Time Out!

January 31, 2013

time-outIt was a simple idea.  Everyone at the conference table loved it.  They all shook their heads in agreement because it made so much sense. Then afterwards nothing happened and everyone pointed at each other as the reason why the idea died.  Have you been there?  Leadership is hard enough, but when it is required to lead change, we have just added a layer of complexity to one’s ability to lead.

Working with an executive team last week, the above scenario was playing out before my eyes.  Then as the coach, I jumped in to put the spotlight on the key issue that was leading to a major disconnect.  Bill, whose department needed to lead the initiative that everyone was enthusiastically supporting, had the look of being overwhelmed; even as he was nodding his head in agreement.  You see, the idea guy who brought the change process to the table was making so much sense, but the problem was his temperament. He had little natural ability to see the details.  Bill on the other hand was all about the details.  The problem was, as the good idea began to get processed in Bill’s mind, the details and the complexity to make it happen became impossible to align with what needed to be done to achieve daily output expectations from their customers.

Now it becomes a leadership issue!  It’s not just about everyone agreeing on specific actions and everyone running from the room to make it happen.  It is about creating alignment amongst team members, and, regardless, key issues and silos they operate. It’s also about embracing the attitude in how can I become helpful to my team and then together we achieve the outcome.  It takes a leader operating at Level 4 and 5 to create the “teamness” essential to win in today’s global markets.  As my friends at Bartell & Bartell have taught me, leaders bring together all of our temperaments, education and intellect to create a level of synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  It is the leader’s role to create the environment and the communication structure to the individuals to allow the team to emerge.  “Ideally the “team” at times transcends what the team even thought possible; conflict is translated as healthy differences of opinion and mistakes are considered as positive indications of growth.”

The following are a few suggestions on the how to lead to have an opportunity to create “teamness:”

  1. Daily – check your attitude toward others:  Are you respectful, understanding, genuinely interested and helpful.  Being successful at three of the four is failing… 100% responsibility to embrace and apply all four attitudes.
  2. Check your ego at the door… in fact, throw it out the window never to be retrieved. Become focused on others rather than self-focused.
  3. Have the unwavering will and confidence to always create structural tension between your vision and the current reality.
  4. Learn to be each individual team member’s advocate.  Understand what their expectations are of you and then be willing to go the extra mile in order to achieve the desired results.
  5. Hold yourself and others accountable for behaviors that will impact results.  Be willing to stand in the gap between the confrontation of the behavior that needs to change and the other person’s acceptance and realization that their behavior needs altered. Knowing that after confronting the behavior initially, you might be despised, viewed as weak, and possibly have your leadership style and character attacked.

Leadership is not about the position we hold or the title that is on our cards, but instead it is about the choices we make and how we communicate; regardless of how others may feel about our decision.  Google John F. Kennedy’s speech, when he laid out the vision for going to the moon.  Put yourself back in time, early in the 1960’s.  Hmmm… the cost, for what gain, chasing after a science fiction initiative.  Keep in mind it was less than 60 years earlier that the Wright Brother had the first known flight off the ground here on planet Earth.

This makes me ask an interesting question,  what do we resist today, what do we think is ridiculous, what do we think is impossible to do based on our understanding in 2013? I wonder what people will be saying 55 years from now in 2070?

One thing that will not change is that people will still have to communicate and build relationships with each other. I think Mr. Carnegie’s principles will last another 70 years…smile.

Human Relations Thought of the Week:

Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

–        Dale Carnegie

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