Archive for category Vision and Planning

Adaptive Leadership:Responsibility for the future

Culture in an organization is a direct product of the conversations leaders are having or holding within their organizations. Or said another way the culture of an organization is nurtured or destroyed by the conversations of its leaders. If you want more accountability with in your organization than you must be in a relationship of responsibility. You can create a powerful conversation and then let your actions follow in complete reflection of your words.

So many leaders just struggle with owning the results their people produce. The all to common thinking of some managers and owners is..”It is their (the employee) fault that they didn’t make the numbers or fulfill on a commitment”. Then the usual conversation is that you can’t find good help these days. Somehow to these leaders its just doesn’t seem like being a leader if you aren’t blaming or fixing others instead of leading them.

Adaptive leaders are engaged with teams and individuals in ways that produce actions and conversations about success and goals. The real work to be done is working on yourself. I recently have asked the following questions of some of my clients:

“How can you lead your organization (or family) to be prepared for the future you want for them?

“Given some of the circumstances and difficulty you know will likely play out; will you take it personally if those you lead are not prepared to perform?”

In other words, when “that future” shows up and the skills, knowledge, or abilities are insufficient…will you feel like you let others down? Quite often I see leaders blame others or tough circumstances as the reason for a lack of results. In one sense this may be true, leaders can’t control everything. However, they can take responsibility for the system they directly impact as a leader or owner.

Extraordinary leaders never place blame on anyone for the lack of results. Sounds harsh, but I did say “extraordinary”. If you take responsibility for everything then you never have to worry about being accountable. You just are accountable and you expect it of others as well. If your constituents don’t have the skills and perspective they need to “show up” prepared for a future…will you take personal responsibility when they don’t succeed?

  • Essential to Adaptive Leadership is creating awareness for the future and a vision.
  • Helping your team and organization know clearly what is expected of them is what responsible leaders do.
  • Helping others make good choices and trusting them to do so with your support is also essential.
  • When we don’t trust others to act on our behalf or even their own…what does that mean?
  • Usually we don’t trust ourselves and we have a lack of ownership of our own problems.
  • Reinforcing a culture of being responsible comes from your adaptive nature as a leader.
  • If you trust someone to be responsible they will act accordingly.
  • It is well worth the risk to allow someone to take your expectations of them and own their pathway to the end result.

In absence of responsibility the poison of “entitlement” seeps into our lives and holds us captive to inaction and blaming others for all our problems. Its not powerful and it is the biggest challenge facing our society today. We can be extraordinary and powerful beyond what we imagine when we engage ourselves and others in a shared vision and clear pathway. Take responsibility for everything. Its the simplest and most adaptive way to lead.

©2011 The Heartwood Group, LLC


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Checking In? Yes, where the heck am I?

How often do you go right to your hotel room without first stopping to check in at the main desk? You don’t, you need to stop and give some information about yourself and confirm you have a reservation. Your hotel attendant may even ask you what business you are in town for so that they can match your needs during your stay. Checking in is good because it lets us know we are in the right place and have the right rates and correct length of stay.

Okay, how does a check in relate to your business or you as a leader? If you run your own business or lead a team of sales professionals you should practice regular “check ins” throughout your business cycle. These should take place collectively as a group and individually. You have to step off the trail for a while and check your map and get a pulse on the climate and surroundings. It’s a pause, a time out.

Baseball is a favorite sport for me and I’m a season ticket holder for St. Louis Cardinals. Tony LaRussa has managed in over 5000 games. Only 2 other managers have managed more games. He still takes strategic timeouts to check in with players, especially pitchers, during the heat of a game. Why? Is it for the team or for him or the individual?

The answer could be yes for all three. The “CHECK IN” isn’t for others in your team as much as it is for you. Often times a manager needs to make sure that what they are seeing play out is being correctly interpreted or assessed by them. They may check in with others on the team for more perspective. The one thing that can render a check in useless is lack of straight talk and authentic answers.

Let’s go back to Tony and the Cardinals. He gets the word…”my arm is fine”, the pitcher stays in and throws a ball up and over the plate and the batter jacks one out over the fence. Was that trip to the mound a wasted leader moment? Maybe or maybe not—it really depends on how authentic the conversation was that took place, for all parties. I think it is part of the dynamics of the game that makes it so strategic and interesting.

In fact, every time I meet with clients or a business team we do a form of a check in to make sure we are connected and ready to do authentic work together. It isn’t just about a list of activities to date. It is more about where is the energy in the moment. Are we both ready to be in a coaching/development relationship? Where’s the momentum or not for the client?

The process of checking in helps the client and I get a grasp on what they are experiencing. They may be in a maelstrom of activity personally or professionally leading up to a quieter space of reflection and planning. Or it may be the beginning of a rut that is growing deeper and longer. Much like a baseball manager gets a handle on how his pitcher is doing “in the moment”.

Shifting from “doing” mode to a mode of “being” in the moment takes a lot of personal awareness every day. Intentional pauses or check ins can be a great technology for a leader. It is a process that forces you to attend to time spent thinking and assessing. Too simple…right?  Just pausing and reflecting is almost too easy. If it was easy why don’t more of us do it more often?

So there are longer time horizons to take stock of as well and not just in the moment of a hectic day. As a leader/owner you need to create a forum for checking in. Leaders and owners of our own businesses can get into protracted periods of very focused and mindful work—that—if not followed by some real, felt, and meaningful downtime can lead us to burn out, being unprepared for the future when it arrives, and a smothered human spirit.

Here are 3 key areas to consider as a simple, but deep powerful check in for leaders and entrepreneurs with your team or organization.


  • What likely industry and market scenarios have you built your business “go to market” plan from to achieve success? And are they still valid?
  • What are the current needs in the industry and customer base that you are seeking to engage and provide profitable solutions?
  • How does [Company Name] define success for the owners and stakeholders?  For its constituents and associates? And most importantly its customers?
  • How would you as an owner(s) rate your current success based on your original objectives?
    • 1 = We fell far short and are unsure of the future
    • 2 = We are short of target, but working to adjust
    • 3 = We met or are just meeting our expectations
    • 4 = Our offer is off to a great start and we are ahead of plan
    • 5 = We are wildly surprised at the demand for our offer
    • 6=Huh?


  • Relationships: How we are working together as a team of business owners?
  • Structure: How is the organization of decisions and implementations working?  How well is the work getting done?
  • Accountability and Performance: Do the team members (owners, partners, and leaders) deliver the necessary growth and contribution to results?


  • What industry and global trends will impact us and our customers that we can control or influence with our actions?
  • What would tell us we need to invest in new offers?
  • How will you keep [Company Name] a healthy and growing business?
  • Do we need new milestones for the next journey to our vision?

I hope these three key areas will be useful at your next “check in”. Take an intentional pause, hard work is rarely the problem with leaders and entrepreneurs. Taking a productive pause will let you know where the heck you really are.

©2011 The Heartwood Group, LLC

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