Clear Leadership | Gervase R. Bushe

Summary of: Clear Leadership: Sustaining Real Collaboration and Partnership at Work
By: Gervase R. Bushe


Welcome to a concise exploration of the ideas put forth in Gervase R. Bushe’s ‘Clear Leadership: Sustaining Real Collaboration and Partnership at Work’. Within this summary, you’ll discover the complexities that come with collaboration and how to tackle the barrier of ‘interpersonal mush.’ Bushe offers insights on fostering a positive collaborative environment through interpersonal clarity and self-differentiation. You’ll also learn valuable leadership skills that facilitate meaningful partnerships for a thriving workplace. Get ready to dive into instructive and engaging concepts that demystify collaboration and unleash its full potential.

Clearing Interpersonal Mush

Collaboration in the modern workplace has made it necessary for companies to eliminate interpersonal mush and make way for “interpersonal clarity.” Interpersonal mush occurs when employees create negative and disconnected stories about their colleagues, leading to mistrust, depression, and burnout. The issue is greatest in situations of unequal power, where sense-making stories about leaders can take on a life of their own. As a manager, it’s important to help your employees learn from their collective experience and address your perceptions openly to collaborate effectively. By promoting a culture of clarity, you can build a positive and collaborative environment that benefits everyone.

The Danger of Interpersonal Mush

In “Talking to Strangers,” the author details how misunderstandings can arise in the workplace when people don’t communicate clearly. Interpersonal “mush” occurs when people make assumptions based on incomplete information, which can lead to false narratives and misplaced blame. The author uses an example of a manager who didn’t share information with his team and, as a result, his staff incorrectly interpreted his behavior. The solution, according to the author, is for managers to be transparent and communicate openly with their employees. Rather than leaving people to fill in the blanks, managers should share their “in-the-moment experience” and strive for clarity to avoid interpersonal mush. In a collaborative workplace, clear communication is essential for building strong partnerships. Managers who champion transparency can prevent misunderstandings and foster trust and collaboration within their teams.

Achieving Interpersonal Clarity

Learn how to achieve interpersonal clarity by engaging in honest learning conversations to avoid conflicts.

As a leader, it’s important to clear up confusion and misunderstandings that can cause interpersonal conflict. By failing to verify your perceptions, you can contribute to more confusion. To avoid this, regularly engage in honest learning conversations with your employees by describing your own experiences and perceptions, and then listen, ask questions, and summarize their responses. It’s important to stay calm throughout the conversation, even when their experiences don’t align with your own.

Interpersonal clarity can be achieved through knowing your own experiences, understanding another person’s experiences, and recognizing the difference between the two. This can help to avoid conflicts, as shown in the following case study.

During a leadership seminar, one of the trainers expressed their desire to work in small groups, but their colleagues decided otherwise. The director noticed that this trainer participated less after their request was denied. When the trainer asked about the day’s activity plan, the director shared the group’s decision, and the trainer responded with irritation. Later, the two clashed in a session, and the director yelled at the trainer.

After a learning conversation, the director realized that they should have verified the story they created about the trainer before tensions escalated. The trainer explained that they were upset that the director had yelled at them and asked if there was something that had caused such a strong reaction. The director admitted to acting out of anger and shared the story they had created to try to understand the trainer’s behavior. The trainer then described their own experience, explaining that they didn’t fully participate in the planning meeting because they had just received bad news that their father had cancer. Their comment about not knowing the day’s plans was directed at themselves for not paying attention.

Shame is the number one impediment to having fruitful learning conversations. By engaging in learning conversations and practicing interpersonal clarity, you can avoid conflicts and misunderstandings in the workplace.

Achieving Interpersonal Clarity as a Leader

As a leader, it is essential to strike a balance between fusion and detachment to promote clear communication with co-workers. The opposing forces of fusion and disconnection can hinder interpersonal clarity, leading to ineffective performance and damaged relationships. Fusion occurs when one becomes too close to their co-workers, which can cause them to hold others responsible for their experiences. On the other hand, detachment happens when one becomes too distant from their co-workers, seeing them as mere objects. Self-differentiation is a healthy balance between the two, recognizing others’ experiences as valid while maintaining one’s own sense of self. Achieving self-differentiation requires conscious effort and promotes personal growth. As a leader, it is crucial to maintain clear boundaries, avoid being influenced by others’ actions, and promote honest communication with team members to achieve interpersonal clarity.

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