Holding Back
Holding Back
Blog: From the Director
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I wrote last week in this space about the positive place for disagreement in organizations; and I held back on pushing the topic a bit further.

Sometimes an organization leader has to hold back. Sometimes the leader needs to recognize that the organization has more disagreement than it can handle and that taking on another topic for which much disagreement is likely would be like drinking from a fire hose.

In Leadership on the Line (HBS, 2002), authors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky write that “leadership requires disturbing people – but at a rate they can absorb.”

Heifetz and Linsky describe the need to “orchestrate the conflict” in four steps:

  1. “Create a holding environment” – a safe place to interact.
  2. “Control the temperature” – turn the heat up to get people’s attention, and turn it down for them to cool off or to catch up.
  3. “Set the pace” – not too fast that we leave too many people behind; not too slow that we lose the vision and momentum.
  4. “Show the future” – remind people of the “orienting value” – that is, the positive reason to go through all the negative rancor.


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