Create your own narrative
Professor Anne Louise Lytle received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Cornell University in the field of Neurobiology and Behaviour, and both her MS and PhD in Organisational Behaviour with a specialisation in Negotiation & Dispute Resolution from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.
Professor Lytle has taught, presented, and consulted in organisations and universities across the globe. She has been a faculty member at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Australian Graduate School of Management, and an adjunct faculty at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, Sasin Graduate School of Business at Chulalongkorn University, the Graduate School of Business at the University of Sydney, Carnegie Mellon University Australia, Macquarie Graduate School of Business, and the Melbourne Business School at the University of Melbourne. She has served as a consultant to the United Nations in South-East Asia and a principal investigator for the Hong Kong government to explore negotiation and conflict processes across the Asia Pacific. She has published in top academic journals, is an active member of the Academy of Management and is a board member and Past-President of the International Association for Conflict Management.
For more than a decade, she was the Director of Lytle and Associates Pty Ltd, which provided consulting and training to public, private and non-profit organisations specialising in negotiation, conflict management, emotional intelligence, leadership and managing people for high performance. Some examples from her long list of clients over the years includes Air New Zealand, ANZ Bank, APM Terminals, Boeing Corporation, BT Financial Group, Care Australia, David Jones, EBay Inc., Fenton Stephens, Goodyear Dunlop, KPMG, Metcash, Pfizer, Network 9, Network 10, Telstra, Qantas and the World Wildlife Fund.
In 2015, Anne took on the role of Professor and Director of Leadership at the Monash Business School, Monash University, where as part of the senior leadership team, she will work to build the new Monash Business School.
“Compassion is not religious business, it is human business" Dalai Lama.
I was always a shy child; I wouldn’t talk to the other children or to my teachers. From a young age I really loved animals and for most of my early life I was absolutely certain that I was going to be a veterinarian. I was accepted into my first preference university to study neurobiology and science, excited to start on the path towards my dream career. However, as soon as I started doing what I had planned to be doing for my whole life, I found that it was very different from what I had expected. Whilst I enjoyed the science and I was good at the courses, I started working in veterinary hospitals and quickly realised that I wasn’t very good at the blood and guts aspect of it, that this wasn’t something that I was naturally comfortable with. Even more importantly I also realised pretty quickly that there were a lot of people in the world who didn’t care about animals nearly as much as I did, I started to question how was I going to make a career where people weren’t willing to or weren’t able to pay the costs of having their animals treated and how I was going to come to accept that it was their choice.
At this point I had to find a new direction. By complete chance I took a course call psychotherapy, it so happened that the professor was someone who I really connected with and with whom I built a really strong mentoring relationship with over the next four or five years. The content was fascinating and made me realise that there was something else that I could be as passionate about as I had been towards veterinary science, and this was the first step. I had the flexibility to say to myself it’s okay to change direction, it’s okay to start something new and this was the start of my shift into the world of psychology. Initially the exploration of this world was in a much more clinical sense, I was interning in and working in mental hospitals which I discovered pretty quickly wasn’t for me. It was hard work and whilst I had much respect for those who did this work day in and day out, I found it very tolling emotionally.
During my last few years of uni and after finishing my course, I was working full-time managing a system of ‘half-way houses’ for people who have been in mental institutions and are being rehabilitated and supported into moving back into the community. For example the not-for-profit organisation would buy an 8 bedroom house, and then have 8 tenants who would then be supported and monitored by the mental health workers in order to ensure that they were coping and doing what they were supposed to be. I realised very early on that I was not going to be a clinical psychologist when dealing with the first woman whom I ever met as an intern, a paranoid schizophrenic, I made the classic naïve mistake of expressing my opinions which for a paranoid schizophrenic automatically alienates them. This woman, who had all these paranoid delusions, ended up a resident in one of my half-way houses a number of years later and was everyone’s favourite resident. She was nice, caring, and when medicated came across as being sane and well on her way to being ‘better’. I remember during one of my last months working at the half-way house I went in, noticing that she wasn’t there I asked everyone where she was. No-one meet my eyes, but eventually they told me she had gone back as she had relapsed. I went to see her and sure enough she was in the same state as the day I had first met her three years earlier, it was absolutely heart-breaking. It was at this moment I realised that I was not the sort of person who has the strength to go through this again and again, I have enormous respect for the people that do.
So, again I found myself in a ‘career-crisis’, asking myself what I should do now. It was about this time that I thought I need to choose something as I needed to do something to make an income. I decided to apply for graduate school, I knew I didn’t want to go to medical school and I knew I didn’t was to become a clinical psychologist so I thought maybe I should try psychology for people who are ‘normal’, so I applied for business school. I was accepted into Kellogg Graduate School which at the time was the best business school in America. I was excited, seeing this as the opportunity to create myself. I started my PhD in Organisational behaviour which I had thought would be like clinical psychology for ‘normal people’, as soon as I started I realised that none of my professors thought much of clinical psychology, they were cognitive or social or neuro psychologists. This was very different from what I had expected, but I thought I had better stick around until I worked out whether this was what I wanted to do or if not, what it was that I wanted to do. During this time, I met a number of people who would become very important in my life, including a woman who would become one of the most influential mentors in my career. She was a very senior, high achieving professor, Jean Brad. I was drawn to her partly because she was a woman in the field and partly because I felt like she was doing work which actually mattered, not bragging about the discovery of some minute relationship between two variables which people were never going to use in the real business world. The topics which she was looking at and the research that she was doing had real world life meaning. She was very much a parental figure who took me under her wing, it became not only a very important business relationship but also an important personal relationship. To this day I still see her every year and I regularly call her for advice. She strongly influenced my trajectory, I wanted to impress her and the more time that I spent working in her areas of interest, the more these areas became interests of my own.
She was also flexible though in terms of areas of focus and to suggestions, one area in which she hadn’t done any work in but in which I was greatly interested in was the area of cross-cultural negotiation, which in a sense is where we are negotiating with persons who do not have the same set of cultural values or beliefs as ourselves. At this time, there was very little credible literature published in the area of cross-cultural negotiations, Jean recognised the importance of this area and decided that it was something that we should look into further. I had the privilege of travelling around the world collecting data, being one of the first researchers in that group looking at that area and trying to make practical recommendations for the business world. One of the propositions which we put forward was that whilst there are communication difficulties, value differences, differences in processes but at its core, intercultural-negotiation should be an opportunity to create value because the creation of value comes from difference. This was the platform which ultimately our research was done and from which a lot of our recommendations came from.
At this point I felt as though I had a strong interest in how cross-cultural negotiations play out in real life and I was a relatively young person with a PhD in a relatively new area of study, so it was a question of what can I do with this. I decided to do the most obvious thing with my set of qualifications, to become a university lecturer despite my reservations about following a purely academic career path. Although I got an offer from a top US university, the offer from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology appealed to me not only because it was a start up university in 1975 to address the ‘brain-drain’ situation in Hong Kong but also because I didn’t love the culture, I thought to myself who am I to present myself as a cross-cultural negotiations expert if I wasn’t willing to leave the familiar culture of the US. Apart from Jean, my professors thought I was crazy to take an overseas job over an offer from a top 10 US university.
I spent 6 years in Hong-Kong, during which I took sabbaticals in South-America, China and Africa, so I gained a lot of understanding about different cultures. I also confirmed for myself that research wasn’t what I wanted to pursue, that my interests lay in education and consulting. I then decided to move to Australia, partly because of personal things that were happening during my life and partly because I saw it as a place where I could take a break from being a true Ex-pat, to be able to go an English-speaking country and to take some time to work out what I wanted to do next. I was fortunate that the Australian Graduate School of Management which did a lot of executive education, had an economic excess and was really hungry for people with expertise in these types of areas. I arrived in Australia in 2000 and over the next decade or so I fell into something I was really passionate about, I stopped with the research and became what was nicknamed as the knowledge translator or the research interpreter who was able to read long boring research papers, pick and choose what I thought was important from it, and to then explain this to people through my teaching in an accessible way. To explain concepts to people such as the concept of negotiation in a way which actually changes their behaviour. I performed this role for a number of institutions before exiting the world of academia and starting my own consulting business under my own banner, which of course is way more time consuming than working under somebody else. I had planned to keep running my own business and would have done so, but for the fact that one year ago Monash University was in a position where they wanted to revamp and transform their business school. I was contacted by a head hunter in relation to applying for the position of Director of Leadership for the Monash Business School, however I told them as I was running my own business I was not interested in the position. This resulted in a six-month long negotiation process, if you don’t need the position you can get yourself an amazing set of conditions as you are in such a position of strength.
Where I have ended up now is so exciting, the passion that I have now is around how you get people to change their behaviour which has been a real theme throughout all of my passions whether it be how you get people to change their behaviour in relation to a sick animal, to trying to change the erratic behaviour of a person suffering from mental illness, to changing behaviours in the business world. The new phase of my next career is a start-up named ‘Productive Procrastinations’, its first product is called Leda which is a virtual behaviour change platform focused on taking a step away from face-to-face instruction, to applying skills in the real world continuously. It is effectively a follow up tool to where there may or may not be some face-to-face education, which allows the user to practice the skills taught. Neurobiologically you are creating a pathway; this tool aims to make the pathway more automatic. Leda will be launching in March 2017.
Advice to self and others
There are three pieces of advice which I would give:
1. When I look at leaders, managers and successful people I always recommend that they get some psychotherapy, the number of behavioural problems I see that stop people’s careers is alarming. Every person’s behaviour is influenced by their life experience, especially their early childhood experiences. Understanding how those experiences impact that way in which you interact with people within your organisation and in life more generally is greatly important. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you, it’s just key to being successful in business and maintaining that success.
2. Don’t feel like there has to be an obvious path, it is okay to take a step back and admit to yourself ‘I have no idea how I have got to this point’ and to not be sure how a possible future piece of the puzzle fits in, go for it and you will connect the dots once you are there.
3. Don’t get caught up in the small things, things that know when I look back really weren’t that important. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
4. You don’t have to always be right and you don’t always have to know everything, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know something.
The one habit I would put forward to people who want to lead others in a particular focus or area of expertise is you have to care about people. You need to be able to show that you care, to want to know that person’s name, to want to remember something about them and the easiest way of doing that is being present in the moment when you are interacting with them. To be focused on the people you are with at that time, not focusing on all the other things you have going on or what you have coming up next. It may be a matter of learning how to clear your mind so that you can truly focus on that one thing at that time.
I have two favourite quotes, both of which are from the Dalai Lama. The first is, ‘compassion is not religious business, it is human business’ which I think is very important for every leader, every business person to remember. Ultimately people are the core of all business, leadership is ultimately about people so if you forget about the fact that you are dealing with human beings then you will never be successful. The second is ‘if you think you are too small to make a difference, try to sleep with a mosquito’, for those who aspire to becoming a business leader we are coming into an era in which we can all make a difference, in which we can look at what isn’t working and thinking about creating new economic and political systems to improve on what we already have. It is this generation of leaders who will figure out firstly how we will do things differently but even more importantly how to propel the world to do things differently which will be the greatest challenge of the upcoming generation.
I have two books I would recommend:
1. Your Brain at Work by David Rock, for me personally this was one of the most impactful books that I have read in the last decade. The reason for this is it takes a whole host of research and findings from the area of neurobiology over the last decade and it presents them into a very readable form, accessible to everyone. It is written in beautiful metaphors and stories in order to explain quite complex content. In its essence, it tells you how your brain works and how you can do things better, I think it is a life changing book.
2. Difficult Conversations – How to discuss what matters most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen. To me the book is something that is critical for anyone who has to give negative feedback or have a difficult conversation, which I think is true for everyone at some point. One of the things I think is critical about what the book puts forward is the idea of how can I view a difficult conversation, why do people usually start difficult conversations and what usually goes wrong. It looks at how we maximise the chance that the other person is actually going to listen to what we are saying and how we reach a common understanding and a peaceful resolution as opposed to people getting illogical or defensive.
Whilst I do not offer individual coaching as this is not my area of expertise, I can help those organisations interested in the Leda software that we are launching or people who are interested in becoming students for the new Monash MBA which we are launching in March 2017.
The best way of getting in contact with me is via LinkedIn, also I do have an AnneLytle.com page where there is a contact screen which filters through to my personal email. I can also be reached on the Monash University website where I am listed as part of the leadership team.