Episode 4: Bill Torbert on power, framing, and action [The Amiel Show]

If I were to create a Leadership Development Hall of Fame, Bill Torbert would be in it. It was therefore an honor to interview him about ideas that have influenced how I live, learn, and coach.

In Episode 4 of The Amiel Show, I speak with Bill Torbert, who for decades has been a pioneer in helping managers improve their results by practicing a powerful approach that he calls “action inquiry.” We discuss:

  • How to make the next meeting better than the previous one by paying attention to four “territories of experience”
  • What it’s important to start staff meetings by developing a shared frame of what’s at stake
  • How conversations can go astray because of “dueling advocacy” or “naked inquiry”
  • An unsuccessful attempt to trim my son’s fingernails
  • The different forms of power we gain access to as we develop as adults—and how each can be valuable yet limits us when used in every situation
  • Why some managers get threatened by their direct reports
  • What we can learn about “transforming power” from former Czech President, Vaclav Havel


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Instead of assuming that we share a frame, we actually try to generate a frame.

—Bill Torbert   Tweet this quote

Explore Additional Resources

This book includes:

  • Four territories of experience: outside events, own sensed performance, strategies, intention/attention
  • Four parts of speech: framing, advocacy, illustration, inquiry
  • Forms of power: opportunist, diplomat/charming, expert, achiever, collaborative, transforming

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