Posts Tagged teamwork

Adaptive Leadership: Leading and parenting allows failure

To be a successful parent you have to be an adaptive leader. Teaching and training up leaders requires a level of patience, wisdom, and humility that many successful leaders find challenging. Its one thing to lead, make decisions, and take responsibility. It is an entirely different thing to coach and develop leaders on the ideals and principles that you use to make your decisions. This isn’t a “right” or “wrong” paradigm. It is just another way of being.  Adaptive Leadership requires a whole different level of vulnerability and openness to mentor and guide a young child as a parent or develop an employee as manager. It involves a choice..a choice to be a coach and teacher and actively participate in the development of those around you.

This level of vulnerability is not so much limited by ego, but really limited by a perspective. These perspectives usually show up when you are working with parents and leaders to get more involved. Specifically, to be involved emotionally and spiritually with another human being in an intimate relationship regarding their development. It could be a number of reasons, but I’ve found a couple of deep seeded perspectives that seem most prevalent.

  1. Failure is not equated with leading. Leading is associated with succeeding! The idea is seeded that leading has no room for failure…in anything. And especially not a big old fat stinker of a failure that involves a financial loss, misjudgment of character, and failure to live up to expectations (of themselves and others).
  2. Parents and leaders find difficulty in being vulnerable and reliving their own mistakes. Its not something you share with a child let alone a direct report…right? Wrong! It takes intuition to know how vulnerable you need to be and know when it is appropriate to engage with others in learning from your experiences. In some strange transference we become intolerant of failure in others because we really can’t stand it in our own self.

Truth is…all leaders and parents fail at some point in their careers and parenting efforts. Click here for the popular chronicle of failure and success in a famous leader. My most powerful moments as a parent have dramatic similarities with my defining moments as a successful leader and people manager. It involves my ability and/or willingness to admit my own shortcomings and mistakes during those teachable moments. Equally important are the times I allowed my children and direct reports to make their own mistakes…I bit my tongue and kept my trap shut.

Fundamentally, leadership skills are not different from those skills required to parent. Your children are in constant transition and growth, both physically and mentally. This environment of transition demands that you are constantly adapting as a leader/parent. You don’t interact with your eight year old like you did when they were a two year old. When you have several employees and/or offspring at different stages you have to be able to adapt to each personality and situation and do it seamlessly.

You are being watched  and observed. How you deal with failure is as important as how you deal with success. No doubt parents, through experience, can save their children from many stupid mistakes. However, in saving the child from experiencing the struggle of failing you may cripple their ability to learn and grow. In the same way, as a leader you see that a key lesson learned for one individual may be the foundation used to build a career or life upon.

  1. Why not create opportunities for your new leaders to make decisions and learn critical skills and lessons?
  2. Do you let them make that decision could cost them their career?
  3. Are you focused on perfection or excellence?

As I have written in earlier posts, the one constant is your core values. That is why being consistent and adaptive as a leadership go hand in hand. Look at these next development points for leaders and see the direct parallels to successful parenting of children.

  1. Set a good foundation early in the process of “on boarding” new employees or new people leaders,
  2. reinforce the foundation and standards by rewards and encouragement,
  3. and prepare new leaders by allowing them to benefit by learning from the results of their own decisions.

Adaptive work involves intuition and tapping into that as a you make decisions. Intuition is very spiritual and unexplainable.

Here are some parting thoughts…

  • Being vulnerable and open sets the best example.
  • Faith in your ability to lead and adapt is a huge contribution to develop leaders with the proper perspective.
  • Value your intuition as a strong guide to build intuitive leaders.
  • Intuition is the most unexplained leadership tool.
  • Intuition scares many corporate systems because it has no roots in controlled systematic approaches.

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Adaptive Leadership: Giving Feedback you don’t want to, but need to.

Effective leadership (like coaching) is about creating awareness for others. Helping them see something that will create value for them. Feedback has become a term that most leaders and their subordinates have confused with “coaching”. Giving Feedback is not coaching. Feedback is an invaluable tool and skill that when used correctly can literally change the trajectory of a person or business. And it should always come with implicit or explicit permission and trust from the person receiving it.

Feedback is the means to an end and not the end itself. Just because you deliver some feedback or information to another doesn’t mean that action will follow. Great feedback can help the other person know how your perspective is grounded in observation and data. Data is not necessarily truth and that becomes a real part of where the breakdown in feedback begins. If you treat it as truth to be bestowed rather than information to inform the other person’s awareness then you have taken their power away right from the start.

It is important you have the relationship and the awareness of the goals and values of the other person in mind. This becomes very important because it establishes relevance and power for what you have to say. You are grounded in their aspirations and abilities. You know their dreams and can see how giving them a “snapshot” or reflection could advance their agenda first. The goal is to help them see what their choices are and not telling them what to make of it. They own the interpretation and decisions.

You must trust that people, when supported in a conversation, can make a decision. Trusting another person to take responsibility for their own decisions is not easily done by a majority of corporate managers and leaders. I know this to be true because I have years of experience working in this environment and working with adults in these systems. Managers and leaders must be adaptive in nature to the situation. Effective feedback in its truest value is relevant to situational and aspirational points in a person’s life and career moments.

When we don’t trust someone to find their own answers…what does that mean? It could mean a host of things on the surface. It may be that we don’t understand how powerful it is to let someone “stew in their own juices”. We don’t like to be present during internal conflict or struggle. Let’s get on with it and fix it is often our tactic. Make it better with a bandaid of something less than complete candor. What if the feedback is so difficult that the person might get mad, become emotional, or worse yet lose their sense of identity? What if it questions the very essence of how they see themselves in their work and life?

There might actually some very subtle issues going on with person giving the feedback that you may have not thought about. The following could be a partial list of questions for leaders to contemplate on before holding a conversation.

  • Are you so programmed and gripped by the idea that as a manager and leader that you should have “THE ANSWER”?
  • Is it possible that the outcome is something you may not have any control over?
  • Do you really have grounded information and perspective or is it really just hearsay and opinion based on feelings?
  • What is your real commitment to the “other” that you are about to give feedback to?
  • When you don’t hold the conversation and delay it, what are you waiting for and why are you conflicted?
  • Lastly, do you trust yourself and can you take of ownership the information and your problems?

Again, like in my last post this is all connected to reinforcing a culture of being responsible. You have the opportunity to be a role mode and ambassador for responsibility. When you step up and give feedback in a timely and grounded fashion you are being an Adaptive Leader. Adaptive Leadership doesn’t know what is on the other side of a feedback session and is open to the feedback you might receive in turn. You trust yourself to be who you need to be for that person and to stay anchored in your commitment to them. Regardless if you know the answers.

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. A key take away on this post on Adaptive Leadership could stated simply by the following sentence. When we don’t trust ourselves we find it very difficult to trust others. Letting go of the result and living in the moment with the process requires a lot of adaptation and courage. It is a choice that is at the core of being an Adaptive Leader.

Vision and trusting the future to unfold for those you lead is not always easy. It is a different way of being for many who have people leadership responsibilities. Your intentions must be born from a clear sense of expectations not only of others, but of you most of all. When you don’t hold difficult or challenging conversations you must question your real commitment to the other person. Feedback really is not about them it is about you. Step in, let go, and let it flow.

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Team Works: If you are Share and not Compare

Sharing or Comparing

Any team or business has potential for tremendous public identity to get things done and to perform amazing things for their customers. Our customers demonstrate this by continuing to do business with us and refer others to our offer.  Each person within a business or team is unique in his or her talents, gifts, and personality.  Combine this fact with the clarity of a compelling offer to your market place and you have some magic. Working together as a team requires unique and constant compromise. Some compromises by teammates are undertaken silently. Others are vocal and fully visible journeys to agreement.

The level of agreement needed for successful decisions in a team is everyone’s responsibility. When a business or intact team decides to focus on a performance result there is always the important task of decision making. If you feel that there is confusion or an agreement has been broken or misunderstood…it is each individual team member’s responsibility to reach a new understanding as a team.

When we compare ourselves to others we might think we don’t have enough skills, gifts, or talents. Or when we compare someone to someone else we may not think one person measures up to another. What really is at play is varied or unknown expectations. Expectations come into play because they often are unclear, unconsciously assumed, or were never clearly established upfront. Team members need to know (and constantly seek out) what is expected of them from not only from their coach/manager, but other teammates.

Accepting each other for the special gifts they bring to the team or project is a tremendous start to begin taking full advantage of maximum team performance. Even more empowering is to have a clear understanding of the team’s common purpose…its reason for being. Each individual has a purpose in life and can follow after a certain calling if they are clear what it is.

A calling is merely the vocational experience of your purpose. There is no need to have a calling if there is no caller.  And that is exactly what purpose (the reason for being…a team or business) does. It calls us to something greater than ourselves. This dynamic works through each layer of an organization…starting with the individual and growing with each system layer.

Grow your ability to speak what your heart says is truth to you and the entire team will be able to push out of a comfort zone. You will grow a willingness to encourage others even when it is difficult. Share your feelings and thoughts more openly than maybe you have in the past and don’t “play small”.  Be prudent as needed, but take risks or live with status quo. And lastly aspire to be kind and value others as a human being first and invite them to accompany you on a quest for greatness.

Let go…so that you can take on new possibilities of greater team work. Start sharing and quit comparing.


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INCLUSION AND COMMUNITY: Conversations of commitment

Lack of results or failed businesses can be traced back to the breakdown in community.Peter Block

Here’s a “burst your bubble” statement: “We are not born with the innate skill to be team players.” Yep it’s true, we are born little ambassadors of selfishness and self focus. Almost as soon as we can walk we also start excluding others at an early age… from games to tasty treats.

The behavior of exclusion is an inborn “corporate” behavior. Learning to appreciate our differences as a community, to play together nicely, and be inclusive are learned behaviors. These behaviors are coached forward by great parents and leaders.

The middle ground in this domain of inclusion and community is a deep chasm. It is not easy to go against our normal nature  and strive to be more “in tune” on collaborating with others. We know that it takes time and focus to build relationships, yet so many times businesses and families choose to take the easy road.

Let’s all snap our arm with a rubber band and then recite the following…“The things I really want (or are worth having) in life take work, effort, and commitment”. Repeat this phrase as often as needed. To cross the chasm of self-centeredness to being more inclusive (and willing to invest in building community) you will need to be intentional and goal oriented.

Families and corporations are systems made up of human beings with needs, wants, and goals. At the same time there exists a complete set of accompanying circumstances that can either hinder or enhance the ability to achieve these desired outcomes. How do successful people and businesses overcome these road blocks and take advantage of opportunities? They choose unconditionally to work and support each other. Our business environments are filled with “conditions”.

Great parenting is leadership clothed in unconditional love. Successful families have an establish set of processes, implemented through parenting. These processes have the goal to generate important collaboration and cooperation for the greater good of the family and each individual collectively. Successful families are really practicing the very things that most corporate systems, filled with adults (by age calculation), really need in order to thrive and excel in most global economies and industries moving into the future.

Great leaders, like insightful parents, demand inclusion and design the conversation for community. That is, they influence what the community will talk about. This is not about control, but framing up the vision and building “the container for how and where a successful community can happen and produce results.

Commitment is a conversation about values and goals that will in turn define/lead to action for a desired future. Inclusion is what perfects commitment and builds a robust community that shares the incredible experience of being in action; action that truly makes a difference…action that matters. Not action that is busy work.

It doesn’t just take a community/village to raise a child as Hillary Clinton wrote. It takes a community that is actively involved in a conversation of commitment. The narrative within a business or family about “what is important” builds the community. When the discourse stops so does the community.

Business Application – The need for inclusion and community is evident in and reflected by the choices customers make regarding their purchases. Customers want to be a part of a community when they purchase. Think about how our purchases reflect our values and what we care about.  Why would your customers be any different? How would having a thriving community within your workplace impact the sense of inclusion with your customers?

© The Heartwood Group, LLC 2011


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