The 4 Laws
The new speed of business has impacted you and your team. You see the vital importance of
envisioning a new future, and everyone is willing to try to understand the pain of status quo
thinking. The natural path of least resistance and safety is no longer an option. Global forces are
requiring new innovations and new ways of thinking.
You are committed to leading change.
You have declared and established a growth mindset.
To move forward, there are 4 critical laws that will require mastery on your part as a leader of
change and culture.
The First Law of Influencing and Reinventing Performance
How people think and perform is matched by the assumptions they make based on how
situations appear to them.
In the The Art of Possibility, Ben Zander writes: “What assumptions am I making that I am not
aware that I am making; that gives me what I see?”
He challenges the reader to then consider: “What may I now invent, that I have yet to invent,
that will give me more choices?”
In this first law, everyone is asked to become fully aware of their ongoing assumptions and
hidden, internal intentions. Judgement and opinions are openly and transparently discussed
here. This shines a light on the history and repeating patterns that have led to results already experienced. People are willing to admit that they are prepared to be different in order to get
This first law will require that we are willing to start listening from nothing, and not from a
place of already knowing. By practicing this new art, we will ultimately hear things we have
never heard before.
You may choose in this first law to practice curiosity and fascination. There is no ego in this
step. Ego is cancer to this work. Before your team can even think about advancing beyond its
current issues and upgrading, it must be willing to know the team on a deeper level of
Begin by asking yourself how you are showing up in your conversations, your meetings, and
your presentations. Are you impactful? Are you influencing power? Are you friendly, engaging,
and warm? Do people fear you, trust you, like you, avoid you, or flock to you? Really think
about how you appear in front of others. You are always on this stage and your team is
watching and observing your every move and action, including the words you choose to apply.
The first law will challenge the typical question: “Why do people do what they do?”
Consider that when we do something, it always makes complete sense to us. But when others
do something, we wonder: “Why are they doing that? That doesn’t make any sense.”
If we had the courage to see the possible assumptions being made by that person and look at
how the situation seemed to them, we would be willing to consider additional points of view.
We all tend to assume that the way things seem for us is how they seem to others. But
situations occur differently to each person. Not realizing this can make another person’s
thoughts and actions seem of less value, or inappropriate, to you. To that other person, their
viewpoints are worth considering, even if still based within their own assumptions. These varied
points of view create a broader canvas for innovation and action. In order to advance, all
assumptions must be placed on the table. The truth lies within these assumptions, somewhere,
but we must first admit that no one is completely right. Everyone simply holds a viewpoint that,
to them, is correct — it is the world according to them, not the real truth.
The first law challenges that people think what they think or do what they do in situations
based on a common understanding of the facts. Common sense here could be reflective of the
trend of already knowing. When people relate to each other as if they are dealing with the
same set of facts, they have fallen into the reality illusion. Perceived common sense is beneficial
in most disciplines yet limiting in the realm of innovation and reinvention. Besides, common
sense is not all that common today.
To see your assumptions at work, think of a person you are challenged by at the moment —
perhaps someone you have resented for some time. Think of words that you would use to describe that person. You might describe them as self-centred, egotistical, opinionated, or
irrational. You find yourself justifying, deeply, that those words are accurate.
Notice how you have only described how the person occurs to you through your judgements
None of us sees situations or people as they truly are. We see things based on how they occur
to us through assumptions. Is there room for another perspective in your perception of reality?
The Second Law of Influencing and Reinventing Performance
All business is created through conversations and assumptions that arise in language.
The science of linguistics reveals that all people communicate in patterns and through
assumptions and worldviews. Having the ability and skill to truly listen from nothing gives you
the ability to see and identify these patterns. Everyone speaks from them, whether individually
or on teams. You are prepared to set aside your own personal judgements and assumptions
here. You simply play the role of a facilitator willing to identify and articulate patterns in
conversation. Often, these patterns will reflect typical problem solving or oscillating patterns,
keeping the team stuck in a limiting, current reality. Vision, innovation, and creativity are
nowhere to be heard. Language is the means for most people through which their future is
already determined. Once interrogated, it is also the means through which it can be rewritten.
Communication and language should be understood here on a full spectrum. Linguistics
includes not only spoken and written communication, but also non-verbal cues, body language,
facial expressions, tone of voice, how people position and present themselves, and any other
actions that may reflect intention.
Truly studying and understanding linguistics and language begins with openly observing that
whenever communication occurs, there are many observable cues and patterns that are
incorporated into the full message. There is more behind a message than simply words.
Building on your influence means understanding both what is being said and not said. In many
cases, even in silence, there is so much to be observed of interactions. Understanding the full
spectrum of delivery, cues, and patterns is the most important part of language when it comes
to elevating performance.
The full spectrum, perhaps not even spoken, can include assumptions, interpretations, strong
requests, aligned expectations, disappointments, resentments, regrets, signals, and issues that
could be in need of urgent agreement.
Simply walk into the office or onto the shop floor of any organization and you will observe its
culture in its language and linguistics. Quickly, you may see how the organization is reflected in
its employees and how they interact with each other. You may witness the relationship
between managers and employees through the dropping of heads and eyes as they pass one
another. Or, you may see smiles, waves, bright eyes, and gestures of inclusion. A true culture will appear quickly by openly setting your lens on really observing the not-so-hidden behaviour
Like little cartoon bubbles floating over people’s heads, you can read what people are not
saying but are still communicating. The messages will convey excitement, work ethic, boredom
apathy, appreciation, recognition, and so on. The patterns of communication are channelled in
many different ways: in how people walk and stand, what people say, how they say it, their
gestures, tone, eye contact, and posture, for example. Most patterns are communicated
without the person delivering the message being aware of them. Your ability to interpret these
patterns will give you a true edge in determining team engagement and even warding off
To strengthen culture and build performance, all forms of language and communication must
be addressed and dealt with. The awareness process starts with becoming aware of what
people are not saying but still communicating. It starts with people feeling they are safe to say
what they think. As this process evolves, you will soon discover people’s hidden thoughts and
opinions. How do they really view you, the team, or the company? This honest and curious
approach opens opportunities to move beyond the current reality and existing culture and
move towards vision, innovation, and driving lasting change.
The Third Law of Influencing and Reinventing Performance
New levels of listening are required
Are You Willing to Truly Listen?
The difference between fixed and growth mindsets
When working with business teams, we often refer to something called automatic structural
listening. This type of listening happens when we choose to hear in dichotomies: right versus
wrong, or should versus should not. We tend to listen from existing assumptions, or already
In other words, people tend to listen with confirmation bias, or what they already believe to be
true in their world. Facts that fall outside these biases can be challenged, or even ignored. The
desire to justify already knowing can cloud the true power of deep listening.
Try this test: Have you ever known what a colleague is about to say before they utter a word?
Perhaps they enter a room, interact, or even sit just how you thought they would. This
predetermined set of assumptions will result in you falling into the trap of automatic listening.
Please know that people apply the same listening and assumptions to you when you speak (for
more on listening, you can refer to Chapter 4: Listening in the Business Environment).
This is why innovation and ideation are so difficult in business. Most people only listen from their past. You will hear comments like: “That is just like…”, “We tried that before…”, or “Here
is what we need to do…”
Moving forward, start all meetings with a declaration that the group should practice listening
from the perspective of what is possible versus what is probable. Challenge past-based
comments and move your conversations into the future. It takes courage, but the payoff is
Want to test your team culture? Simply listen. Do you hear conversations based on the past or
on the future? What you hear will reveal how ready the team is for innovation.
Start with the practice of inquiry
In this initial step, you are asked to cultivate an attitude of curiosity and discovery. Ego and
awareness are unable to exist together here.
Begin by checking your intended listening style. Are you willing to listen for what is possible
instead of probable? Are you willing to listen from nothing? This is much easier said than done
and perhaps one of the most difficult actions you may ever take. By truly listening from nothing,
you may actually hear what you have never heard before!
Practice simply pretending that you do not know anything in situational conversations and try
to learn as much as possible about the other person and their point of view. Pretend you have
never met this person before, or that you are entertaining a visitor from another country. Find
out how things look in that country, or from their unique perspective. Learn how certain events
affect the other person and what values and priorities they have. Keep in mind the impact of
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie outlines Principle #7: “Try honestly
to see things from the other person’s point of view.”
If your partner is cooperative, you listen sincerely and curiously, watching their body language
and listening for unspoken energy. Try that here. What do they really want? What do they value
most? What are they not saying?
Let your partner talk until they are finished. Do not interrupt, unless it is to acknowledge.
Whatever you hear, avoid taking anything personally. This is their worldview, not yours. It is not
really about you, anyways. Try to learn as much as you can in this phase of the conversation.
You will have your opportunity to speak. Too many conversations are battles for airtime and
attention and waiting for the other person to breathe so you can jump in. Your curious silence
and powerful listening will go a long way in developing your leadership and influence.
Do your best to identify the right behaviour of the person you are dealing with. Is it intentional,
or unintentional? Are they speaking from passion, frustration, earned knowledge? Or, perhaps,
are they trying to further strengthen their relationship with you? Why is this person the way
they are? Are you willing to listen from this place of understanding and live in the moment for
As mentioned in my last blog post, there are major differences between fixed- and growth-mindsets. You
will find yourself thinking, listening, and ultimately speaking from one of these 2 styles.
The Fourth Law of Influencing and Reinventing Performance
Language anchored in real vision transforms how people relate to contribution and
Vision-based language, also called generative language, has the power to create new futures, to
craft real goals, and to inspire people to support something bigger than themselves.
When focus, attention, and action are based on generating vision — what we are all working to
bring into existence — a shift in both language and motivation happens. There is tension
created between the vision and current reality of any organization. Tension will always seek
resolution. Like a stretched elastic band, it goes where directed. Continued focus and attention
on the vision keeps the tension in place physically, pulling the team upwards.
However, if attention is given to the current reality, busy schedules, problem solving, and
firefighting, those things will take precedence. The vision, as is the case in most organizations,
will collapse and fail. We have all sat in strategy and vision workshops, only to return to old
habits, busy work, and routines. No wonder nothing changes. The participants are not willing,
nor prepared, to innovate and envision. They are more comfortable with the daily grind. The
choice is simple: where do you want to put your energy and hard work?
Creating a very clear picture of the vision that allows people to see what it inspires through
action is critical in this process. People need to see what is in it for them, whether that means
innovating a new future or risking stagnation. Skin is in the game.
By involving everyone and creating a powerful future by design, people collectively shift the
team culture. You lead a shift in awareness and performance as the vision now does the heavy