I recently interviewed Peter Lichtenthal about his experiences taking over companies with a unique culture. I was struck by two things in that conversation.First was his ability to adapt.Peter says that every person has multiple selves – which is clearly true in my experience. Thus, adapting is dialing up one authentic self or dialing down another.That’s a wonderful metaphor that captures the need to adapt but without having a sense that you lose yourself.Carla Harris in a recentinterview at a Forte Conference said the same thing. For some people, you present the more serious self, for others you present the more humorous self.You still bring your whole self.
Second, Peter talked about being aware of the optics of his actions and his decisions. He chose to participate in entry level training classes to show that he was willing to learn the core business and the culture. Some decisions needed to be delayed because of the options. I find that when we lead, we are so focused on the outcomes, we often do not stop to adequately consider how our actions will be interpreted by the larger organization – particularly people who don’t know us well. As I think about helping organizations create more inclusive cultures, it strikes me that this is the heart of the matter. Having lunch or drinks with someone and therefore not having lunch or drinks with someone else results in “optics” and interpretations, intentions not-withstanding. Soliciting someone’s view in a meeting and being sure their perspective was heard, has optics.