Innovation Leadership Triangle
If you have the worksheet you can fill it out as you're going through this process, but the new good news is there's an antidote to all of these. And this is where Emerald really sort of built on Karpman's work, and I trained on this for my old company Maddock Douglas, and they used this a lot, they did longer sessions than this. But it's really powerful if you can reframe, keep hearing that word all day today right, if you can reframe your response to this stimulus, recurring stimulus, by switching roles. So very specifically, we need to switch from rescuer to innovator, persecutor to challenger, sorry, rescuer to coach, persecutor to challenger, and victim to innovator, and ultimately the only switch that really matters is victim to innovator. Emerald would call that creator, that's the word he used. Because we're talking about innovation leadership, I think innovator's an even better word for what we're talking about here today, and we'll go into each one of these in detail. The oth...
er thing is that you're shifting from is emotion focused past tense, woe is me, this thing happened to me, all this bad stuff just happens behind me but I'm still anchored to it, and I'm emotional about it, to rational future focus. What do I actually want to have happen here, what's the future I wish for, rationally thinking what is the best way to get there. So switching from emotion to rationality, from the past tense to the future, that's the shift in order to move into this triangle. Let's move into each one. The innovator role, the most important, what Emerald would call the creator role, is you taking full responsibility. I had a role in this, right. You believe that there must be a way to solve this thing. In the infinite possibilities in the universe, there is always a way. Focus on outcomes versus feelings. Feelings are great, but the elephant's not that smart. It doesn't know how to solve stuff. And curiosity about possibility, and assumes that there are possibilities, are multiple outcomes. Here's some innovator language. The outcome I want is, this is what I'm going to do, here was my part in this. I can't control everything, but I control how I respond. Maybe there's more going on here than I thought, and what I want is, that great reframing, what I want is this, and what I don't want is this bad thing. So great reframing, just taking your responsibility for your part in whatever the conflict and drama is. Once you can own that, there's an associated emotion actually that comes, it's really strange. Most victims are very afraid of this step to take responsibility because it's a big thing to own up, but almost everybody that finally owns up feels a wash of relief, because you're moving from reaction to action, and once you're proactively doing something, it's like ah, okay, so now I'm doing it. I've admitted I screwed up or I'm part of this, and now I'm gonna do something, and that's a very different, powerful feeling and it probably has some neurochemical stuff that I'm not fully aware of, but probably good things. The challenger, this is the hard one for me actually, and we'll talk about where you might have challenges. The challenger role is this demanding, ever present, never letting go kind of thing. They're insistent and unapologetic. Challengers are relatively rare but super important in life. The key difference between a challenger and a persecutor, they feel often the same to a victim, a primary difference is one tears you down and one builds you up. One makes you feel worse about yourself in the long term, sometimes you can feel bad both short term, between both of them, the other, over the long term, builds you up. They have this incredible confidence to be able to give you timely, rough, but needed feedback, that takes a certain level of confidence in yourself. They tend to repeat the same things over and over again, challengers do, and they don't ever rescue. They don't ever rescue. They give you the feedback and then they walk away to let you simmer on it. So, you had no part in this? That's a challenge right? You can do better than this. You are better than this, that's a really tough one to walk away from. Time to step it up, no more excuses, now is the time to make a change, fix it, buddy. Challengers push you to become better, to make the changes necessary. Part of being a great challenger is knowing when, and this is something I certainly have not mastered, but I've had some great challengers in my life. We'll talk about one in the next module, a guy named Mike Walden who had some of the best timely feedback all the time, and he hit it so hard you couldn't walk away from it. So that's the challenger role, we've got that, yeah. Okay, last one is coach, this one is pretty straightforward I think. Coaches always ask leading questions, they don't generally provide you many answers, they keep just giving you a question back. So what do think I should do, well what do you think you should do? Alright but that's a great coach, 'cause you gotta figure it out for yourself. They have high expectations of you and they want to help. And then this construct that they really love, they're committed, but not attached. So they're committed to a successful outcome for you. They believe in you, they wanna help you, but they are not attached to any specific decision that you do, they will go ahead and let you fail. If you're gonna go ahead and make a poor decision after they bounce it off you, and you decide to do it anyway, they're not gonna stop you, they're not gonna argue with you. They're gonna go watch you screw up and then ask you well how did it go. And then you'll go oh my god it went terribly. Well what do you think you did wrong? Keep asking questions. Committed but not attached which is also a really tough but great place to be with kids. 'Cause letting them fail sometimes is really essential. So yeah you're committed for them to be successful, say, at little league, but if they're swinging the bat wrong, and the coach is telling them how to do it, you're not gonna step in and be so emotionally attached, just try to fix it in the moment. You're gonna let them screw up, gonna let the coach deal with it, and if they ask you questions later, then and only then do you give the feedback. So committed but not attached. They recognize that learning comes from mistakes, and they give you regular and consistent feedback without judgment. The one thing that's true about a coach is you have to have permission to be a coach. Challengers don't actually generally ask for permission, they just do it, but you don't actually want coaching unless you've kind of asked for it. Like somebody comes up to you after you just screwed up and they're like hey you really should've, that's really, you probably should ask for permission to give coaching. I have something that might help you. Great coaching language, this is my simple best reframing for coaching to put responsibility on the victim. They complain about something, and instead of saying aw, poor you, there's nothing you can do, you simply say oh, so what are you gonna do about it. That immediately shifts the onus of responsibility onto the victim. And anybody that's not a hundred percent victim will actually start to think about that. Oh, well maybe I should, versus there's nothing you can do. Problem stopped, no solution's gonna be there. So that's a really, really powerful reframing. What are you gonna do about it? What are your options, what role did you play in this drama you just told me about? What other alternatives might there be? And when you can shift through coaching, through challenging, to help the victim become the innovator that's when ideas when finally come out of the woodwork to actually solve the problem. So can anybody imagine a situation when you could've reframed your approach to take on one of these roles? So I'm gonna give you an example and then if anybody thinks of one I'll tell you the whole situation with the running late for work thing that went on for nine years. I got taught this at my old company Maddock Douglas by my great leader Rath Vitan, and that day I was running late. So I'd just learned this construct, running for the car, I start to make the call, I'm like oh, hang up. This has been going on for years, this is exactly, like this is the drama triangle. It's playing out right now, the same day I learned it, I gotta break this, I gotta break the cycle. Okay so nobody's tried to solve it, how could I solve it, how could we solve this, there's gotta be a way to solve this that doesn't lead to recurring conflict. And then it hit me. I'm like, called back, I'm like "I'm running late, I'm sorry in advance, it's totally my fault, but I have an idea. I think that dinner should be at 6:30 every single day, and if I don't make it, it's because something came up, and it's so important that I couldn't be there on time to be with family, you should eat without me." Never had the argument again. We never tried to solve it. That's a very easy solution, it just makes sense. Every once in a while I'd be late because something came up that was really important. The rest of the time I was there on time and everything was fine, no arguments, and there it is. Somebody tried to solve, that's the real key issue here, does anybody ever try to solve the drama triangle. There's never an incident were you trying to solve it. Never did manage to figure out the meeting waterfall thingy. We tried to, I'll tell you how we tried to solve that one. We made of all of our meeting minders, our calendar invites, be on either 25 or 50 minute intervals, so that in theory you'd end at 2:50 versus three and you had a window to get from meeting to meeting. And then all that happened is people kept talking til 3:01 anyway and then you're late for your next meeting. So if anybody figures that one out, you let me know. Any ideas come to mind of what times you've played one of these roles, or how you might've reframed it? Yes.
Answer your question, but as you were saying this, what came up to me was a story that you told about, was it your coach, the gentleman that you said really, for you and others, had a tremendous impact in your career, your sports, and it made me think of was he the challenger, was he the coach, was he more of a challenger?
He was more of a challenger. I mean he was the coach as well, 'cause he designed the program, but his archetype in this, so he always had Claire Walden as well, who's really the coach, he did the asking questions kind of feedback, Mike just yelled. But it was very shotgun targeted feedback, right in the moment for the right thing at the right time, and he was just a genius at it.
I was just gonna say, it's powerful, I mean you were saying this and I just immediately went to him, and recognized wow it is really powerful.
I read, thank you for teeing that up, I read a, it's an excerpt in the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, no relation, but great book, and he's talking about, he doesn't name the coach at first, one of the world's most famous coaches, and he had short, sharp utterances repeated over and over again, targeted like a Gatling gun at each individual player with specific feedback and short, pithy phrases, and I'm like oh my god, is he talking about Mike Walden, no he was talking about John Wooden. The master challenger coaches, they operate this way. It's no easy task and it's certainly something I'm actually not very good at. Challenging is pretty difficult for me.
But I love it, when I look at the differences between the two, and as you said the solution, it's perfect, there's no, it feels to the other person that they're being heard.
Right. Anybody else have any thoughts on, yeah go ahead.
I just came to my area, it was at a conference, and I was running the thing, and trying to run the clock, you know with having different speakers, and there was David Meltzer, I think was the guy, and I was talking to him. He asked if he could go on a little longer, and I said well you know maybe you should, I'll introduce you a few minutes early just so we have more time, and I'm looking around, I figure no one's gonna care. And so he goes on and gives his talk, great talk, and afterwards there was some people that had a meeting that I wasn't aware of, that they missed the whole thing, and they were pissed off at me. I got up and I immediately wanted to say it wasn't my fault, I was looking, searching for some, and I owned up to it, I said I totally screwed up, I'm owning this, and it felt a huge relief to do. But my go to was to find an excuse, someone else to blame, but it all came back to me.
It's a weird emotional state right, when you're about to make an excuse. It's actually, it's almost painful like there's a lot of anxiety about it, and when you finally make the switch to say alright I totally screwed up, it really is a lot of times a wash of relief to just own up, it's easier after the fact. But it's much more intuitive to go immediately to excuse making, for sure. Yeah what do you got for us?
It speaks to the other people in the room needing you to fill a role, one of these roles. So years back I was in a large agency setting, big meeting, all the senior people are there, and someone asked "So Phil, what's happening with this project?". And the reality was it just wasn't done yet. So I said "I wasn't able to get it done yet." That was my answer, everyone looked at me, blank stare, and then I got pulled aside afterward by my boss, he said "You can't just say that you didn't get it done yet, you have to offer some reason why." I'm like "Well, but it would've been an excuse, I just didn't do it, I didn't get it done yet." "Yeah but that's not good enough, you have to make something up." I was like oh my god this is crazy. So what is that, people needing me to be the victim?
Right, speaks to the system in some way.
And I certainly do play the victim in my personal life, so you know, but in that work setting it was strange, right?
Yeah. No, it is really weird, and I have actually seen and experienced that before. There's like the crickets after the I didn't do it or I wasn't successful. The full expectation is you're gonna make some sort of excuse, and when you don't it's like well wait, that's it? Where's the other half of the sentence? It's so common, right, it's so common that the absence of the excuse feels odd.
Or maybe they, you know, someone can't be the persecutor, as they can't rescue you if there's not something there. So it's some other victim 2. and they don't know what to do about it.
They're like ready to pounce on the excuse, and then there's no excuse, and then they have nothing to talk about. Oh, he just owned it, where's my chance to let him have it?
Well they found a way, right.
(laughs) They pulled you aside anyway. Right, awesome. Yes, yes Daniel.
Yeah I think it's so interesting, and I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this, on where the fine line is between, say someone comes to you, and I've done this before, I've been the rescuer, but then I think that, that asking for permission to be maybe coach is so important, because maybe they just wanted to come to vent to you, but you're like I do see the problem, how do I, you know, help you fix that, and when they really don't have that mindset to wanna fix it, they just wanna vent about it.
Yeah, I mean again, if people come to you and vent, and you start offering ideas, that can go off the rails really fast. But if there's a pause, and if you can say would you like some thoughts on it or would another time be a better time. You gotta get permission for coaching 'cause otherwise you can get them easily escalated in elephant mode, where they're just resisting all, any and all advice, and people do that, we'll do it too, right. When you're not ready to get feedback, and people give it to you, you will resist every single piece, no matter its validity whatsoever, sort of the nail on the forehead thing, right. You have to be willing to accept the feedback.
Yeah and I think that's great because that question you specifically would ask them, that sounds brilliant because that at least gets them the awareness of the thought that there is a solution.
Challengers don't have to wait though. They can just say "That was not good enough. I need your best effort next time." But coaches need permission. There's a great scene in Rocky, I think it's actually five, but I always joke it's like Rocky 17, I don't know it's one of the later ones, and the acting's not stellar, but there's a scene where Rocky, older Rocky, challenges his son and I swear it could've been written by Emerald himself, like this script is so exactly perfect. He's talking about his son, he's talking about how much he loves him, how he's his world, but that somewhere along the way he lost his way and he let people tell him what to do, and point fingers, and that everything he's blaming on everybody else but himself. And that what he needs to do is actually have the courage to make his own way, because what he's doing is what cowards do and you're better than that. And then there's a scene like he walks towards his son, and I'm fully expecting what I would do, which is now give a hug and soothe things over, and he literally just walks past him like this, walks down the street, and that's it, no rescue. Every time I watch it I get tense, like you gotta say something, you gotta rescue him a little bit. But he doesn't. And that's the power of a great challenger, is knowing what to say, when to say it, and letting those words sit. I mean you probably all think of times in your life where somebody challenged you and you really didn't like it at the time, and then you did stuff different. Alright, so we have a second handout for those online, when you're taken through this. But the goal of this is to take a situation where you played one or more of the roles of the drama triangle, and then rewrite how you might have done that particular interaction. How you might've taken the role of the challenger, or the coach, or the innovator, and then how might other people have then reacted to sort of the new reframing that you brought. And it can be really interesting to move through that. Before we close, I'm gonna share with you something that I learned a few years ago from my old work, and I'll never forget it. It's just so amazing. Email and text is really dangerous for drama. It's really dangerous for drama. We pull so much from bodily cues, intonation, context in a conversation that is missing when it's digital, and without that everything can have multiple meanings. You can send an email that you think is the most innocuous thing in the world, and the next thing you know you've got somebody shouting through your doorway about what you just did, and you're just mystified, right. So here's a great seven letter sentence I'm gonna read to you six times. I never said Larry embezzled the funds. I never, I never said Larry embezzled the funds. I never said Larry embezzled the funds. I never said Larry embezzled the funds. I never said Larry embezzled the funds. I never said Larry embezzled the funds. Six meanings and seven words, and you can't know which one in an email or a text. So my advice to everybody that I work with, particularly innovation leaders where there's always, there's always the possibility of conflict because of the change involved, is all potential conflicting messages must be live or on the phone. If you're announcing a change to your team or a shift in strategy, or trying something new, the last thing you wanna do is announce it through email. You can follow up with one, but you need to be there where they can read the context, 'cause oh let's say you're gonna change something about the way you do this certain process. The owner of that process might very well read that email and go oh my god they don't like what I'm doing, maybe they're getting rid of my job. They can't know all the contextual cues, and people will interpret the worst possible outcome from every single written piece of correspondence that involves change. They will interrogate the written word to reassemble the single worst meaning possible to man. A few years ago we were moving my floor, we were moving from the 7th floor to the 11th floor, this seemed very straightforward to me. So I sent an email saying we're moving from seven to 11, most of you are staying in your same spots, except where there's beams or offices that are in the way, and so here's where, here's a new seating chart. This seemed very straightforward to me. No less than three people came to my office in tears. I worked so hard for so many years to figure out how I could be away from the hallway traffic noise, it's so distracted me and now I'm sitting right by the open ended hallway. It's the worst thing, I'm not gonna be able to get any work done. I didn't see that, how could I know? How I could interpret that? Another one that came out through the weeds later is somebody on the team actually had some IBS problems, and had managed to navigate to be right near the bathroom, and suddenly they were way across from where the bathrooms were on this floor, and this was like "I need to quit" kind of contextual knowledge that I didn't have. So people will take change of any sort, interrogate it, and find a way to find the single worst perception possible of what that is. If I had just called a town meeting and said "hey we're moving upstairs and we're gonna keep everybody in their seats where we can, for those who can't we're gonna have to readjust", and that would've been fine. It would've been totally fine, but the email didn't work, and it hardly ever does. So that would be my last piece of advice when it comes to that. So to close, and then we'll go to Q & A, in order to undermine and unwind the innovation antibodies that come from the drama triangle, you first have to know you're in one of those roles. Self-identify, oh wait, I've just entered persecutor mode. Oh am I playing the victim, am I complaining? Am I rescuing? Okay I'm rescuing, don't rescue. How do I stop rescuing, how do I unwind whatever I'm doing? And then invert it, go to the corresponding role. Okay I need to think of ideas 'cause I'm playing victim. I need to challenge 'cause I'm starting to persecute. I need to coach rather than rescue, and when you can do that, then you can finally get to a solution that leads to good outcomes versus a never ending spiral of conflict that is exactly counter-innovative. Alright, so questions, thoughts, from either the online world or the panel here? Yes Daniel?
Yeah so this is the first time I've been exposed to a framework such as this, and it's fascinating to me. I know you mentioned the power of TED, are there any other resources that you'd say you have for this?
So Karpman actually invented the drama triangle in '68, it was an article, I don't know the article itself, I might be able to find it, but David Emerald has a great website. He's actually got courses you can take to get really fully steeped in this, I think you can even get certified. So I would definitely go to his website, also check out the book. And yeah, really, really great construct, we flew through this because this can be, I think he does all day, or even multiple day workshops on this kind of stuff. He's the godfather for sure.
Sort of off comment, it's a comment to Phil, you started your talk and I, I don't know, we were talking about spouses or whatever, and my mind went somewhere else, started worrying about another issue, I wasn't in the moment, I started losing it, and I focused on the table, took a deep breath, that got me back in the moment. But it's funny. (laughs) You can just be off and now I got my mind started worrying about other issues and I wasn't there, interesting.
We often ruminate, and that tool you've developed is so great. Every time I'd ever been exposed to mindfulness til now, it was like minimum 20 minutes. And so the barrier for me was always I don't have 20 minutes right now. Which is of course an excuse in itself, but you can make time for anything. Got a 137 hours in the week or whatever, but having this 30 second tool is just awesome, so thank you.
No, thank you. I mean I wouldn't have, so many people wouldn't have seen it if you hadn't encouraged me and put me up for the TEDx Naperville talk, so I owe you.
Oh thanks. Any other thoughts, feedback on the drama triangle and the innovator's triangle before we move to close this session?
I don't mean to complicate this. It reminded me of John Gray, who wrote the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, had suggested that as men, we tend to want to fix things. As women, they're much more empathy, and I guess I was attempting to relate that to this. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I mean I think there definitely is either societally or maybe genetically, I'm not sure, but either way it's just kind of a reality that at least in current constructs of today's society, women tend to be more on the rescuer mode, and men tend to be more on the coach, problem solving, or persecuting mode. So I think that's definitely something that happens. I mean my mom was always rescuing me and I'm sure my dad persecuted me a few times. (laughs) But he definitely challenged more than persecuted for sure. And by the way if you want to get some further information on this and other things, you can text the word Innovation to that number, and you can enter our mailing list and get access to all kinds of good things. And we have one last module, and this is the intersection of two of my favorite things. Design thinking, the design thinking approach, and how to take that and intermix it with strengths finding. So how do you design a life, a career, a team, an enterprise, for your strengths, particularly how do you double them down to innovate and find new ways of solving old problems, and create products, services, and things that will benefit you, your company, your business, your enterprise.