TURNER X-OVER

George Kohlrieser High Performance Leadership Takeaways 7-9

NINE KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR LEADERS | PART III

Turner organizes a series of exclusive crossover events for clients and partners. Leading speakers share their latest insights from the fields of psychology, ethics, behavioral science, theology, leadership and artificial intelligence. Our goal is to provoke thought, to inspire and to expand your horizon, because we recognize that strategy execution is multidisciplinary. We need leaders and professionals who can combine knowledge and approaches from different fields.

On November 3, 2022, Professor George Kohlrieser from IMD, Lausanne, delivered the Turner X-Over High Performance Leadership: Leading Strategy Execution. Jacques Pijl wrote a series of blogs about this. This is the third in a series of three.

The personal is professional. George Kohlrieser profoundly transformed my perspective on leadership, as I wrote in my previous blog. And I’m not alone. George’s teachings have influenced thousands of leaders across the globe over the last decades. From him I learned that the personal is professional. Turner clients and collegues got to experience the same during his Turner X-over session on high-performance leadership in strategy execution. The main takeaways:

  1. Never be Held Hostage
  2. Cycle of Bonding
  3. Leading from the Mind’s Eye
  4. Leader as Secure Base
  5. The Power of Language
  6. Conflict Resolution
  7. Power of Dialogue
  8. High Impact Negotiation
  9. Managing Emotions

In this blog I will zoom in on Takeaways 7-9. More on Takeaway 1-3. More on Takeaway 4-6.

One thing that I am reminded of when attending meetings is the 4-sentence rule. When it comes to dialogue you should really try to be succinct. Whatever you have to say, keep it to 4 sentences or less, ‘the rest is torture’, except for presentations or lectures, of course. You’ll be surprised how much (meeting) time this saves! Let’s take a closer look at Takeaway 7:

Takeaway 7:

Power of Dialogue

  1. Talk less in dialogue: max. 4 sentences in a dialogue, the rest is torture.
  2. Minimize meetings and meeting times. Use the 4-sentence rule to reduce meeting time by 60/70%!


Let’s zoom in on Takeaway 7.b. Minimize meetings and meeting times. Use the 4-sentence rule to reduce meeting time by 60/70%!

“Anytime you’re speaking in over four sentences you’re probably putting the other person’s brain into some sort of exhaustion. If you’re talking 12, 20, 30 sentences and you haven’t even got near the point, the other person’s brain tuned out a long time ago. Clearly this is not the case during a presentation. If you’re presenting, or you got something that’s very emotional or something that’s very important, obviously you can go more than four sentences. But as a routine rule, in your teams, have a 4-sentence rule, the rest is torture. Just think how much time you would save!

First of all, most people feel they spend too much time in meetings. You can reduce meeting time by 60 to 70% by introducing the rules of dialogue. That has literally been researched. We know that to be true. There are people all over the world who are using the ‘Blocks to Dialogue’ to make their teams aware of how to avoid these and make team meetings more effective. Over-detailing is one of the worst, because it goes back to your mother tongue. The Dutch tend to be pretty direct, but in other cultures they’re talking 20 sentences and haven’t even gotten to the point. Or you ask a question and they’ll say, ‘Let me explain’. Any time somebody says ‘let me explain’ you know you’re in for a block to dialogue.

The right question is ‘Do you want me to give you an explanation?’ And the answer usually will be ‘No, just answer the question’. So, it takes the sugarcoating out of most of the talking, it takes the niceness out and puts the directness in.” – George Kohlrieser PhD, IMD Lausanne.

Another insight that has had great impact on my success as a leader in strategy execution is George’s approach to breaking or preventing knee-jerk resistance to conflict resolution: give people a choice. Even if the outcome of those choices is the same (I want you to do this), it helps to give people a choice in how they’d like to cross over and reach a solution. Let’s take a closer look at Takeaway 8:

Takeaway 8:

High Impact Negotiation

  1. The break-through will only come from understanding each other’s pain points first.
  2. People want choices.
  3. Craft bull’s eye transactions

Let’s zoom in on Takeaway 8.c.: Craft bull’s eye transactions.

“The whole process of negotiation follows dialogue and talking. It’s a relationship: you have to form a bond, separate the person from the problem, know what you want and know what the other wants. Get a goal clear, look for options and proposals, go through the process of getting a contract and finally reach some agreement where the relationship continues.

Positive conflict is turning a negative conflict into a constructive solution. So, we do need to provoke conflict, if necessary, but we turn it into something positive. We should not be afraid to hold people accountable, give tough feedback and have those difficult conversations. To find constructive solutions, you have to like conflict, or if that’s too strong, you have to like solving conflicts. You need to get in the right state. Use empathy. Think in terms of common goals and collaboration. Because conflict management and negotiation are all about collaboration and cooperation. Learn to see beyond the frustration, disappointment, negativity and rejection; see the benefit of the outcome. It can be tough solving a conflict. Putting that fish on the table and going through the bloody smelly mess of cleaning it can be a real challenge. So, you have to be able to see beyond all of these negative parts to what is the outcome you want.

Ask yourself whether you like dialogue. That is, to discover a greater truth. There are people who don’t like to dialogue because they think they have the whole truth. They think they’re the smartest. They want to prove they’re right. Dialogue means you have to be curious what is in the mind of the other person. Ask questions. Inquire, paraphrase (repeat what you’ve heard). Be inquisitive. Dig into why the other person is in a close-minded state, specifically asking them what they feel about this and what they feel about changing their mind.

Be proactive in de-escalating. So, if you know you have to deliver pain points, you need to know who the personality is that you’re dealing with. This is often misunderstood. We tend not to take time to know who is the personality, what are their triggers, how important is this to them, who are they as an individual? This is part of helping the other person also get what they want. That’s a good mindset. The best negotiation tactic is to be in an authentic state in which you communicate ‘I’m trying to help you get what you want, I hope you’ll help me get what I want, and let’s see what we can actually do here.’ Then negotiation becomes a relationship, not a transactional process, but a relationship.’

And when you have to deliver pain, be honest about it and leave the other person a choice. Don’t use power, leverage or manipulative tactics. Because when someone feels like a hostage—feels powerless—their fight-flight reflex will be activated in all possibility. That’s where they say and do things they later regret. So, powerlessness is very destructive. It’s better to use a hostage negotiation technique instead: Don’t deliver threats, deliver consequences. Tell the other person what you need from them, and what the consequences are if they don’t deliver: ‘If you choose to do this, here’s what may happen’. Be honest and give them a choice.”  – George Kohlrieser PhD, IMD Lausanne

The last point from George’s X-over session that resonated with me was the importance of emotions. People are emotional beings first. Their responses are based on emotions. So the key to being an effective leader in strategy execution lies in my ability to deal with emotions. My own first of all, but also my team’s. To be effective leaders, we must strike a balance between daring and caring, between challenging our team and dealing with their emotions even-handedly. We need to know how to stay positive, without being fake. Let’s take a closer look at Takeaway 9:

Takeaway 9:

Managing Emotions

  1. We are emotional beings first.
  2. On the gunshot of a race: the gun has no fear but sets you free.
  3. There are no negative emotions.
  4. Anger lasts 9-12 seconds, the rest is ruminating.
  5. Label your emotions accurately, don’t dwell on them.
  6. Fear shuts you down.
  7. Stay positive.
  8. Contain your stress.
  9. Deliver tough messages in a calm state.


Let’s zoom in on Takeaway 9.c.: There are no negative emotions.

There are destructive emotions though. Know your triggers and control them. As Viktor Frankl put it: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ And as George Kohlrieser told us “Learning to control triggers is very important. And more importantly, understanding that a trigger in the present is not—in all probability—the first time you experienced it. You need to back and track back to where the early trigger originated. Only then can you try to be in a good state, an authentic state in which you can communicate honestly.”

“Of course, with proper risk assessments and control measures. “You have to be positive. If you’re going to deal with conflict, you have to get in a positive state and your face has to reflect that. Some people are positive internally, but they show a negative face. Other people are negative internally, but they show a positive face. We have to be congruent in what we actually show and be in our state. Emotions are not something intangible, you have to be able to recognize them. If you lose the ability to feel, your life and the lives of people around you will be devastated. That’s why we have to bring emotions back into the whole arena of leadership. – George Kohlrieser PhD, IMD Lausanne

More on Takeaway 1-3. More on Takeaway 4-6

This blog was written based on professor George Kohlrieser’s condensed High Performance Leadership program at Turner ‘s X-over session on Strategy Execution on November 3, 2022.

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  • More about Jacques Pijl (author) and Turner Consultancy.
  • The most popular interventions based on Strategy = Execution
  • 24 endorsements from organizational leaders
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  • Selection of the most important management books according to CEOs of innovative organizations (FD New Champions). Included in library of classics (mb.nl).
  • Nominated for Management Book of the Year.
  • Countless articles and interviews in FD, Emerce, Frankwatching and CFO.
  • Numerous Ted Talks and in-company workshops at the top 25-50 organizations, average rating 8.7.
  • More about Jacques Pijl (author) and Turner Consultancy
  • The most popular interventions based on Strategy = Execution
  • 24 endorsements from organizational leaders
  • American management book of the year 2021, no. 1 in the category of strategic management, in the top 100 bestseller, seventh edition, translated into: English, German, Spanish, Russian and Indonesian.
  • Selection of the most important management books according to CEOs of innovative organizations (FD New Champions). Included in library of classics (mb.nl).
  • Nominated for Management Book of the Year.
  • Countless articles and interviews in FD, Emerce, Frankwatching and CFO.
  • Numerous Ted Talks and in-company workshops at the top 25-50 organizations, average rating 8.7.

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