It is 11:01 am and the managers meeting begins surprisingly on time and in a relaxed but energetic atmosphere. The gestures between the different participants confirm something that I already know: they know each other well, there is a feeling of trust between them, they can anticipate each other’s movements. The company, a —let’s say—  well established national distributor in its home city and with some 200 collaborators, is managed by this team that has already demonstrated its professionalism and orientation towards results. Indeed, the area managers’ profile is not a problem. Many of them have a background in larger corporations, others are born and raised within the company, but all have been specifically trained in managerial activity. You can see this in the results when evaluating objectives in each area. The meeting goes on as we delve into the different topics that were selected with the purpose of thinking about next year. However, I realize that there is an issue that is being left aside, and I am sure that when it comes up, it will explain many of the other little problems discussed in the meeting. All the topics we discussed are coherent and focused, presented and addressed by the heads of the different areas: that, in principle, is great, it is an example of the work division.

We discussed a couple of goals for 2020 with focus on industry changes, and when we started talking about how we stand for this, the response from all managers was, in unison: “Great”, “totally prepared.”

So, I ask: what is the most important thing right now?

The first response from the commercial manager was “increase sales.”I cross-examine: is that a goal in itself? “Modernize logistics”, “open new branches”, “expand the portfolio”, they say. I look at them and say, “All these priorities are important, but if we have a lot of priorities, we don’t have any priorities.” There has to be one that is the most important. They looked at each other, feeling a little awkward to mention their area as the most important one. So, it occurs to me to show you an example of my own: If in six months or a year they were to achieve only one thing, what would it be for the team to feel satisfied? And I continued explaining as if it was a rhetorical question. “Four years ago, you moved. Do you remember what you thought about the whole year before that milestone?” There were a few laughs, but the answer was unanimous: “The move.”

Then, I changed the subject and some of them were kind of frustrated that I brought up that issue. “I saw you here and I felt great satisfaction to see the dynamics of the meeting; to see trust, respect. But I have to talk about the internal environment survey, which says that “managers do not work together.” And I believe that this is because each of you leaves meetings and talks to their own area team, about how to meet those objectives with great effectiveness. That’s why I just asked about the objectives. They only mentioned area objectives, at the most, sales objectives that, of course, impact the bottom line, but they do not constitute a true common objective, a “motto”. Then, I asked again: “Outside of core business, what brings you all together as a management team?”

Timidly, the diagnoses, the needs, the longer-term vision began to appear, and ends up crystallizing in an expression: “Expand geographically”. After a while, the motto was taking shape: what do we want? Increase our footprint by 100 km.

Sometimes, for those of us who train under the paradigm of a SMART objective, it is counterintuitive to set a qualitative goal, almost a slogan rather than a goal.

The common goal should be a topic, something that must be achieved or resolved and, its metric, its specificity, arises from the praxis of each area. So, yes, each area contributes the flavor, color and number it requires. What operations do I need to cover 100 more kilometers for the market? What do I need from human resources? What am I going to measure in customer service? What about shopping?

The question arises within the management team, made up from what they hear from their surroundings in 360° (customer, market, employee), but it goes back to the company team to make sense of it. Each action, from the creation of this goal, of this mantra, becomes relevant in light of the common goal. We begin to study each metric, each need, each project systematically in light of our common goal. Does it bring us closer to him? It is a priority. Doesn’t it bring us closer? It can wait.

This adoption even modifies the meeting scheme: each one brings what is important to them, measured from the view of our thematic objective, and they continue monitoring the usual objectives of business operation. From such obviousness, arises only one great benefit: clarity. That clarity like when Lencioni questions us with his six questions, contributes to this fifth question: “What is the most important thing right now?”

In short, we gain clarity because in the next period this objective is thematic:

1) It brings together all managers with the name of “company executive.”

2) Optimizes our actions before, during and after meetings, we know what to talk about, how we can all evaluate by contributing to all areas, and not just our own. 

Dissolve islands and build bridges.

3) And, as a consequence, we communicate more clearly to the entire organization. The salesperson who meets with the administration will identify that there is one same objective that both of them aim for from their own areas: it is their own managers who will speak to their areas from a common priority.

A company with clarity works more easily and fluidly than a company without clarity, and this arises from distinguishing priorities, among other things.

When answering these crucial questions for the clarity of the company in the board, we bring down three fundamental aspects: cohesion (a close and lasting union based on mutual knowledge), an aligned view of the company itself, and focus on simple and concrete aspects. For the small price of answering some questions as a team, choosing a priority and acting accordingly. And trust me, it’s almost easy!


The company had been reporting losses. It was urgent to reverse the situation. They sent a Country Manager with a well-earned reputation for being “tough” from the Head Office. Results-oriented, top-down, relentless. The focus was clear: sales volumes, margins, economic results for the shareholder. All “accessory” expenses and “benefits” had to be cut. Clearly, all processes related to talent management and development fell into this category.

A year passed and the Country Manager won his big bonus. Just like the local directors. The results were accomplished. Success… or not?

Three years later, the company is undergoing a costly process of cultural change, trying to achieve participatory leadership and teamwork. This is a case that illustrates the theory of Patrick Lencioni very well.

Organizations should look at results, yes, of course, it’s their job, but… at what cost?

A healthy team should avoid five dysfunctions: the first is distrust, the impossibility of showing vulnerability (“I don’t know how to do it”, “I need help”). The focus on results leaves no room for learning or error. The environment then becomes hostile and threatening. Google’s Aristotle experiment agrees: the basis for a high-performance team is psychological security, the security of feeling confident to expose ourselves in front of our colleagues. But that vulnerability was not in the performance evaluation, much less was it a factor for the annual bonus. Vulnerability is sometimes confused with weakness.

To be in a position of power during a crisis and recognize that you do not have all the answers is not easy.”I am not able to solve this”, “they are going to kick me out”. The impostor syndrome says: “they will realize that I can’t do it”. This inability to show vulnerability reinforces the second dysfunction of teams: fear of conflict. Creativity involves debate, disagreement, exchange. A team that never disagrees cannot innovate. But since the leader (if that term fits in such a context) cannot show his insecurity, being questioned scares him. He prefers collaborators who do not question him.

If I learned something in my professional practice as a clinical psychologist and as an executive coach, it is that those who does not know how to say no, does not know how to say yes. And that brings us to the third dysfunction: the inability to commit to a team decision. So as long as the top-down, authoritarian CEO was there, and as long as his plan worked, everything seemed great. But later, when everyone’s contribution is required, it happens that everyone has learned not to expose themselves, they should obey… or whatever. Decisions are not made in meetings but between meetings.After hours of meeting, a conclusion is reached and, as soon as they walk through the door, one director asks another “are we going to do this? ””No,” answers the interlocutor, “but let me communicate that to the Head Office.” That’s not a team.

Decisions are not made in meetings but between meetings.

The fourth dysfunction Lencioni talks about has to do with accountability. But at this point, it is impossible to consider this. As there is no trust you cannot disagree, we prefer to avoid conflict rather than debate ideas. Therefore, there is no compromise either. So, there is no place for one partner saying “you can do better” to another without that sounding like a threat.

And so, we reach the pinnacle of the dysfunction pyramid: the lack of attention to results.

Let’s put a name and surname to the story. General Electric was the typical company that shed 20% of its employees annually, based on some performance evaluation mechanism. If your performance is not good enough, you’re out. This created a highly competitive environment, a context in which trust, innovation and challenges were not thriving. In contrast, Costco is a company that invests in its people and their permanence. And what’s the result? In 30 years, Costco’s stock was incredibly stable and “unattractive” to an investor hungry for quick returns… but five times more profitable than GE’s stock in the same period!

Costco Vs. GE in the last 35 years: consequences of results-oriented focus.

What a sad paradox this is. The focus on financial results that caused so much damage to the culture and the team ends up leading to a lack of focus on results. Of course, it doesn’t mean that company executives no longer looked at sales or stock price, of course they do. The problem is that this is only part of your daily business. They care more about their political position than the team’s result. No one is willing to help another. All challenges must be encouraged with individual recognition. A partner’s achievement becomes a threat because I consider him a competitor more than a partner.

It is necessary to destroy the dysfunctions at it roots, starting by asking ourselves some questions to understand why the teams we lead do not persist over time or “explode” with changes.

Why do we reward individuals and expect teamwork?

How do we reward vulnerability?

How do we allow dissent?

How do we combat “artificial harmony” by promoting debate?

The homework is to build trust inside the teams, and this task, by no means an easy task, is carried out in a combination of strategies to achieve the foundation of a team based on capabilities and relationships, oriented to results as a result of a job. on commitment and responsibility, and not as a consequence of obedience due to a leader that many times, is the first endorsement of dysfunctions.


The situation in which we live has led us to revise everything we know about leadership. We have talked extensively about remote leadership and leadership in times of crisis. As consultants, we receive inquiries every day, with varying degrees of anxiety and concern, about what the future will be like, about that famous “new normal”, about how to keep the team motivated and even about the best way to hide the fear and uncertainty that business owners, CEOs and managers feel. 

And that is not surprising. Although you can lead from various positions within a company, leadership is expected from those in positions of authority. Those who occupy these positions usually work under pressure, imagine the pressure they feel these days. We usually expect from them a lot of concrete, clear, quick solutions to problems. Whoever is in a position of authority is expected to know what to do. Know what, know how, know when. In terms of Heifetz’s adaptive leadership, those in positions of authority are under pressure to treat adaptive challenges as if they were technical. 

And the crisis exacerbates this. There are good reasons for that. We live in a situation of great uncertainty. Uncertainty scares us. We are not trained to use fear as a guide. We prefer a childish attitude and wait for “big one” to come and solve it for us. We do not like uncertainty, so we ask the authority figure to tell us what is going to happen… or rather ask how he or she is going to solve it, so that we can feel safe again. The other reason is that there are people who studied solutions to problems that were adaptive at some other time in history.An engineer, for example, can solve problems that a few centuries ago would have been faced with prayer. These are technical problems, with a known solution. The authority is expected to know these solutions… and the solutions to new, unknown, adaptive challenges. Impossible, of course. But… if the person in charge does not know, what do we do with the anguish?

What should I do? How do I take care of my people? What is going to happen?How am I going to reorganize my team? These are some questions that we usually hear. What do I tell my people? I was asked by one of the partners of an engineering company about 15 days ago. The conversation was long, mainly because my answer was “I don’t know” followed by an invitation to think together. Interestingly, after talking for a while, we discovered a few things: First, acknowledging and validating fear helps a lot. Fear is a guide if we accept it instead of trying to make it go away. Second, expressing my inability to give him an answer led to him recognizing himself as part of the problem. Not knowing how to deal with the situation is going to require a change on your part. And then… why not doing the same with your team? Share with them that you are scared too. But, “doesn’t that take me out of my place of authority?” “I lose credibility,” he objected. Did I as a consultant give you an answer?  – I don’t have it. It is the first pandemic of this magnitude that I have experienced. And I told you I didn’t know. And that led you to think, to get involved. 

He did the same with his team. He shared that he is scared. He told them that he does not know what is coming or what to do. Let’s think together. Let’s share what happens to us. Let’s try. Let’s fail and try again. 

Two weeks went by.

They don’t know what the “new normal” will be like. What is going to happen to the company? How will my job be? What do we have to do? But they know this: team morale is high, they trust each other not because the other knows, but because the other also shares their fear, they think together. And that is hope.


One of the greatest challenges for companies is building a heterogeneous human group. As we said a few days ago, creativity is born from dissent, and we need that diversity of ideas to grow. We require people who harmoniously relate to each other or even in dissent, but… how is this harmony achieved? What happens when dissent turns into conflict? How to handle stress?

The assumption that annihilates harmony is that, for things to work out properly you have to avoid conflicts, keep the wrongly called personal questions away from the office and interact in a way that is, in short, unemotional. It seems like a logical conclusion: if the team is prevented from arguing, it helps it to stay focused on the task at hand, and from that “doing” the results will emerge. It is not surprising to reveal that, in the long run, this model often fails.

By avoiding tensions, an artificial harmony is generated, sustained only by the avoidance of problems, and other possibilities of growth are sacrificed, which come from the hand of the controlled conflict. Tensions in teams and between members always exist. The role of the leader is not to dissipate, silence or deny them, since this leads to a false harmony -which in turn increases mistrust-, but to know how to manage that tension so that it is the engine of innovation and creativity and not chaos. If this possibility does not exist, the tension becomes conflict and the accumulation of conflicts will damage the dynamics of the group. Now, these tensions must be contained, looking for what generates them. When the answer is a lack of internal confidence, we must sound an alarm. Because the expected consequence of this lack of trust is the fear of conflict: I do not confront because I associate tension with conflict, dissent with conflict, discussion and debate with conflict. All possibility of constructive discussions is closed. We find ourselves in eternal, apathetic, informative meetings, in which the focus of attention lasts only a few seconds, it is difficult to concentrate and the moments of greatest exchange are only on specific issues. On the surface everything works fine, the group probably doesn’t argue; but in the depth of the interrelationships, this fear of exposing new and true ideas holds back the growth of the whole group. 

The leader must then direct the conversation along the most propitious path, fostering creativity and new solutions, without avoiding confrontations that occur naturally, indeed, stimulating them and encouraging their deepening, for which they can use many simple tools that cannot be they are no longer effective. A role-playing, an internal survey, a triggering dynamic can help to overcome this first mechanism of resistance to debate and favor a sincere and rich exchange.

This is where the leader should walk “on the brink”, and ideally, not only foster controlled tension within the work team, but ask questions even when his instinct indicates that it is dangerous, open that “Pandora box”; and allow himself and others for deep reflection. Gathering the courage to face business reality is a sign of a great leader, and this reality often materializes in uncomfortable questions. It is leadership, as Heifetz would say, without “easy answers”: What are the values of the company? What place does the company occupy in the supply-demand scheme? What opportunities does the future hold, and what chance is there to capitalize on? A good leader knows that these questions are too “big” to be answered by one person. 

The role of adaptive leadership is to point the way, to be a guide, an aid to cope with bad weather, but not an answer. 

In fact, the inseparable companions of a leader are necessarily conflict and uncertainty. They are challenged to develop an experimental mindset; some decisions may work, others may not; some projects may work, others may not. But every decision and every project is going to teach the company something, and it serves as a starting point for deep learning.

 If we were used to thinking that the leader fostered the pursuit of a vision in the team, the new paradigm is that the leader guides us towards facing our problems. It’s as simple as that. A self-arguing and refuting team develops more powerful creative skills, finding new paths and solving problems as they arise.

A team that confronts and challenges ideas is a creative team and applies effective solutions that transcend individual capabilities. It is a team that debates and trusts, persists in results and allows growth.

The role of the leader is to create a safe environment so that tensions can play out and result in that creative spark.


Rodolfo owns a chemical-producing company, an SME like so many others. Some time ago, during a meeting where we discussed the team’s performance, he told me: “I have a hard time getting Juan to meet the sales deadlines (his Sales Manager).”

I asked him if he had been able to arrange a meeting to talk this with him.

  • “I don’t have time for more meetings,” he replied. “I already explained it to him on WhatsApp! I am also focused on training María, the new Administration Manager, who is having a hard time understanding our business.”
  • How often are you meeting with Maria?  Could you introduce her to the rest of the managers? I asked.
  • No, I don’t have time to meet with her, I already explained to her what she has to do, I keep doing everybody else’s job. I can’t leave them alone. If I just had the ability to replace all managers with robots, I would! Everything would be easier.
  • I can’t believe it! It’s hard for me to believe that you still think that robots are going to solve your company’s problems… and your whole life!

When we finished talking, I kept thinking: How can Rodolfo think like this? Doesn’t he know what his company would gain if his managers felt valued? Can’t he see the value of spending significant time building relationships with each team member? 

The answer came up with some ideas:

  • Communication. Spend time with the team. Communicate the objectives, listen to their ideas. A person who feels part of the team will want to contribute their ideas; they will give an extra.
  • Closeness and listen. Visit the company’s offices (when possible), be present in the areas where people work. Generate opportunities to talk to people, meet them, learn about their concerns, and listen to their ideas. There are issues that we have to talk face to face, not on WhatsApp.
  • Coherence. Be consistent with what is said and what is done. Let the actions of leaders be what their speeches enact. People should see in this owner someone reliable, who inspires them, challenges them to be better.

To carry out these initiatives it is not necessary to invest a large budget or have an important HR area. Sometimes a consultant can help you think beyond your daily and operational problems. It is important that, when planning the company year, these issues are considered as important on the company’s agenda, in addition to sales, expenses, margins and profits.The reason is very simple: people want to make a difference and contribute to a purpose, and when they achieve it, they give their 100%, and when they give it, the team and its culture become the main competitive advantage of the company. But neither you nor Rodolfo should expect this to happen spontaneously.  There are processes and methodologies to achieve a high-performance team.

Get started!


It’s Wednesday. I am meeting with the two owners of a company, an SME. I truly admire them because they forged their company with passion, sweat and desire, against all odds. An inspiring story that should be told with epic music. They grew up and want to “professionalize.” There we are, sitting and talking about objectives, metrics, processes to implement… when the door opens. 

A production manager apologizes for interrupting and tells the owners something, he needs a replacement. One of my interlocutors says “I have other priorities” and the other adds “I’ll go later and see how I can solve it for you.” The expression on the boss’ face is not cheerful. He thanks, apologizes again for interrupting, and closes the door gently.

This is an anti-example of what Google discovered in the Project Aristotle. Google wanted to find the alchemy of a “perfect team”, and started a study that sought to answer why some teams were successful and others failed constantly. They identified 180 teams around the globe, and began a series of interviews with executives, team leaders, and members of each one of them. The name of the project, alluding to the Greek philosopher, responds to the famous phrase that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” And boy did they check the hypothesis.

The most interesting thing is how the criteria for measuring the effectiveness of the team members were different from the executives. Executives relied heavily on hard data, sales, results, profit, the number of products that had been launched. Team members talked about “team culture” and put this issue above metrics. It is not surprising, by the way, that this is so. However, this simple truth deconstructs a maxim that favors the persistence of teams: to build and consolidate a successful team, results and culture must be balanced.

What if a team with certain success is made up of dissatisfied members? 

What if a team with members who enjoy a wonderful team culture sustains insufficient results? 

They both have the same fatal destiny.

But if the company manages to make individual team members feel safe and confident while challenging them to achieve the best results, we will be faced with this time-honored alchemy of the ideal team.

Google measured each team with variables that represented both that quantitative world of results and the qualitative world of team spirit, and built data from the four available visions: that of the executive, that of the team leader, that of the members, and that of the results.

The end of the story is that it didn’t matter so much who was on the team but how the team worked togetherAnd luckily, Google was also able to identify five factors that I was able to list to my two interlocutors at that meeting. The first, and most important, was that of psychological safety: the ingredient that encourages team members to take risks, knowing that no peer will embarrass you and no boss will torment you for doing … and eventually, failing. That you can ask questions, that you can offer your ideas. And most importantly, know that your boss doesn’t know. He does not know everything, he builds, like everyone else, knowledge and experience that draws on both what we know as a team and what we are willing to learn while risking.

Nobody likes to look useless, incompetent, weak. The options are always two: hide the not knowing, stop asking, do not risk opinions, or take advantage of and foster an environment in which not knowing is a learning opportunity and not proof of incompetence. Where the boss does not have all the answers and supports the team to generate new solutions. And that’s just the base. On these foundations, trust can be built, which is ultimately the philosopher’s stone on which a sustainably successful team is built.

A few minutes after I finished telling the owners about Aristotle, another boss opened the door and one of my interlocutors smiled at him, listened patiently to the question and replied: “The truth is that I don’t know, but I’ll finish with Ezequiel and we’ll see together how we can solve it.”



You look like a trade unionist”!

The title of this note summarizes quite well, in my opinion, a frequent experience in my interaction with businessmen and executives, and reflects a peculiar reality derived from the shift from the strategic view of leaders to the tactics of middle management.

In my last post, I mentioned Google’s Project Aristotle. The tech giant set out to find the roots of effective teams. Of course, researchers first had to determine how to define and measure “effectiveness.” They looked at written code lines, fixed bugs, customer satisfaction, and more. 

But Google leaders, who had initially pushed for objective measures of effectiveness, realized that each suggested measure could have inherent flaws: more code lines are not necessarily a good thing, and more bugs fixed means more bugs were created initially. Instead, the team decided to use a combination of qualitative assessments and quantitative measures. For the qualitative evaluations, input was obtained from three different perspectives: executives, team leaders, and team members. 

While they were all asked to rate the teams on similar scales, when asked to explain their ratings, their responses showed that each one focused on different aspects when assessing the effectiveness of the team. Executives were most concerned with results (for example, sales numbers or product launches), but team members said that team culture was the most important measure of team effectiveness. In other words, a good middle manager, according to senior managers, is one that achieves business results. But a good boss, according to his collaborators, is one who achieves a cohesive team. Consistently, the concept of effectiveness defined by the team leaders encompassed both the general panorama and the concerns of individuals, defining “effectiveness” based on accountability.In Spanish, we speak of personal responsibility or individual attitude of compliance, vision and objectives as the most important measures.

The bureaucrats?

With the advent of digital technologies, middle managers seem to have achieved the ability to communicate with the entire company. 

The horizontal, networked structures, the open-door offices, could be a sign that middle management, as formal communication channels, has become obsolete.  The chain of command is no longer necessary to communicate an idea. A single WhatsApp to the group of the entire company does it. The chief executive can communicate directly with whoever he wants by email. And the “leaps” in hierarchical communication are not seen as heresy but rather as fluid handling of information.

And while it is true that the role of acting as a formal communication channel is one that is definitely out of the question, can we, therefore, conclude that middle managers do not play a role? Definitely not. His role has evolved enormously. They play important roles in shaping culture, innovation and change.

In his many years of research, Quy Huy, professor of strategy at INSEAD Business School, has found four important roles of middle managers: 1) They act as intrapreneurs. In large corporations, they have access to local markets, they have the micro vision that Top Management cannot have. But this is also true in an SME, in which the owner or chief executive cannot be in every day-to-day detail. A company that empowers and values this vision as a source of innovation and creativity certainly has an advantage over its competitors. 2) Middle managers are informal networkers. They spend all day with their teams at the company. Commonly, they share more social events than the top managers. I remember a case of an Argentine company that wanted to become professional. He hired a General Manager with a long history, knowledge of the industry, processes, strategy, etc. But the key to his success was that he recognized and knew how to use his supervisors’ 10, 15 or 20 years of experience to his advantage. They knew… They WERE the company. 3) In a VUCA world (remember, for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), change is constant. And change is also emotionally disruptive, stressful. Employees have fears, questions, needs for guidance that executives cannot answer, because the answer requires a deep knowledge of people. This is the third role: coaching. 4) They balance change and continuity in organizations. Organizations change, innovate, evolve, but to succeed is to have continuity. What determines that, after a whole process of innovation and change, a team has a sense of identity and achievement and has not dismembered? 

Middle management. A strong line of middle managers is a prerequisite for creating sustainable growth. People choose every day: they can stick to the process manual, do their job, meet the metrics that get them the bonus, or go the extra mile. They do that only if they get personal recognition, and when I say personal, I mean human, encouraged by someone with whom they have a strong personal bond, not merely hierarchical. That someone is your direct boss. I always find myself, when reading about these topics, with a metaphor about the army. Soldiers go to war for their queen or for their country, but once on the battlefield, when the shrapnel is deafening and all the values that made sense while daytime no longer motivate them, the soldiers will make an extra effort for their sergeant, who is there, with them… They make that last and decisive effort for their sergeant.

Middle managers are the nervous system of the company culture.

Let’s go back to the sentence from the title. “Which side are you on? You look like a trade unionist! Middle managers must, indeed, satisfy conflicting needs sometimes: getting results and taking care of their people. That’s the point. It’s their people. Empowering middle managers to be true leaders will result in committed collaborators with a sense of belonging who, in turn, will take care of the client. Continuing with the psychologist metaphors of the previous paragraph where we equated reason to the strategic core and emotion to culture, we could say that, just as Freud said that the Ego must satisfy two different instances (the Super-ego and the Id), middle managers must be effective both in achieving results and in creating a team and culture. The key then seems to be to empower them, train them on the task, and trust that they will find a way to take care of their people so that their people take care of the customer.

Perhaps for all this Doug Williamson – President and CEO of Beacon Group, a consultant specializing in growth, innovation and strategy, argues that middle managers are more important than executives. Middle managers seem less important in an organization chart, in fact, they are lower… but if we looked at the map of social networks, links and formal and informal connections, we would see that they are hubs, nodes, that they are influencers. In this sense, they are the nervous system of the company culture. If an idea is not validated or a project is resisted, it simply won’t work. Something like if we rationally convince ourselves of an idea, but emotionally we are not so convinced… will we do it? It is in this “social network”, whose main nodes are the middle managers, that defines the way in which the company is managed, what is valued will be done. That is what we call culture. And that’s why, as John Burdet says, a leadership expert whom I met while at Transearch: culture feeds on strategy.


The emotional GPS to get through the crisis. The pandemic, the economic crisis, the new modality of work and “life with social distancing” require an adaptive effort, an effort greater than usual. This means a higher demand on our inner GPS: our emotional system. 

However, the care and development of our emotional system is usually relegated or, even more, not even a topic on the organizational agenda. Perhaps this is due to the inheritance of that old attempt to separate personal life from work. 

Times of change require adaptation, creativity, and responsiveness. The amount of new information and uncertainty that we face and will face will be greater than what we are used to. Fortunately, nature provided us with a system for interpreting reality: emotions, a system that we have been trying to despise and silence. Not only do we live in a culture that has not taught us to harness and use those emotions, but some of them are somewhat frowned upon. Emotions as basic as anger, joy, sadness and anguish, fear, love are censored. It is frowned upon to have a laughing fit in public. Not to mention crying… “well, think of something nice”… as if sadness were not an invitation to dive into the inner world. Not to mention the anguish. That’s weak, better get a pill and move on. Is love forbidden? Yes. “I come here to work, not to make friends.” Thus, the only emotion that we seem to manifest, and this is particularly noticeable in Latin American culture, is anger. Everything angers us. Nothing makes us happy, anguished or saddened. 

All this hardening that we have endeavored to build goes against the adaptive effort that we will have to make to build the “new normal” that will require, to go through –and use- a range of emotional states. Emotions, then, should not be seen as pathological symptoms to be eliminated to return to the state of normal. This would be equivalent to silencing the colors of a painting to return to the whiteness of the canvas. It’s not funny … nor does it work.

We can use emotions not as a symptom of the individual’s pathology, but as a wonderful source of information about the world around us. 

Then there is a crossroads. So much a choice. Do we choose to train and develop emotional wisdom to encourage ourselves to fully live joy, sadness, anxiety, anger and all the emotions that the creative process will require to adapt and co-create the new reality, or will we prefer to silence these annoying alarms? 

My proposal is, of course, the first option. I believe that we need to expand consciousness, that is, the ability to go through with acceptance -which does not mean with pleasure- what we have to go through. Do not turn fear into anger because it is weak, nor cover laughter because it is immature, nor believe that anguish is a fault.

The skills to be developed are: 

  1. Appreciation: It’s easy to complain about quarantine. We woke up on equal days, days of confinement, day of crisis. The option is not to wake up. Waking up is being alive. Reason enough to thank. And I’m sure most of you who read me have a lot to be thankful for. Putting the focus there puts us in a positive attitude and leads us to creativity.
  2. They see the glass half-full. It is the cognitive exercise of focusing on what I have and not what I lack. I do not focus on the problem but on the resources I have and the solution I want. This requires the following skill
  3. Will. Starting with giving responsibility to the individual and the team.
  4. Resilience: we are faced with a new situation. We are going to try things and we are going to be wrong. Resilience is the difference between each mistake making us weak or making us stronger as a learning opportunity. Success does not depend on the result of what we try, but on our ability to manage our mind and our emotions. Resilience is that it is not about what each experience generates, but about how we take advantage of each experience, how much we learn from it.
  5. Troubleshooting: The focus is not on the rational aspect of problem-solving. Problems are solved by thinking, as long as you can think. This requires emotional management strategies that help the brain to function well. From techniques like how to recite the alphabet backward to meditation techniques.
  6. Humor: In addition to generating endorphins, humor is the basis of the game, it is what allows us to create new senses, see things differently and it is the emotional basis of creativity. Without humor, there is no creativity and without creativity, there is no adaptation or co-creation. And if we don’t unleash that urge it can turn into anxiety. And anxiety in panic attack. If you use humor you can play and thus create, but if you cannot laugh you take things very seriously, you breathe short (wanting to control everything) and when control comes out of hands, anxiety transforms into panic attack.It’s better to laugh, right?
  7. Self-acceptance: If I am not going to work because I have the flu, it is valid. If I’m not going to work because I argued with my wife and I’m distraught, it is not. We do not validate emotional states. And not only the system does not accept them. We ourselves do not accept them. If I am anxious, I consume sugar and fat, if I am anxious, I eat my nails… instead of inhabiting the emotion and using it as a guide, I deny it. Self-acceptance is the unconditional collaboration with what it is. I’m sad. It is valid.I’m going to be sad. Not to wait for the sadness to go away to continue with my normal life. My life, now, is this sadness. Happiness is living that sadness with awareness. Emotional support means: “Come on, experience it, the team is with you.”
  8. Stress management: Ultimately, this point should be resolved with the previous ones. Once I become aware of my tiredness and my need to rest, I rest. No, I don’t have to be infallible. Curiously -or not- I am convinced that the systemic acceptance of this does not constitute a threat to productivity but quite the opposite.
  9. Faith: In a non-religious sense. Simply suggest the conversation about the meaning of life. What do we work for? What do we care about? At the end of the day, all the companies we admire have their statement of values, their purpose. Faith is that. Values Purpose Direction Something more important than the commercial result for the quarter. There cannot be a company with values without the courage to connect with what I call faith, which, again, has nothing to do with religion.
  10. Trust: Successful teams enjoy a sense of psychological security that allows their members to expose themselves emotionally in front of others (for example by showing an idea, we open the possibility of being judged.) Adapting requires innovation, innovation requires creativity, creativity requires confidence to expose ourselves. This idea was developed in the article “Tension and Creativity.”

In the midst of the pandemic, the crisis and uncertainty, where nobody seems to know what to do or how to process so much information, we have a GPS that has thousands of years of development: the emotional system. 

Let us focus on the development of emotional potential as the engine of adaptive co-creation.