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Feb. 18 2007 05:15 PM

Over the years, I have asked hundreds of participants in management seminars to describe the characteristics of the best manager with whom they have ever worked. Its encouraging to me that nearly everyone recalled someone who fit that description. This leads me to the conclusion that most employees know what it takes to be a great manager.


One of the most frequently cited attributes of a great manager is consistency. I have repeatedly heard statements like, They walk the talk and Their actions are consistent with their words. However, sometimes it is difficult for us as managers to evaluate ourselves to see if we do meet the criteria of a great manager.


Ken Wilber, a contemporary American philosopher, has developed an Integral Map that I have found to be a valuable tool in assessing how well we maintain our integrity and consistency in managing our organizations. In his book, A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, & Spirituality, he shares, The Integral Map helps make sure that you are touching all the bases. If you are trying to fly over the Rocky Mountains, the more accurate a map you have, the less likely you will crash. An Integral Approach ensures that you are utilizing the full range of resources for any situation, with the greater likelihood of success.


The map is divided into quadrants. Each quadrant represents a different way to look at yourself as a manager in the context of  your organization. Wilber explains, [The map] shows the I  (the inside of the individual), the it (the outside of the individual), the we (the inside of the collective) and the its (the outside of the collective). In other words, the four quadrants which are the four basic ways of looking at anything turn out to be fairly simple: they are the inside and the outside of the individual and the collective.


Starting in the upper left quadrant (UL) the internal-individual view you can observe your thoughts, feelings and beliefs. For example, you might believe that it is important that people who work together be respectful of one another. If you see someone in your organization being treated disrespectfully, you will probably feel anger and think that the person being disrespectful is immature or rude. All of these reactions are your internal individual thoughts, feelings and beliefs until you take action in the exterior where it can be viewed by others. 


The upper-right quadrant (UR) the exterior-individual perspective is what an individual event looks like to an outside observer from an objective viewpoint. So if you have a conversation with the individual and speak to him or her (UR) about actions that you find disrespectful, then your behavior is demonstrated in the exterior where it is viewed by others. Problems start when your actions are not consistent with your stated values or beliefs. If you just get angry and dont take any action, you may have additional thoughts (UL) or be self-critical for your lack of action. You may question why you didnt do anything or why you didnt say anything, or you may conclude that you were too passive. If you have ever voiced that respect is an important value for this team in a memo or at a meeting (UR), and you do not take action, observers may find your reaction to be inconsistent with your previously stated values, which could portray you as unfair and hypocritical. 


This brings us to the lower-left quadrant (LL), the interior-collective. Wilber describes the interior-collective quadrant: Notice that every I is in relationship with other Is, which means that every I is a member of numerous WEs. These WEs represent not just individual but group (or collective) consciousness culture in the broadest sense. The culture of an organization is evident in the invisible rules, shared values and shared feelings that the group holds. In fact, one of the best ways to learn about the culture of a team is for a manager to listen to employees conversations at informal company settings, like the water cooler or lunch room. In this setting, you will likely hear employees criticize the manager whose actions toward a disrespectful employee were not consistent with previously stated values.


The outside of the culture is the lower-right quadrant (LR), or the exterior-collective perspective. These are the objective systems in an organization, like the written policies and procedures. For example, our manager might have a conversation (UR) with the disrespectful employee and file the documentation in the employees records. The record keeping/performance management system is an example of a system in the lower-right quadrant.


If we want to be consistent as a manager, then we need to look at all four quadrants. Obstacles to high performing teams are the cynicism, resentment and resignation that occur as a result of managers who act inconsistently. The manager who declares (UR) that all employees have to make every effort to cut back on costs, but then books an expensive hotel room for his next business trip and puts it on his expense report (LL) is viewed as a hypocrite. Or the manager who states (UR) that employees need to put in extra hours to meet a project deadline and then comes in late (UR) the next day or leaves early is demonstrating that his stated values are not consistent with his actions. Hence, the Integral Map is an incredibly useful tool to monitor your integrity in your role as a manager- to see just how well your actions match your previously stated values. 


In a Harvard Business Review article titled Level 5 Leadership, Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, notes a competent manager is one who organizes people toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives. In contrast, an effective leader is one who catalyzes commitment to and stimulates the group to high performance standards. An Integral Manager is one who maintains integrity in all four of the quadrants, thereby stimulating high performance and becoming a great manager.


Mark Taylor, MBA, DLP, is the President of TAYLOR Systems Engineering Corporation and the Chief Logistics Officer of RedRoller, Inc., the worlds first free Internet-based shopping service for shipping that compares the rates and delivery options of multiple carriers. He can be reached at