Last Thursday I conducted a wonderful interview with a local friend of mine (if living an hour away makes someone local), Jesan Sorrells of Human Services Consulting and Training, a company that specializes in conflict resolution and engagement. The easiest way to explain that is his company works to change the culture of companies when employees aren't getting along. Whereas I'll normally get to talk to people who are in leadership positions, Jesan gets to talk to the entire organization, although sometimes not upper management.

Mitch Mitchell & Jesan Sorrells
Me & Jesan Sorrells

One of the questions I asked him as we got near the end of the interview was whether he believed that leadership training or conflict resolution could ever really change the world. He gave his opinion and I offered mine... and both of us said no. Our reasonings were somewhat different, which was interesting.

I came at it from the point of view that, overwhelmingly, the majority of people don't want to deal with the concept of leadership. It takes wanting to be in the position to make a difference and most people would rather go on with their lives and hope that no one calls on them for anything.

As much as I might not like that overall I have to go with it. After all, even though I've gotten in the middle of some things, there are a lot of other things I've had to learn to let go and leave alone. I know I can't help anyone who doesn't want the help, so I concentrate on those people who want to learn and become better.

Jesan came at it from a different perspective. He doesn't believe that we should try to resolve anything because that's too big a task. Instead, we should shoot for engagement because if we can get each other talking about the troubles we might then find a place where we can move forward on some things.

Strangely enough, we both believe that what we do can help to make significant changes, even if it's only one person at a time. We don't believe as Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer of the Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University does that, leadership training doesn't work, although he used a much different word. This from a guy who does leadership training and, near the end of the interview at that link, changed his tune just a little bit to how Jesan and I believe.

That belief is, while we can change a few people here and there, and if we get to work with someone one on one we can help people become great at what they do, in the long run it's hard to change the corporate structure when those in the C-suite deign themselves too important to participate in the process. Even in companies that decide to practice holacracy which, I'll admit I still don't fully understand, still breaks down to where there's an ultimate leader with the power to hire and fire anyone who can't fit into the mold of what's supposed to be a leaderless company.

In other words, we both believe that a great leader in a lower position can make great changes within their own pod of people and affect those outcomes in positive ways. But they might have to do it within the framework of a system that's overall flawed. Does it work? Well, if I look at my background I'm going to say "yes, it does work". I'm also going to say that every once in a while it works so well that others notice it and will ask you questions. So, you might affect more than just your own department indirectly... that's always a good thing.

Below is the interview I did with Jesan, and I hope you watch it. We had a lot of fun and I learned a lot. He's a pretty brilliant guy who's very engaging, and if you stick around until the 44th minute you can laugh big with us; that's all I'm going to say. 🙂 However, whether you watch or not, I'd be interested in hearing your take on whether it's okay or not that we can't change the world, but can possibly change a few minds and that's good enough.