Respecting the Visionary / Integrator Relationship

Respecting the Visionary / Integrator Relationship

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Respect and communication is a two way street and in the Visionary / Integrator relationship that is truer than anything else.  I will tell you, true Visionaries and CEO’s are not easy people. However, neither is a solid Integrator. We both have our pluses and we both have our minuses and EOS® figured that out a long time ago.  I have heard Mark C. Winters talk about “healthy tension” between the two, which is true and I believe a very good thing but it becomes unhealthy and it can get to that through no fault of either the Visionary or the Integrator.  Let’s face it, if you are a true Visionary and Integrator, you are bound to lock horns at some point. In my opinion, if you are not periodically in disagreement then one or both of you isn’t pushing enough. Your Integrator may be a ‘yes’ man. In any case, neither one of those makes for a healthy working relationship. So how do you work through this and prevent the relationship from becoming unhealthy?

Communication, communication, communication AND, I REPEAT Communication!  I have worked with many Visionaries and when things get funky, I can always tie it to a lack of communication. I currently work with one Visionary who is just amazing.  I was the first true Integrator he had ever worked with and he wanted to let go of the vine immediately. He didn’t believe we needed to connect regularly at first. The firm is made up of finance people who aren’t often known as great communicators.  I immediately saw the issue in some of the disconnects and demanded that we have a weekly call to stay in touch. This small tweak to our communication cadence helped an enormously.

I have another Visionary with whom I have worked where we would speak weekly, however, it was always short and tactical.  As a result, he would always skip the Same Page meetings where you REALLY need to spend time reviewing the VTO, focusing on the hard issues and walking away clean together.  This went on for several months and the stress for both of us tripled. The team began to feel it too, which didn’t help at all. They were constantly out of the loop while the rest of the team felt too much time was spent just getting them up to speed.  Well, we stopped that and had the same page meeting. The meeting was amazing and uplifting and we committed to never skipping it again.

The commitment to frequent and routine communication is entirely up to the Visionary and the Integrator.  Having run very large business units in the past, I could go 30, 60 or 90 days without speaking to my boss who lived on the other side of the country.  That was OK; we didn’t need it and were on the same page and accustomed to that arrangement. However, that won’t work for everyone. You have to gauge your progress and monitor the communications and address the connectivity and customize your strategy with each individual honestly. Doing too much can be just as bad and as doing too little.

Here are some pointers:

  • Are your meetings all blue skies and butterflies?  If your answer is yes, then you probably are not having a true Same Page meeting and you are more focused on feelings than business. You probably need to challenge each other a lot more.
  • Do you sense strain, friction or other issues?  You are probably not speaking enough. Schedule a weekly meeting either formal or informal depending on your relationship.
  • Are you constantly asked the same questions over and over, e.g., around finance? Teach/walk through as many times as it takes until the question is resolved.
  • Being transparent and direct goes both ways regardless of title and or being an owner. Accept criticism graciously and build on it.  Remember, this is for the greater good of your company. Growing an ego can kill companies.
  • Respect both sides and have each other’s backs at all times and especially in front of your team.

Years ago I had the pleasure of going through some training with a company called Afterburner which talks about debriefing, being direct, taking criticism, and improving. This Great video shows the Blue Angels during a debrief. There is no reason that the Visionary / Integrator can’t operate this way.  Your Same Page meeting should be like the men in the video: calm, direct and focused on improving.  

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