Updated: Mar 2
Initially, I was going to title this blog ‘the loneliness of leadership’ as I was given the idea from feedback from a reader of a previous article HYPERLINK
He spoke about how slow, difficult and frustrating a process it is to get others to take responsibility. And how my comment that we train our people not to take responsibility, by us shouldering it for them, resonated with him.
When we look at the statement ‘get others to take responsibility’ it suggests it is our job to get them to do that. A simple but big change is to see where people already take responsibility and then see how we can build on that. They must already be taking some responsibility, otherwise, the business would not be still in existence. And equally, we must already be enabling that to happen. Plus many of them take lots of responsibility outside work in their families, sports clubs and communities.
This got me to thinking a bit deeper about how we could create the conditions to build on the work we are already doing and how the change needs to continue with us as leaders.
Evolution/change is always a work-in-progress.
If change is a gradual process, not a destination then how do we more consciously and proactively build on what we have already achieved.
We debated this case study at a recent forum with the objective to research what was already working for the members.
The participants reflected that because change is a process it takes lots of patience and persistence for people to buy into and get comfortable with any new approach. And that sometimes the best approach is to start either with individual employees or with a small group of those employees or managers you have the most interaction with. This was to ensure the change is incremental, not part of a big once-off campaign, event or pronouncement, that often leads to fear, resistance and cynicism.
Gandhi ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’
It was also suggested that we need to reflect on changing our style of engagement, from solving problems that employees bring to our office; to asking for their suggestions and input. This suggested moving from a more directive role to a coaching role. It meant asking more questions, having open discussions and giving feedback instead of solutions.
As this is what we practice with each other at the peer to peer leadership coaching sessions; the members could see the benefits this approach was already having for them and their leadership interactions with their respective teams.
It was also suggested that this approach is equally transferable to the management meetings. The key is for the leader to start the process at the meetings, by doing what he/she does during one to one interactions, as well as encourage other manager’s practice with each other.
Intrinsic v extrinsic motivation.
Even though it takes a village to rear a child, the parents still have the greatest emotional investment in their own children. Equally, when people come up with their own solutions they have a much stronger commitment to making the solution work than when it is given to them.
This is termed intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic motivation. It is why research on mission statements shows a very small percentage of employees either know or buy into the aspiration behind the statement, which is usually engraved on a beautiful plaque in the reception of the company.
Speeding up evolution.
How can we foster more of that intrinsic motivation? For those leaders who already practice much of what we talked about above, and now want to build on this progress, we discussed how we could make further progress.
Again what emerged was the need to trust our people in creating the kind of company/business they would enjoy coming to work in. To enable more of that involvement the members came up with the following two questions that could form the basis of dialogue to take place.
What kind of company would you like to work for? What changes could we make to the culture that would most excite you? In other words, how can we improve on what already works?
What kind of changes could we make to our product/service that would excite our customers even more than we do now and also attract new and better customers?
Again we agreed that the best approach was to start with a small group or one department or just the management team.
This approach is now recognized as the best form of continuous development, as it creates new habits that can be gradually cascaded throughout the business. It was as a result of this final input that one of the members came up with the new title, ‘it takes a village to rear a child’ which then replaced my original title of the ‘loneliness of leadership’
If you would like to further your understanding of this change process then read the excellent book by Frederic Laloux entitled Re-inventing Organisations which is written and a result of a study of 12 of the most successful organisations that have ‘cracked the code’ of how to achieve the total commitment of their most valuable resource, their employees HYPERLINK "http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/" http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/ and HYPERLINK "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA9J-aKkOAI" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA9J-aKkOAI