it never stuck. People didn't use it. I believe what we're experiencing here is the phenomenon of invention, in which there's always a web of people beyond the individual that sort of takes credit for it. And I see it as nothing more than a stairstep. And it's not the right one yet. It's better than CDT. But it's good enough for now. And to comment, I have never had anything but a good experience with a group of people, including a large group of people, when you introduce the idea of vertical or any development, transformational work, in terms of their children, to begin with, their children is a hierarchy bad, is there a difference between learning how to tie their shoes and learning how to drive a car? Aren't these sorts of natural? And secondly, do you believe that your learning, growth, development, and transformation are over now that you're 33 or 56? No one believes that. So there's great receptivity to it, depending on how it's framed?
Scott Allen 37:46
Well, and I love the intentionality behind - "Look, we know that there are limitations. We're experimenting, we're exploring, we're learning. And we're using it out in the field," which I think is so incredibly important to see how it really works when working with practitioners. Because that's ultimately what we're trying to do is help them be more successful in these very challenging, gnarly roles that leaders and teams find themselves in.
Jonathan Reams 38:12
I found the same thing: if you can help people name their experience in a meaningful way, then they don't care what kind of model it's associated with. It's helpful for them.
Scott Allen 38:26
I feel the same way about the term leadership. I don't think it's the right term. It doesn't capture words like teaming or going through my mind that, but there's, it's, you know, there's that book by, I think it's her Hurwitz - Leadership is Half the Conversation or something to that effect. And it's a book about followership. But there's, I don't know, I feel that our language limits us in some ways.
John McGuire 38:55
If I could share a reflection, I moved into corporate America in the 80s and 90s and spent a couple of decades there before I moved into this field. And I recall very clearly how the struggle in those years was to come to language, like human system versus technical system. And how there was huge pushback about even the idea of language of human system and is that the right language? And what do you call this? Because in those years, like, frankly, everything was about technical system. Everything was a technical problem, and just introducing that level of balance into the equation of our work and challenges. So I'm appreciating this part of the conversation very much and anything to advance the cause because the world needs horizontal and vertical, whatever the right
Scott Allen 39:48
word transformation developments.
Chuck Paulus 39:52
So the word transformation is interesting. So I remember a Before and after, John, in which the word transformation was unacceptable at CCL?
John McGuire 40:05
Chuck Paulus 40:06
When we were developing our Connected leadership practice, and we talked about transforming organizations, the pushback we got was No, our clients don't want to transform. That's too threatening, and they want to improve, they want to change, they want to grow transformation, they will not let us in the door. If we talk about transformation, you cannot use that. And then it was obviously just a few short years until like everybody wanted transformation. It was the great recession, I think, precipitated a lot. And I'll just add to that by saying that this is all fascinating; I think there's a much larger phenomenon here of, let's call it, the evolution of human consciousness. pretty heady idea. But I think that if you sit way back, you may need to be on the moon to see this. But there are overall trends in the human race and how we think about things, and ideas get added into the mix, and then they become acceptable. So I think transformation is one of those words, I don't think when I was growing up, you know, I was in Boy Scouts, and they didn't talk about leadership. I was at CCL, and they didn't talk about transformation. Even though the words get misused, there's just something in the air that says, you know, there's something called Leadership I can aspire to; there's something called transformation that's possible. And I think that's, you know, that's growth in human consciousness. At some level, that language evolves, and the ideas evolve. And maybe there's some hope in that.
John McGuire 41:37
To just take that one step further, once people did begin to accept the idea of transformation, we were very specific and deliberate about defining organizational transformation, specifically around the snowman, and we meant when an organization or at least a significant part of the organization, or its executive team, is able to demonstrate that it has moved from one stage to the next in terms of strategic implementation. And then, in terms of their actual performance, that's transformation. So we were able to give it sort of definitional space in a way that I think relieved a lot of people who are insistent on measurement.
Jonathan Reams 42:21
And I think that's a good way to kind of sum up at least my intentions, and I struggled with, you know, what to title the book. And the notion of maturing became a safe kind of bridge rather than calling it constructive developmental. I'm getting the thumbs-up from John here.
Scott Allen 42:44
I'll give you thumbs out as well, Jonathan,
Jonathan Reams 42:46
I think what we've been just discussing now is the same for me when I started out, it was what consciousness development was my entrance, and finding people talking about that in different ways, making distinctions being able to map things out. But at least my experience, over 25 years of that now, has been that we get more mature about our own ideas; we're in love with the first ideas we encounter because they help us so much. And we spread the gospel. And little by little, we realize not everybody is seeing the light the way we see it. And so we get a little more mature in relation to how we convey this. And I think constructive developmental theory, adult development, whatever vertical, whatever we want to call it, is going through that process of maturation as a field of practitioners of theoreticians. So the way you describe the journey of CCL, in the way we are weren't used, is a really good example of that; I think, yes,
Scott Allen 43:54
Yes, it was the great man, quote, unquote, right? In the beginning, Chuck, I think you mentioned that it was all about the leader. And as you mentioned, it was men in the room. And I think, Jonathan, to your point, this conversation has been an interesting little fast forward also to see where the thinking is today, what, 40 years later, 50 years later, as an organization, but, Chuck, how many years have you been involved in John, how many years? Have you been involved? 30 years for me?
John McGuire 44:25
Scott Allen 44:27
But I think Jonathan, it's that awareness that maybe we haven't landed there yet. And we understand the strengths and the limitations of the language we are using, and we're searching, we're learning, we're growing ourselves. And I forget John or Chuck who said it, but that consciousness is being elevated to process. Is that accurate that I described that accurately?
John McGuire 44:49
I think so. It was Chuck who said it, and I also believe that's why we're in the game. Yes, that's the game. That's worthwhile. We're just nodes on the map.
Jonathan Reams 45:03
And I think to that sentiment...this is the whole idea of leadership as well. There's something inherent in the least felt sense of what leadership in action looks like. That has something to do with maturing and being able to handle situations in better ways.
John McGuire 45:25
Maturing is the perfect title. And maybe the next moniker.
Scott Allen 45:30
Well, gentlemen, as we close down these conversations, we always ask our guests what's caught their eye in recent times; it could have something to do with what we've just discussed, it could have nothing to do with what we've just discussed. It's something you've been streaming, listening to reading, something that's it could be a work of art but something that's caught your attention in recent times.
Chuck Paulus 45:51
Okay, what caught my attention? I'm reading a book that I'm surprised that it really caught my attention. And I'm so into it. Bernoulli's Fallacy and it's about how the statistics we use in science are based on a fallacy. And it's not really an exaggeration to say that the frequency models we all use in social sciences, but it's also used in pharmacy, it's used in physics, they're based on a fundamental misunderstanding of probability. And that there's another whole line of thinking that is called...Well, it's more of a probability understanding. It's actually based on what's called Bayes' theorem, getting a little technical. And there are these two schools of thought that converge at one point. And they do give the appearance of absolute rigor and repeatability, but they're wrong. And that's what's led to the reproducibility crisis in science, which is a real big, giant, enormous crisis. If any of you have not heard of it. It's really astounding that people are going back and looking at studies, especially social sciences, but again, farm pharmacology has experienced this, the experiments again, and they don't pan out because the statistics are wrong.
Scott Allen 47:12
Okay, I will put that in the show notes. For sure. John,
John McGuire 47:16
A very old friend gave me a book for my birthday. recently, very recently, the title of the book is How Invention Begins by John H Lienhard, and he is a mechanical engineer who's fascinated with the process and phenomenon of inventions. And he dispels the myth of the individual inventor. And what has caught my attention is he's not trying to de-mythologize. He appreciates myth and mythology. But his insights read such as how inventions both shape and are shaped by culture and that the idea of an individual, single canonical inventor is illusory because all inventions are the sum of many contributors. And I think, in some ways, that parallels our last conversation about how these are these are movements and whether we know them or not. We're part of a process that's moving forward. And I think that's why the idea of polarities, and the individual and the collective and all the other polarities we're talking about, is so powerful because it's all based on a both/and reality that we live in.
Scott Allen 48:26
Yeah, the both/and reality. Maybe that's what we call this episode, Jonathan, the both and reality. That's a good move. Okay, sir. Any final comments that you have, Jonathan before you want to wrap that up in a bow for us?
Jonathan Reams 48:45
No, I really appreciate the opportunity to have these kinds of conversations. For me editing, the volume was, these kinds of conversations multiplied and the opportunity to have all these nuances and facets all gone into deeply to help people understand that it's more than just some simple ladder with a few labels. So I think this has contributed a lot to that really glad to have you guys here.
Scott Allen 49:13
Of the 150 Roughly episodes that we've engaged in. My favorites are when I'm speaking with individuals who are writing at the highest levels and engaging in the practice at high levels as well. And there's that both/and, John, to your point that exists where there's theory, and it's good sound theory, and we're now testing it and bumping up against practitioners, and are we truly making a difference? The first episode of this podcast was Dave Rosch, and we call that I have a fear because in the episode, he said, You know, I have a fear that we aren't really making a difference. Are we doing this right? And so I think it's at that nexus where so much opportunity exists - Good sound theory and practice and working with people who are doing both and working to elevate our game and better understand the phenomenon. Love it. Thank you, gentlemen.
John McGuire 50:12
Thank you, sir. Except for one fishing trip, this is the most fun I've had all year.
Jonathan Reams 50:20
That's high praise.
Scott Allen 50:24
Okay, take care of gentlemen. Be well,
Chuck Paulus 50:27
John, you had a heart attack on that fishing trip?
Transcribed by https://otter.ai