October 3, 2023

The 6 Adaptive Leader Behaviors with Ebenezer Ikonne

It’s so easy to get change management wrong. Whether it’s sweeping organizational changes or tweaks to your systems and processes, leaders need to adapt and manage the challenges that come with any change. 

When bringing big changes to your team, there could be differing opinions, resistance to change, or anxiety over changes. We call these “adaptive challenges,” and it’s important that leaders know how to balance these tensions in the right way.  

In this episode of the Built Right podcast, we speak with Ebenezer Ikonne, AVP Product & Engineering at Cox Automotive, and author of the book ‘Becoming a Leader in Product Development.’ Ebenezer explores the six most important adaptive leader behaviors to adopt and why. These are the behaviors that you as a leader can adopt to encourage your team to work with you and to reassure them. 

Read on to learn the six adaptive leader behaviors or tune in to the full discussion below.  

1. Get on the balcony 

When you’re right in the middle of things, it’s hard for leaders to get that outside perspective. But sometimes, it’s important to step back and “get on the balcony” so you can reflect on what’s happening around you. This can help you see the challenges faced by your team more clearly and objectively, as well as any possible solutions.  

It’s also important that leaders don’t get on that metaphorical balcony alone. Bring people that you trust who can offer a different perspective. 


2. Identify adaptive challenges 

With change comes challenges. If you’re changing something that people need to adapt their daily habits and processes for, there’s an adjustment period to be aware of.  

As a leader, you need to be able to make the distinction between a challenge with a straightforward answer versus a set of challenges that are either paradoxes or require huge paradigm shifts in the way you do things.  

There’s no easy answer to the best way to handle adaptive challenges, but leaders should continually engage with them to manage them better.  


3. Regulate distress 

One of the adaptive challenges you might face as a leader is team distress. Some people on your team might be ready and eager to make changes, others not so much. However, when it comes to changing day-to-day processes and responsibilities, there can be an element of stress for everyone. 

However, not all stress is bad stress. When you’re lifting weights at the gym, your body and mind are under stress. It’s hard work. But we know it’s also a good thing to exercise anyway. 

It’s the same with making changes to your development team. Those changes may be positive, but leaders should be aware of the anxiety and stress that can come with them. Try to recognize that everyone adapts differently and may require different levels of support.  


4. Maintain disciplined attention 

It can be tough to keep focus when we have to do things differently at work – even more so when we’re the ones responsible for managing those changes.   

Some in your team may be more resistant to change and may be hesitant to adopt new processes. They may lose focus, and this can cause friction when adopting new team changes.  

We know that people look to leaders in an organization and try to emulate what they’re doing, so leaders need to lead by example and direct everyone on what needs to be done. Try to maintain disciplined attention and keep focused on the end goals if you want to lead your team to success. 


5. Give the work back to the people

A common bad habit of leaders is trying to do everything themselves. You may think you’re doing your team a favor, but it’s more likely to just cause problems. If your team is left in the dark with little control over the situation, this can cause tension and anxiety.  

The best way to make changes as a leader is to involve your team in the why, how, and when of making changes. Your team is ultimately responsible for making and adapting to these changes, so give the work back to the people. Don’t try to shut them out. 


6. Protect leadership voices from below 

Everyone has a voice and an opinion in a company. Not all of those opinions are popular, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong or not valuable.  

When making changes, some of your team may be onboard immediately. Others might take time, and some might come up with dozens of reasons why it won’t work. 

It’s important not to shut those people out of the conversation though. Listen to their concerns and most of the time, you’ll find there’s important wisdom in their opinions. Cognitive diversity is important in a business. Everyone thinks in a different way, so make sure you’re not overlooking those differing opinions.  


There are no easy answers 

Managing change can be a tough challenge to overcome for leaders and their teams. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with adaptive challenges. But if leaders can adopt the above behaviors, it can reassure your team and help them adjust so that any changes you make are in line with your goals. 

For more insight into the six adaptive leader behaviors, check out the full podcast with Ebenezer today. 

[00:00:13] Matt Paige: Welcome Built right listeners. Today I have, I’m joined by Eb Ikonne, a VP of Product and Engineering at Cox Automotive.

[00:00:28] Matt Paige: I. And he is also an accomplished author of the book, becoming a Leader in Product Development. He’s got 20 years of experience in product development and is, uh, passionate about fostering joy at work, even as a YouTube channel by the same name. But welcome Ed to

[00:00:43] Ebenezer Ikonne: the show. Thanks for having me, Matt. Glad to be here.

[00:00:47] Matt Paige: Yeah, and a local Atlanta guy over at Cox, uh, where, where HatchWorks is located as well. Uh, but today we’re gonna deep dive into what you’ve coined, the the six adaptive leader behaviors, um, from your book, becoming a Leader in Product Development. So we’re gonna go through some of those and like just, you know, checking out the book, a big thing you kind of hit on, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for product development leaders to effectively lead.

[00:01:14] Matt Paige: As workplace demands continue to increase, rate of change, as we all know, is getting crazy. Whether it’s technology, society, business, there’s a lot of pressure on leaders to ensure their groups are moving in a direction towards a common goal. And this is what some of this stuff’s gonna start to hit on, like how do you become a, an effective leader?

[00:01:32] Matt Paige: But to kick us off, uh, let’s, let’s go into the, the first adaptive leader behavior and can I give us an overview there?

[00:01:40] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah, sure. So maybe you should set, I should set some context for this as well. Yeah. Let’s do to the, uh, to the, uh, behaviors that we expect leaders who create a situation where adaptation happens.

[00:01:55] Ebenezer Ikonne: I. Often to put in place and I should give some credit to the, there are several individuals whose research I worked on or, or read on to really come up with this. But one of them was, uh, Ron Hefe, who has written a number of books on adaptive leadership. And his thoughts and perspectives are, were quite insightful and to a large degree, these behaviors are.

[00:02:18] Ebenezer Ikonne: Lifted from his work, but applied specifically in a product, um, development sort of context. Mm. And like you rightly said, the, the challenge today is we have a lot of. Situations that face us and we go about trying to solve them sort of the wrong way. And so the basis for a lot of this, this adaptive approach is to really recognize that in the workplace we’ll have a bunch of challenges.

[00:02:44] Ebenezer Ikonne: Some challenges are, are really straightforward, but some challenges are not straightforward. They might be wicked problems, they might be paradoxes. There might be situations where. We have to balance tensions, right? We want to deliver quickly. Mm-hmm. But we want to deliver high quality, right? So, and these kinds of challenges or problems just require a different approach.

[00:03:05] Ebenezer Ikonne: But it, it so happens that, uh, for the most part, and I kind of, I. Blame, if you will, our academic and institutions for this. We are raised as problem solvers and so we generally approach every challenge thinking like there is a specific solution and answer to this question and everything becomes a math problem.

[00:03:28] Ebenezer Ikonne: But there, there just challenges that are, don’t lend themselves to that kind of situation, so. Yeah, it’s really first identifying that not every situation is a math problem that can be solved. There’s problems that we need to dance with, and those problems that we need to dance with, you know, are referred to as adaptive challenges.

[00:03:48] Ebenezer Ikonne: There are other names for them, but in this context, they’re referred to adaptive challenges. And then as leaders, Our teams need to dance with these problems as we do, and so these are sort of behaviors you as a leader can adopt and encourage that can help your team. I. Dance, if you will, with the challenges that confront them.

[00:04:07] Ebenezer Ikonne: So I hope, I hope that’s con good context before we get into the behaviors. I don’t know if you Yeah. Anything you wanna, that’s poke at

[00:04:13] Matt Paige: there’s Yeah, no, that’s perfect context. I love the, you you coined it like dancing with the problems. There’s like, there’s some rhythm to it, right? And I think like, I love how you said too, there’s never like one right answer, right?

[00:04:25] Matt Paige: Like the core, like I’m a strategy nerd. And that’s one thing with strategy is there’s no perfect strategy. There’s no one right strategy. There’s multiple strategies you can take, and it’s really all about increasing your odds of success with an effective strategy. Right. Yeah, no, that makes a lot of

[00:04:42] Ebenezer Ikonne: sense.

[00:04:43] Ebenezer Ikonne: Right. So let’s, so let’s dump, uh, let’s jump, uh, into the, uh, six, uh, behaviors that we are looking at here. So the first one is referred to as like getting on the balcony. And that’s really just attaining some distance. Um, if you’ve ever been to a program or a show and you’re kind of in the middle of things, you might notice that.

[00:05:07] Ebenezer Ikonne: Mm-hmm. You don’t have a great perspective on what’s going on. Right. You don’t necessarily see the forest for the trees. And so getting on the balconies, really creating the space to almost step back and reflect on what’s going on and, and happening around you, and really not. Always making decisions in the heat of the battle, if I can use that metaphor, but just attaining some distance and trying to gain some perspective.

[00:05:33] Ebenezer Ikonne: And I would add. That. I think it’s also important for leaders to not, you know, get on the balcony by themselves all the time, like find people that, that you trust, people that bring maybe a different perspective and have them join you on the balcony, the metaphorical balcony, so that they can kind of give you a perspective of what they’re seeing and what they’re observing.

[00:05:57] Ebenezer Ikonne: As we all know, we all have our. Our biases, we all have things that stand out to us that might not stand out to somebody else just because of our experiences, our history and life. So the more we can get diverse perspectives on what’s going on, the better that we have, the better opportunities we have for really identifying what’s in front of us and and, and what we need to go and address.

[00:06:24] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah.

[00:06:24] Matt Paige: So eb, let me ask you this. So you are at Cox Automotive and for those that are not familiar with Cox, there’s Cox Automotive, Cox Communications, like, there’s so many different, uh, brands and things within that. So is there like a, you know, when you’re in a large company like that, is there like, A balcony using the, the metaphor within kind of your specific group.

[00:06:45] Matt Paige: And then there’s another balcony that’s an even higher level kind of strategic one. ’cause all the different groups within Cox, I’m sure kind of play together and there’s uh, you know, things that you have to consider throughout that.

[00:06:57] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah. Yeah, so everybody, everyone as a leader is responsible for scope and you need to get on the balcony, you know, that overlays the scope you’re responsible for.

[00:07:09] Ebenezer Ikonne: So my scope is not the scope of Cox Enterprises, so I’m not supposed to get on the balcony and reflect on scope, uh, on Cox Enterprises as a whole. But I have a scope within the product development group within Cox Automotive, and my job is to on, on occasion with people, take a step back and reflect on what’s going on.

[00:07:31] Ebenezer Ikonne: So leaders at every level in the org for whatever scope they’re assigned to. Mm-hmm. Have to like get on the balcony and identify the challenges that are, you know, they have to address and, and lead through for their immediate context. And everybody’s supposed to be doing this at every level within the org for sure.

[00:07:52] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah,

[00:07:52] that’s

[00:07:52] Matt Paige: great. Context is the, the forest through the trees, which is so difficult. I’ve struggled with that in the past too. You know, trying to get out of the tactical day to day and, and get to the, why am I doing this right? 

[00:08:03] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that, I was just gonna say, I think that that’s why

[00:08:08] Ebenezer Ikonne: It’s important that we get multiple perspectives. You know, sometimes we think as leaders that I gotta do it alone. I gotta figure it. It out by myself. I need to see the entirety of the forest for the trees when it comes to something. Uh, re regarding my, my org, and this is where I think the idea of distributed leadership is really important.

[00:08:28] Ebenezer Ikonne: And this view of leadership is not what a single individual does. It leadership is actually produced through the interactions of a people on a team. And yes, I might be the. Designated leader and have certain expectations, uh, that are, uh, ex expectations that people have of me for sure. But when it comes to leadership as a whole, you know, everyone needs to participate in leadership.

[00:08:53] Ebenezer Ikonne: And again, getting on the balcony. We should have more people really together. Let’s, let’s talk about what we’re seeing, let’s talk about what we’re perceiving as a group, and then that helps us understand how we should go forward. This is, you know, offsites and like, sorry, offsites and things like that.

[00:09:13] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah. You can, you can kind of think about those things as like tangible examples of when people are trying to get on the balcony, right? Yeah. One of the challenges sometimes with things like offsites is that people get distracted with. Pressing emails in the moment, and so they don’t mm-hmm. Give their selves the time to be on the balcony to do that reflection.

[00:09:32] Ebenezer Ikonne: But when you change your space, when you step out of your normal routine, that’s, you know, when you get off the down dance floor, it’s kind of a way to think about it when you’re no longer dancing and you get on the balcony to, to watch what’s going on. That’s, that’s what it’s like.

[00:09:47] Matt Paige: Yeah. I wish, I wish answering email was as fun as dancing, but.

[00:09:52] Matt Paige: No, that’s great. I love, I love that as a starting point there. So let’s, let’s jump to number two.

[00:09:57] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah. Identify adaptive challenges. And I talked a little bit about that in the intro, and it’s really making the distinction between what is a challenge that has a straightforward, easy answer. Maybe there’s a established pattern and recipe for that.

[00:10:13] Ebenezer Ikonne: For that, uh, that challenge. And really all you need to do is adopt it or maybe go hire an expert who can show you and teach you how to do those things versus a set of challenges that are really, um, either paradoxes or, uh, tensions within the org. Or require like just wholesale paradigm shifts, um, in the way you do things.

[00:10:38] Ebenezer Ikonne: Maybe you had a sales strategy that was one way, but now you want to adopt a new sales strategy, and that’s a big change for everybody in the org. And adaptive challenges are tricky sometimes because, They often require that we make changes to the way we think about the world, to the way we kind of act in the world.

[00:11:01] Ebenezer Ikonne: There isn’t necessarily expertise that we can just go by and apply and, and just have it work for us. We really need to come up with our own. Um, Our own solutions in that situation, and leaders in that context need to help people understand like there are no easy answers here. There are no easy answers here.

[00:11:24] Ebenezer Ikonne: We all of the easy answers, we’re all dying for easy answers, but there are no easy answers. In this situation, we’re gonna have to kind of dance our ways and maybe not solve the problem, but being a continual like engagement with that problem and, and manage it better.

[00:11:41] Matt Paige: Yeah. It’s, it’s that whole idea of shifting your, your mental model and our human, our own human nature and human behavior, like acts against that so many times.

[00:11:51] Matt Paige: But you hit on the topic of paradox is I, I love a good paradox. Is there, is there any para like a paradox out there that you’re like, oh, that’s, that’s the one that I find the most, uh, compelling or interesting that you’ve, you’ve encountered?

[00:12:04] Ebenezer Ikonne: Wow. I mean, we deal with paradoxes, you know, every day. Like an obvious one if you’re in product development is finding that balance between building the right thing, if you will, like in, in the right way.

[00:12:17] Ebenezer Ikonne: Mm-hmm. And. Yeah, we want to get something out as soon as possible, but we also want it to, you know, stand up to scrutiny and be solid and, and, and, and have the quality that it needs to have in it as, so that’s just a very obvious one I think we figure out, we deal with in, in product development. Even if you get more tactical, there’s always this tension between how much do we need to know before we start versus starting and learning as we go.

[00:12:44] Ebenezer Ikonne: Right. And you know, if you just start without any kind of, Trying to understand what you’re going after. You waste a lot of time. But then if you spend all this time trying to fully understand what you’re going after, you also waste a lot of time because you can’t do either. So paradoxes show up very tactically.

[00:13:03] Ebenezer Ikonne: They show up more strategically and more organizationally as well. Yeah, that’s a good one. I like

[00:13:09] Matt Paige: the nods of built right there. Build the right. That’s right. The right way. Yeah. As well. Yeah. Uh, all right, number three. What, what, what’s number three? 

[00:13:18] Ebenezer Ikonne: So number three is regulate distress. And this is an interesting one because, you know, we often view stress as being completely negative, but there’s good and healthy stress.

[00:13:28] Ebenezer Ikonne: And if you. You, uh, I, I use a sporting metaphor here. Or if you are exercising or playing your favorite sport or doing something like that, you know, there’s a stress that comes at a certain level if you’re doing it. Uh, but because you’re enjoying it, you know, we don’t recognize it as stress. We generally recognize stress, negative stress as being stressful.

[00:13:53] Ebenezer Ikonne: And the point here is that, When you take on adaptive challenges that require changes to mental models, maybe require changes to belief systems, require people learn new ways of doing their job, maybe having to put away, try to, uh, true practices that people have developed over the years, that can lead to a lot of anxiety, can lead to a lot of nervousness, and then distress interns.

[00:14:19] Ebenezer Ikonne: So as a leader, you. Want to make it sure that you just foster an environment where people, it’s not like people won’t get stressed because what you’re doing is a change, so people will be stressed, but you want to regulate that and pay attention to that and be sensitive to that and, and just recognize that everybody is.

[00:14:41] Ebenezer Ikonne: Going through this change probably at a different pace. Like one of the things I tell leaders that I talk to is remember that whenever you are leading a group through the kind of change we’re talking about right now, it’s quite likely that you’ve had days, weeks, and months to process it emotionally. So they’re behind you.

[00:15:02] Ebenezer Ikonne: And so I’m always. It surprises me that leaders expect, like the people on their team to be right there with them emotionally and forget that they’ve had time to like deal with the emotions and they need to allow for people to sort of catch up emotionally, if you will, as they try to embrace the new change that’s they’re about to embark on.

[00:15:25] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah, I wanna

[00:15:26] Matt Paige: go deeper there. ’cause that’s an interesting point. I, I’ve encountered this too, where, to your point, you’ve been thinking about it for months, you know, talking to other leaders and working through the change, and you have this great plan and then you roll it out to the team and they’re seeing it for the first time.

[00:15:41] Matt Paige: So they’re, they could be blindsided, they could be caught off guard, they could be excited for the change. How do you help foster that in a. A, uh, positive way to where, ’cause really, at the end of the day, it’s, it’s your people that are gonna execute the change. And if they’re not clear and on board, it’s probably not gonna be successful.

[00:16:00] Matt Paige: Any, any thoughts on how to make that successful pass from like idea strategy to execution?

[00:16:08] Ebenezer Ikonne: I really love the, the point that you made there, that change only succeeds because the people who have to do the change actually do the change. Mm-hmm. So my first thought there is, Uh, we should always be preparing the conditions for change and, and what does that mean?

[00:16:24] Ebenezer Ikonne: Like mm-hmm. If people trust you, they know you generally have their best interest. If you follow through on what you say you’re going to do, then you are creating an environment in general that is conducive to change. And I think what happens is, We often make change exercises very eventful in nature, and, and we don’t, we just don’t have an environment that’s like conducive to change.

[00:16:51] Ebenezer Ikonne: We haven’t created organizations where people trust, they believe that what the leadership’s doing is generally in the best interest. And when leaders make mistakes, they actually say, Hey, I made a mistake. And so. People are, for the most part, like suspicious, like, you know, do they really have our best interests at heart?

[00:17:13] Ebenezer Ikonne: You know, it’s like people walk around thinking about that. And so when a change now shows up, people are already starting from a place of, you know, distrust as you said, or suspiciousness and wondering what’s going on here. So I think as a leader, you need to, we need to ask ourselves what kind of environment am I like?

[00:17:32] Ebenezer Ikonne: Like just fostering every single day. Mm-hmm. And then when it comes to the moment where I’m introducing a change, To recognize that people are gonna respond to this differently, like you said, and I need to give time for people to kind of go through the emotions and that will differ depending on what’s going on.

[00:17:51] Ebenezer Ikonne: Like, look, if it’s a change that needs to happen in the next 24 hours, because if we don’t make the change are we’re gonna go out of business, then we’re gonna have to, you know, like people are gonna have to get on board quickly. But if it’s a change, that’s gonna be something. That’s gonna go on for a while, and we really need people to be engaged, then we need to give people an opportunity to express themselves remaining firm, that we’re going to go through this change.

[00:18:16] Ebenezer Ikonne: But also respecting that each individual’s probably going to go on the change at a different pace. And also understanding like the change might not be for everybody as well. Like that’s the, that’s maybe swinging the pendulum too far sometimes. Where we, we, we feel we need to get everybody on board when you’ve, when.

[00:18:33] Ebenezer Ikonne: You’ve done your work to create an environment that’s generally trusting and all those other things, and it’s time for a change and you’ve given people the opportunity to express how they feel and kind of work through their emotions. Then if there are people who you know that change, you know, I’m big on joy at work.

[00:18:50] Ebenezer Ikonne: If there are people who that change basically, Erodes all the joy at work, then you probably, even for them, want them to find something else to do too. So, yeah. No, that’s a great

[00:19:02] Matt Paige: point. I don’t know if this is, I think a good de great reference, but it’s like the, the, the main job of a leader. Pointing the bus in the right direction, getting the right people on the bus and then getting ’em on the right seats.

[00:19:14] Matt Paige: Like that’s such an important piece, especially when you’re changing course and doing something, something different. The other thing too, it was interesting, you talk about like good stress, like, and just as like a side net, I feel like you need to coin a term for good stress because I feel like stress has such a negative connotation.

[00:19:32] Matt Paige: Like it’s gotta be a better word. ’cause like you mentioned the, the sports example, the same thing with like, Working out. It’s painful in the, in the time, but it, it has benefits over that. So we need, we need a new word for it. That’s, uh, maybe a, a takeaway.

[00:19:46] Ebenezer Ikonne: Well, there, there’s actually a word for it. I think I might have mentioned it in the book.

[00:19:50] Ebenezer Ikonne: Okay. But it’s, I think it’s eustress, eustress or something like that. EU S ah, I like that. T r e, sss, I’ve never heard of that generally considered as beneficial stress. But you are right on point that the fact of the matter is, you know how some words are. Ultimately defined by how they’re used in society.

[00:20:07] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah. Stress is a word that’s primarily considered or primarily defined as a negative right now. Mm-hmm. So, while there is a positive version of it, I think you and I both be challenged to get people to, to take it as adopted. Yeah. People, people find it hard to think positively about stress, but there is positive stress and like you said, Working out and enjoying the workout, the di, it’s difficult.

[00:20:31] Ebenezer Ikonne: It’s stressful, but it’s a beneficial stress for sure. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. All

[00:20:36] Matt Paige: right. Let’s go to number four.

[00:20:38] Ebenezer Ikonne: Maintain disciplined attention. It’s probably, uh, straightforward when we’re asking ourselves to do things that are different, that are difficult, that challenge. Challenge our, our way of being. Uh, it can be hard to keep focus on those things.

[00:20:56] Ebenezer Ikonne: I don’t know if you’ve been part of, uh, initiatives where you’re trying to adopt something new and it just, it seems like people are not doing it and they’re coming up with a whole bunch of reasons why they can’t do it, and, and so this is exactly what. What this, uh, behavior is about. As a leader, you need to keep pointing people to the work that we have to do.

[00:21:18] Ebenezer Ikonne: And I think it’s Edgar Schein that says, one of the ways you transmit culture is by signaling what matters most to you when you’re a leader and you know. There, there are evolutionary explanations for this. There are other kinds of explanations for this, but we know that people look at the leaders in the organization in large degree to a large degree, and then emulate what they’re doing.

[00:21:43] Ebenezer Ikonne: You know, you, you may wonder why this is the case, but it is the case. And so if my leader, if something’s come from on high that we’re gonna do x. But I observe that my leader’s not paying attention to it. I probably won’t pay attention to it, except I’m very passionate about that thing, right? That’s the exception.

[00:22:03] Ebenezer Ikonne: But when I’m not passionate about the thing or the things going to introduce some stress, some negative stress into my life, I’m probably not going to be. As, uh, attentive to what I need to do. And so a key point here is when we’re dancing with these adaptive situations, we need to really, uh, keep people focused on the task in front of them, the adaptive work.

[00:22:29] Ebenezer Ikonne: If you need, we need to set up the right incentives. We need to talk about it all the time. We need to let them know, help them see that this matters to us, and that we want them to stay focused on it.

[00:22:41] Matt Paige: Yeah, and I think I, I draw a comparison in marketing and re really in leadership like you’re talking about.

[00:22:46] Matt Paige: It’s that idea of repetition. Uh, and it’s tough ’cause like, you know, in, in the marketing side, we may talk about something over and over again and just about the point where we’re just like completely dead tired of talking about it. That’s when it’s just starting to catch on. It’s the same thing in leadership too.

[00:23:02] Matt Paige: And I, I think back to previous experiences, you know, People, leaders would keep harping on the same thing over and over again. But that was intentional, right? ’cause you’re kind of signaling to your point, like where the priority is, where the focus is and it’s so critical. ’cause you, you’re trying to get a large group of people focused in the same direction.

[00:23:23] Matt Paige: Yeah.

[00:23:23] Ebenezer Ikonne: Like they say, you know, repetition deepens the impression. And so that’s just important. You need to keep talking. Talking about it, keep, uh, highlighting it, keep tying it back to why it matters for sure. So you repeat it, but you also tie it back to like, this is why this is so important at this time, and if we don’t do what we’re trying to do here, this is, this is how it negatively potentially impacts all of us here.

[00:23:49] Ebenezer Ikonne: So we need, we need to really take this on. And, and I just want to say like sometimes, uh, In, in orgs. We don’t want to let people, we don’t want to tell the truth, right? We take this kind of parent child relationship, you know, as a parent, you know, there, there are things you, you don’t think your children are mature enough to handle that are important and you, you keep that, that information away from them and, you know, um, I can totally relate to that.

[00:24:15] Ebenezer Ikonne: As a parent of three kids, they’re just information I wouldn’t share with my kids at this particular point, but in the work. Place. We’re not dealing with children. These are mature men and women. Many, you know, making big time decisions every single day. And so if their actions can impact negatively or positively the org, I think it’s important.

[00:24:38] Ebenezer Ikonne: Uh, we need to be, it’s healthy transparency, but I think too many orgs err on the side of trying to protect their people by not giving them important information they need to know. No,

[00:24:51] Matt Paige: that, that one, that one hit. To my core. That’s a, that’s a very good point there. I like that. Alright, number five. 

[00:24:58] Ebenezer Ikonne: Give the work back to the people.

[00:24:59] Ebenezer Ikonne: Hopefully this is a bit self-evident. This is really saying like, the adaptive work needs to be done by the people. And, uh, you, you, you hit on this I think when you were making the comment that, you know, you need the people who, who the. Change needs to be done by the people ultimately. Mm-hmm. And so given the adaptive work back to the people, is making sure as a leader in this context, you don’t step in and say, Hey, I got to make all these changes by myself in a sense, it’s not really practical, but I don’t know if you.

[00:25:32] Ebenezer Ikonne: You’ve worked for a, a product, uh, micromanaging product person in the past who wants to do everything by themselves. That’s just not a scalable approach. People need to have a sense of ownership. This is a part of like, almost, you know, be let letting people be citizens in a way, right? Just having people be active in shaping the outcomes that, uh, we all desire.

[00:25:58] Ebenezer Ikonne: And so giving the work back to the people. Another maybe important new nuance here is, uh, often leaders think that it’s their job job to come up with the solution and then have other people implement the solution. And there are kind, there’s certain challenges where that might be the case where it’s a, a, a challenge with a clear technical solution and the leader might be the expert and all they need.

[00:26:26] Ebenezer Ikonne: Do is tell people what to do, but these adaptive challenges, in many cases, there isn’t a defined solution and we need to figure it out together. And so you want your teams to really own figuring it out together, uh, and really taking ownership of the work and not becoming like order takers or just, um, following instructions on an instruction sheet.

[00:26:51] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah. Any examples

[00:26:53] Matt Paige: in your past experience, whether that’s Cox or other places where either that you’ve seen that done effectively or maybe not, not so effectively kind of giving the work to the people and where it either worked or didn’t? Yeah,

[00:27:05] Ebenezer Ikonne: I think product development is a great example of this because the whole thing of.

[00:27:11] Ebenezer Ikonne: About product development is you’re trying to provide a product of some sort that helps somebody do something they want to do, right? So every product in the world, uh, is really an enabler. It helps somebody meet a need of theirs, ultimately, like the product in of itself is not what they desire.

[00:27:31] Ebenezer Ikonne: Ultimately, what they desire is something else. And that product to use, uh, jobs to be done turn, you know, framing here enables them. To do the job they want to do, but in understanding what the right product is. You know, there are really two kind of big schools out there. We have a school where you have some very senior product people and they make all the decisions on what the product’s going to be, and then they have.

[00:28:00] Ebenezer Ikonne: Have a team that just implements all of their decisions. And that’s an example of not giving the work back to the people because a lot of product development is adaptive work. We, we don’t know exactly what’s needed. We need to talk to people and learn and iterate over what’s done. So the great examples that I’ve seen, these leaders who connect their teams with people that have problems, give them all the support, all the resources, all the funding, and say, You own developing and delivering a solution for this customer and this situation.

[00:28:35] Ebenezer Ikonne: This is your adaptive challenge to own team. I’m here to provide support, provide guidance, provide resources, maybe contribute where it makes sense, but this is yours to own, versus I’m going to decide maybe in an ivory tower what the solution is and you’re gonna implement it. So

[00:28:56] Matt Paige: many parallels in the product development space there.

[00:28:59] Matt Paige: Alright, let’s finish it up, number six.

[00:29:02] Ebenezer Ikonne: Number six is protect leadership Voices from Below and. Um, all this is getting to is they’re always those individuals in our groups who have, uh, uh, dissenting opinions or who say things that might rub people the wrong way. Not that the thing itself is what they’re saying is bad, and this is not, uh, condoning, like people speaking, just not being nice.

[00:29:28] Ebenezer Ikonne: This is really about people who, uh, Have unpopular opinions, making it safe for them to do so and giving them airtime as well. Uh, you know, we talk a lot about cognitive diversity or we talk about diversity in general. And a big ex uh, type of diversity is cognitive diversity. You have people who, um, Whenever a new idea comes up, the first thing they see is every reason why you can’t implement that idea.

[00:29:58] Ebenezer Ikonne: Right? Yeah. You know, and then you have people, the idea comes up and they see every reason why the idea will work. Uh, if you’re in an, an environment that has, uh, that has a bias towards like, let’s get things done, people who. Kind of press on the brakes and say, slow down, become unpopular. But you wanna ensure as a leader that you allow these people’s perspectives to come out.

[00:30:24] Ebenezer Ikonne: Because in many cases, in my personal experience, having worked with, you know, people on both, Aside, everyone’s got something to bring to the table that should be considered and you just don’t want to overlook it. Even if it’s unpopular, there’s often some wisdom in what they’re sharing and that you want to take into consideration.

[00:30:43] Ebenezer Ikonne: So that’s an important aspect of keeping an environment, of keeping a healthy environment where people are taking on challenges.

[00:30:52] Matt Paige: Yeah. Something we’ve adopted at Hatch works over the past couple years is, you know, the, the whole team does what’s called like a DISC assessment. So if you’re familiar with like Myers-Briggs kind of a personality test.

[00:31:03] Matt Paige: But what’s been beneficial there is, I know that, you know, Trent on the team is this type of, uh, personality versus, you know, uh, Kathleen’s this type of personality. And it just gives, uh, better enablers for that type of conversation. ’cause somebody may be more reserved, may need to think about something deeper before voicing an opinion versus somebody else may be like, all right, I’m, I got, I got perspective right away.

[00:31:28] Matt Paige: And I think too, It’s like, you know, I think you mentioned in a previous chat, like we’re both self-proclaimed introverts, right? So it’s, it’s giving those other folks the, the voices that may be quieter on the team, uh, freedom to speak and voice their opinion. And I think that’s been an interesting evolution for us at, uh, Hatworks over time.

[00:31:49] Matt Paige: Yeah,

[00:31:49] Ebenezer Ikonne: I think one technique that I’ve really come to appreciate over the years that. That’s, uh, in the same vein of understanding people’s thinking styles, whether it’s DISC or H B D I or, or some of the other things that are out there today. Mm-hmm. Um, is the, Bono’s six thinking hats. And I don’t know if you’ve heard about it before, but I haven’t.

[00:32:12] Ebenezer Ikonne: Yeah, it’s Deb Bono. He’s a, was a great creative thinker, wrote a lot of stuff on, on how groups can work better and how innovation can occur. But he has this idea of, of six thinking hats and I’ll just go over them quickly ’cause they’re interesting. But the, yeah, what, what the six thinking Hats do is. To your point in making it safe for people to, to, to raise things, it makes it less about the person and really challenges the group to wear particular hats as they go through a problem that way.

[00:32:44] Ebenezer Ikonne: Mm-hmm. You get an opportunity to hear all the various perspectives. So the, the six hats are white, yellow, um, I believe gray, red, green, and I think blue, if I’m not mistaken. Uh, Yeah. Yeah. So the white hat is really, if I, if I remember serves you right, is like just state what? The facts are, the Yellow Hat is all about, uh, positive.

[00:33:08] Ebenezer Ikonne: You know, like the go-getters people who are all about like, yeah, we can make this happen and give us the reasons why. You know, there’s another hat that’s all about what are the risks with this. Uh, the Red Hats all about emotion, you know, how do you feel about this? Mm-hmm. The Green Hat focuses largely on creativity and whatnot, and then the blue hat.

[00:33:30] Ebenezer Ikonne: Hat, sort of the person who’s making sure that if we’re all wearing our white hats right now and stating the facts, you know that that’s what we’re doing. Like no one’s wearing a green hat when we should be wearing a white hat. Mm-hmm. So that’s another way of, if you think about a protecting voices from below, by sort of asking everybody to move from maybe their preferred or default thinking approach to.

[00:33:57] Ebenezer Ikonne: Different thinking approaches while talking about a problem or doing anything. Okay. When you brought

[00:34:04] Matt Paige: up the colors that, that rung a bell. ’cause I do remember, I forget when it was sometime at at t in a past life. Um, we were in a room and I remember like we moved by the colors. It was some kind of exercise.

[00:34:16] Matt Paige: That I think was tied to this methodology, so that that’s triggering back some memories now. Yeah. Yeah. I like that

[00:34:21] Ebenezer Ikonne: one. I think it should be used more. I’m often in a lot of meetings where I think we’d benefit from, uh, using the thinking hats in this meeting. Mm-hmm. Because, you know, causing asking people to actually adopt, uh, a different stance.

[00:34:37] Ebenezer Ikonne: It’s actually very healthy for us, you know, if. If I’m always thinking about the risks associated with things and that’s sort of my default, my go-to, that’s natural for me. But maybe what I need to begin to grow is the way I think about opportunity and kind of putting on that hat can help me develop that part of my, uh, my thinking as well.

[00:35:01] Ebenezer Ikonne: That’s perfect.

[00:35:01] Matt Paige: I think that’s a great place to, to wrap it up there, eb, so where, where can people find you, uh, find your stuff? Where, where’s the best place for people to go? Yeah, so, uh,

[00:35:11] Ebenezer Ikonne: I’m on LinkedIn, Ebenezer. You can find me on there. I’m on Twitter as well. Well, even though Twitter’s, uh, or is it X these days?

[00:35:21] Ebenezer Ikonne: X now? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:35:22] Matt Paige: The artist, they still got some mixed branding too. Yeah. The,

[00:35:25] Ebenezer Ikonne: the artist formerly known as Twitter is probably what it is, you know, so I’m still on X, as you mentioned. I have a YouTube. Channel called Joy at Work, where, where I, uh, talk about experiencing, creating joy at work for yourself.

[00:35:40] Ebenezer Ikonne: Mm-hmm. And with others. And yeah. And then my book, becoming a Leader in Product Developments on Amazon or a press, and you can get it from there as well. Yeah.

[00:35:49] Matt Paige: The book’s great. I encourage everybody to check out the joy work too, like nice little tidbits, um, tied, tied to your thinking and approach there.

[00:35:58] Matt Paige: Lots of good stuff there. I appreciate that. Thanks for, uh, thanks for being on the show. Thanks

[00:36:03] Ebenezer Ikonne: for having me, Matt. It’s been fun.


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