Thought-leader interview: David Kantor

David Kantor, author of Reading the Room: Group Dynamics for Coaches and Leaders, reveals the hidden dynamics of conversations to promote better leadership.(strategy+business, 2:31 minutes)

Our selection:
According to David Kantor, an expert in individual and group behavior, employee effectiveness is based on a complex system of communication and speech acts. This system can be interpreted using a four-player model: the mover directs the team in one direction; the follower approves the movement; the opposer challenges the project; and the bystander takes up a position as a neutral observer to provide an overall perspective on the situation and to help the group reach a consensus.
These four dynamics (originally articulated as part of a sociolinguistic study of the family) are the essential elements for a healthy team. For example, if there is no bystander, the opposer is more likely to succumb to the mover for lack of another individual willing to validate his or her ideas; the team will then be unbalanced. This model is the key to a successful meeting, but if the dynamics are poorly understood or harnessed by the employees, it can create tensions within the team.
It is here that the leader comes to the fore. He or she must learn to “read the room” (to borrow a phrase from Kantor) or, in other words, to decode the language dynamics that govern conversations. The aim for leaders is to become trained in identifying each type of speech act so they can strengthen each of these strengths within their teams.

Why we chose this video:
Unproductive meetings, fruitless debates, distractions that get in the way of true reflection… It’s not easy for managers to guarantee efficient communications in today’s era of free expression, when everyone is invited to give their opinions on every issue. David Kantor offers to help managers who feel torn between these contradictory injunctions by teaching them how to channel communications between team members into more efficient exchanges.

Read our dossier


Do you have conversations with your teams?

Based on Talk, Inc. by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind (Harvard Business Review Press, June 2012), Power Listening by Bernard T. Ferrari (Penguin 2012), “Why I’m a listener: Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer” (McKinsey Quarterly, April 2012) and on separate interviews with Polly Pearson, former VP of employment brand and strategy engagement, and Jonathan Martin, SVP of corporate marketing, EMC Corporation, October 2012.
Business Digest nº 231, November 2012.


Why waste your time in meetings?

Based on “When You’ve Had One Meeting Too Many” by Carson Tate (The New York Times, February 2013), “Why Business Meetings Are Often a Waste of Time—and Productivity” by Robert Pozen (The Wall Street Journal, September 2012), and “Aux Etats-Unis, les reunions debout sont tendance!” (Les Echos, February 2012).
Business Digest nº 235, April 2013.