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Are you really behaving as a manger?
November 01, 2016

Three Timeless Truths

As you already know – I do corporate leadership development.

I help managers exponentially grow as leaders by teaching them leadership tools from the following realms of knowledge: Performance management, team building, employee engagement, culture change, managerial communication, and the like.

I usually work with small groups of managers – and I use a variety of exercises that emphasize different points, to help them understand specific leadership tools.

One type of group exercises that I use has these characteristics:

First characteristic:

There is a dilemma for the managers from the very beginning. The dilemma is this: “Should we cooperate with the other managers – or should we compete against them?”

Second characteristic:

These exercises are designed so that participants are not clear whether this activity is supposed to be competitive or cooperative.

On purpose – I never tell them if they are supposed to behave collaboratively or competitively. This is a key feature of these group exercises.

Third characteristic:

It is crystal clear for them that “cooperation” will yield a greater collective win than “competition.”

If they decide to cooperate – everybody will win. It will be a win-win outcome.

But if they decide to compete – it is uncertain who will win. It will be a win-lose outcome.

Also – cooperation might yield a greater individual win (for everybody individually) than what the winner could win in the competition / win-lose outcome.

Fourth characteristic:

All these group exercises have a clear and explicit goal.

The writing of these goals varies from activity to activity – but in essence the goal is the same and it is crystal-clear: “win as much as possible”

I have used these exercises with literally hundreds of managers – and the decision and final outcome with all these managers has always been identical.

The decision has always been to compete – and the final outcome has always been win-lose. Always. Not one single group has decided to cooperate.

At the end of the exercise – I always do a large group debrief to think through about assumptions, leadership and the “correct” strategy.

In general, managers assume that the other groups of managers are going to compete.

Also – without clear leadership in this activity – nobody takes the initiative to grab the leader’s role in order to get everybody on the same page.

Finally – although some managers know what is the correct strategy from the beginning, most managers have an unconscious tendency to compete – regardless of the outcome.

What is my point?

I have three points for you:

First – what are you unconsciously assuming that is not helping you as a leader?

If you don’t know the answer to this question – ask around.

Second – how often aren’t you taking the leadership initiative, when in fact you should?

Again – if you don’t know the answer to this question – ask around.

And third – are you competing with some of your peers and/or with other departments – when in fact you should be cooperating with them?

Again – if you don’t know the answer to this question – ask around.


First: Never assume anything – nothing. Be always on the look out about your own unconscious assumptions.

Second: If you are a manager – you must be a leader too. There is no way around this.

And third: The other departments in your organization are on the very same boat you are on. If you compete against them – you might not all be rowing on the same direction (and your organization would not be aligned).

Questions? Feedback?
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See you next month!
Joseluis Romero - Publisher
November 1, 2016. Copyright: All rights reserved
I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month
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