Polarities, Polarities, Polarities-are everywhere?


I know you are saying…I know this word, but what the heck is Jeff talking about! Let’s start with a definition and then we will dive into our regularly scheduled blog.

Dictionary.com define polarity in the following way—



a. the property or characteristic that produces unequal physical effects at different points in a body or system, as a magnet or storage battery. 

b. the positive or negative state in which a body reacts to a magnetic, electric, or other field. 

2. the presence or manifestation of two opposite or contrasting principles or tendencies. 


a.(of words, phrases, or sentences) positive or negative character. 

b. polar opposition.


We will be discussing Polarities which are interdependent pairs that need each other over time to maintain and gain performance. Since polarities are unavoidable, they are present in every individual, team, and organization.

Here are some examples—

Inhale and Exhale

Rest and Activity


Notice, I say and not or. We need to rest or else we would end up stressed out and in the hospital due to exhaustion. However, if we only rested then we would stop learning and grow rather large! We need to be able to do both things. Let’s look at some polarities for you that might show up in the workplace.


Task and Relationship

Candor and Diplomacy

Encouragement and Analysis

Analysis and Intuition

Planning and Implementing

Coaching and Directing


Notice that each word is either positive or neutral. You do not want to frame one word as a negative because then you would not want to choose this word. Ex. Negative Feedback and Encouragement-who would want to pick negative feedback.

What words resonated with you? Did you find that you are attracted to one more than the other? This is natural. I will give you an example for me. I am more to encouragement than analysis. Thus, I can see the upside of encouragement (better morale, good ideas are developed, etc.) When I look at analysis, I tend to see the negatives (might take too long, might discourage brainstorming, etc.) However, when I am coaching people I ask them to look at the upside of both sides of the pole. Thus, I would ask me, what is the upside of using analysis for you? We might make fewer mistakes, we might choose better ideas, we could mitigate risks, spend our dollars appropriately, etc.


This also applies to teams and organizations. We often see teams that might desire to be:

Agile and Quality

Innovative and Stable

Encouraging and Challenging


Organizations might desire to be:

Centralized and Decentralized

Innovative and High Quality

Structured and Flexible

Okay, there is a lot to learn and understand about polarities. If you want to learn more, please listen to "Mastering Polarities to Achieve Greater Performance". Cara Wilson and I discussed polarities and how they impact the people and organizations we work with. I encourage you to start seeing the polarities in you life. Take time to notice which pole you are more attracted to. Who can help you see the upside of the other pole? What would happen if you challenged yourself to look at the downside of your preferred pole (too much encouragement might keep us from critically assessing ideas; might avoid conflict, etc.) Good luck and remember to look out for the polarities in the world.


Overwhelmed.  Frustrated.  Or both.

I sit across the table from leaders and hear these common refrains time and again. Either the comments are autobiographical or they are directed toward others:  their peers, team members, direct reports, the CEO.

“I have too much on my plate.”

“There is too much on the horizon.”

“So much is changing so rapidly in the marketplace, that I feel my brain can’t keep up!”

“They don’t move quickly enough.”

“The thinking isn’t right to meet our need right now.  They need to be focused on different things.”

“Where is the accountability: the sense of urgency?”

“Why can’t they think more strategically?”

Leaders at every level wrestle, in different ways, with these same questions:

  • What do I keep?
  • What do I give away?
  • How do I decide?

We need to choose wisely what to delegate and what to keep.  Deliberate Delegation.

When choosing which assignments to give and which to do, I recommend beginning with these 3 questions:

  1. Is the assignment too large for me to accomplish alone?
  2. Does this work present an opportunity to develop others?
  3. Can someone else do this better than I can?

If you answer “yes” to any one of these questions, the task is one that could be delegated.

The next step is to know if it should be delegated.

Once you know you could delegate something, you then need to assess if it is wise to delegate this particular task.  What is the risk? To capture the risk, ask the next two questions:

  1. How urgent is the task?
  2. How important is the task?
  • If something is Very Urgent and Very Important, proceed with caution.  You may not want to delegate this one, unless your team is seasoned and successful.
  • If something is Very Urgent but Not Important, it is a great task to give away to build skills on your team.
  • If something is Not Urgent but Very Important, you have time on your side.  This is a great opportunity to develop your team; building skills, trust, experience and confidence in their work and in their relationships with you and one another.

With these questions in mind, you can make an informed decision about what to keep and what to give away. This is where Deliberate Delegation actually begins. But what are the steps to the process of effective Deliberate Delegation? Check back next week to find out!


There is nothing quite like a game of golf:  the opportunity to enjoy Mother Nature, breathe fresh air, and create memories that will last a lifetime – all while enjoying time with friends, loved ones, and colleagues.

While many golfers find it fashionable to be self taught, it would be wiser to find a compatible coach and apply their instruction.  Why?  One reason is because golfers cannot objectively take in their own entire swings.

So it is with Leadership Handicaps.  It is wise for those who want to improve their game to seek the services of an experienced coach.  A Leadership Coach can help undo deeply ingrained flaws.  These flaws may be so deep that the leader is unaware of them at all:  the flaws are guarded by a well constructed blind spot.

The top three key fundamentals to improve your leadership game are:

·       Grip

·       Stance

·       Posture.

Get a Grip

A leader needs to get a grip.  As the only connection to the business end of the enterprise, the team, too tight a grip tends to stifle desirable action.  Too loose a grip risks loss of the control needed to ensure that team members perform to the best of their ability. 

To check your grip, ask these questions:

·       Have I given enough direction?

·       Does my team have the time, tools, and resources to succeed?

Take Your Stance

Another often overlooked key fundamental is stance.  Why?  Stance dictates how far away the leader stands from the team in the tee box.  Too far away and the leader will be forced to make unnecessary and taxing compensations to execute.  Too close and the leader may not be able to get out of their own way.

To check your stance, ask these questions:

·       Am I setting the right parameters?

·       Does my team have the freedom to move nimbly on their own?


Assume Your Posture

Posture, perhaps of all the fundamentals, is most easily violated.  This is because a leader’s posture may feel right but, in truth, be completely wrong for the desired outcome.  Too much weight on the heels leads to bad execution and unforced errors.  No flex in the legs results in inconsistency.  It is wise for leaders to maintain a little flex if they want their teams to perform consistently over time.

To check your posture, ask the following questions:

·       What are my non-negotiables for performance?

·       Do I communicate these regularly to my team?

Other Leadership Fundamentals are:

·       Avoid Bad Habits

·       Focus on the Task at Hand

Avoid Bad Habits

Enroll with a Leadership Coach as soon as possible.  Do not wait.  Take advantage of this opportunity and you will be glad you did.

Focus on the Task at Hand

As you work, it is easy to reflect on something bad or a missed opportunity.  Do not do this.  Try your best to focus on the present, concentrating fully on the now rather than the past.

Try to gather your thoughts, breathe a couple of times, relax, and focus on the present.  You will notice an improvement and lower your Leadership Handicap as a result.