The breeding ground of the “toxic business”

Every business output or major project is born from human endeavour whose success depends on interpersonal relationships. With the 4th industrial revolution upon us and the complexity of the changes around us, exceptional skills have to be allied to a genuine “succeed together” approach to ensure success. Despite this, at the heart of increasingly interconnected and independent ecosystems, businesses still often allow destructive and personal power games. When “ME” comes before “US”, the toxic business is born.

Where creation is possible, destruction is also a possibility.

In the initial “forming” phase of a project, the “US” is engaged, proud of the project and ambassador for genuine collective value creation. Very quickly though, the “storming” phase arrives, and fears manifest themselves: for some it is fear of failure, for others fear that others will be more successful, for many the fear of change and its impact on the balance of power. Over- and under-developed egos reveal themselves, polarise and become the critical issue for the project, instead of the “norming” and “performing” phases, where co-construction flourishes in the new paradigm and the autonomous achievement of full potential is achieved.

The toxic business and the anti-leadership triangle:
when “ME” comes before “US”

The toxic business turns “storming” into an instrument of resistance and dominance, where “divide and conquer” is the watchword. Projects are lost in interpersonal conflicts, empty promises abound and power balances shift by design. The Karpman drama triangle replaces the “succeed together” mentality: each person becomes someone else’s victim, seeking a persecutor to excuse each failure and a rescuer to protect their reputation. Whether from ignorance, disinterest or simple incompetence, this anti-leader posture creates chaos and erodes the relationship capital of the business, the very thing that makes it resilient come what may.

The anti-fragile business and the leadership triangle:
when “US” comes before “ME”

In contrast, aware of the need to navigate the “storming” phase successfully, the “anti-fragile” business invests in its collective intelligence to bring people together and strengthen interpersonal links at the moment the project enters its most vulnerable phase.

It creates the relational and emotional conditions necessary to develop confidence, respect and a feedback culture, the three components of the Dilts leadership triangle. It engages the team, realigning responsibilities and power in line with abilities and aligning the team members for the norming phase. Where the anti-fragile business embraces weaknesses to turn them into strengths, the toxic business uses strengths to create weaknesses.

Original article (in French) Agefi (05 March 2020):