Tag Archive for engagement

Leaders Do. Together.

mlkCountless organizations out there right now, while perhaps even appearing healthy and stable to those on the outside looking in, are dying on the inside. Morale is down. Infighting and politics are on the rise. Trust is lacking. Inefficiency isn’t. In short, it’s a hot mess.

So what’s to be done? Well, that would certainly depend on the group or organization, and what the specific symptoms are, but I think there’s at least one common denominator. These organizations need leaders, whether they have the fancy title or not, to step into the fray and become initiators of change.

When those leaders — again, whether they have a title or not — begin to shift together, use their influence together, talk together, dream together, strategize together, and, well, you get the idea; when those things happen, a group or organization will start to see change. And it will be the best kind of change, because it’s organic, felt-in-the-heart change, not some overwrought corporate mandate that comes down from above.

But here’s the kicker. It really has to be a group effort. What would happen in an organization if managers, execs, and other leaders went after something together? What if an organization’s 20 or 30 or however many managers and execs rolled up their sleeves, locked arms, and said they were going to make something happen. Not try to make something happen. Make it happen. As a wise, albeit odd-looking, smallish, green philosopher/jedi once said: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Culture change? Way easier if it’s more than a couple of managers and/or execs here and there. Man, the cumulative influence of an organization’s leaders banding together in meaningful ways can’t be overstated.

So if you’re a leader within a group or organization, whether officially recognized as one or not, start the shift. Lead. Encourage others to do the same. Get together with them. Talk about it. Recruit others to join you. Make a difference. What are you waiting for?


6 Signs Your Team Needs to Fight More

fightingAs you look around the room, you see lots of heads nodding up and down, toothy smiles pasted onto each face. Your boss has just pitched an idea, and you and some of the rest of your team thinks it’s not the most wonderful one he’s ever come up with, so naturally you indicate that by nodding and smiling in affirmation.

In truth, it ought to be a red flag if a team can sit in meetings together discussing important things without engaging in robust and passionate discussion about those things sometimes. If teams can discuss things without any dissent or diverging opinions being aired, they can be almost certain things are being left unsaid or unexplored. It’s tough to imagine a bunch of adult professionals sitting in a room agreeing about everything all the time.

It’s not only OK to engage in healthy conflict around ideas, it’s important to do it. We’ve got to pick more fights. We’ve got to push on each other’s ideas because that’s how ideas get vetted and get better.

What are some signs your team needs to fight more?

1. No one questions anything. Conflict essentially is considered off-limits.

2. There is an environment in place where politics and gossip thrive. More conversation about ideas and strategy happens away from the team than with it. Think of it this way: Your team will discuss the vision and strategy of the team; it’s just a matter of where it’s  going to happen. Encourage healthy conflict, and you’ll be able to manage and push those conversations in a positive and helpful direction.

3. Everyone has well-defined calf muscles.This happens as a result of tiptoeing too much. Team members spend more time and effort trying to avoid conflict than they do trying to come up with proactive, innovative ideas.

4. Not everyone has ideas. It’s not that everyone has to have a strong opinion about every single topic that’s discussed, but at the same time if someone sits silently meeting after meeting, you’ve got to wonder why.

5. Tapdancing is considered teambuilding. Everyone ignores controversial topics precisely because they could be controversial. So they dance around them and rationalize it as preserving the peace. Or something.

6. There are more disclaimers than an anti-depression drug commercial. No one feels like they can say anything without prefacing it with some sort of disclaimer. Now, I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, and I don’t want to sound like I have any issues with So-and-So’s idea, because I don’t and I think So-and-So is just fabulous and always has such terrific thoughts; but…

Leaders, It’s on Us

This is an especially important point to grasp if you are in any sort of leadership role within your group, whether that’s a team, department, small business, or large corporation. We have to understand that we need our teams to work and think through our ideas. As humans, we’re nowhere near perfect, so we need to be aware (sometimes painfully aware) of the fact that not all of the ideas we have or will come up with are good ones. We must depend on our teams to think through ideas, critique them, and offer alternatives. It’s only after that sort of exercise that we can move forward together, confident we’ve explored the options we could think of and selected the best one, even if it’s not the one that we, as their leaders, were advocating.

This sort of healthy, productive conflict doesn’t happen automatically. It must be worked at and practiced. You may even want to consider calling someone in from the outside to sit in on a couple strategic meetings and help you identify when and where these discussions should be taking place, as well as what those discussions might sound like. If your team currently doesn’t engage in ideological conflict, it’s going to be a lot like learning how to ride a bike all over again at first. It likely will feel uncomfortable and slightly awkward, but your team needs to persevere through that stage so you can begin to really reap the benefits of cultivating that type of engaged and creative culture.

16 Questions Leaders Should Ask Themselves

Mary Poppins 3Just between you and the mirror…

1. Are you more motivated mostly by the drive to capture success or by a desire to serve others?

2. Do you use your grasp of internal politics as a weapon to get what you want? Or are you sensitive to the human dynamics at play in the organization, but work toward collaborative, empowering solutions that appeal to shared goals, values, and visions?

3. Do you rely completely on facts, logic, and proof? Or do you use intuition and foresight–gut and instinct–to balance those things?

4. Do you control information, knowing it makes you more valuable? Or do you freely and generously share your knowledge and know-how?

5. Are you highly competitive, independent, and primarily interested in the spotlight? Or are you more concerned about working closely with others, allowing yourself to be interdependent, and deflecting praise when it comes your way?

6. Do you place an over-emphasis on speed and fast action? Or do you focus on gaining understanding; adapting to organizational environments; and balancing the need for progress with the need for appropriate buy-in, input, and decentralized decision-making?

7. Do you spend more time telling or listening?

8. Do you equate patience with indecision? Or do you value listening and observation in order to make good decisions?

9. Do you act like you’re listening to those with whom you disagree? Or do you actually listen to those with whom you disagree?

10. Do you get annoyed when others won’t think or act the way you want them to? Or are you thankful for the variety and use it as an opportunity to examine your own thoughts, presuppositions, and conclusions?

11. Do you view your network as connections to be used to get you things or give you information when you want it? Or do you view them as other humans who have unique strengths, information, and perspectives that you could learn from?

12. Do you secretly relish being able to look down from atop the org chart? Or do you view your leadership position more as an immense privilege and responsibility to serve a larger group of people to a greater degree?

13. Do you use intimidation (in all its forms) over inspiration?

14. Which is more important: what benefits you or the good of the whole?

15. Do you believe leadership is about control? Or do you believe leadership is about finding ways not to have so much of it?

16. Do the people whose work you admire always happen to work exactly like you do? Or do you value the diverse and interesting ways people are wired to work?

No one’s judging anyone. At least I hope not, or I’m screwed. We’re all imperfect humans and consequently imperfect leaders. We all struggle with any of these things at given points. I know I have and do. But as leaders, I believe it’s important for us to look in the mirror, ask tough questions, and give vulnerable, honest answers.