Posts Tagged Uhlenberg

Adaptive Leadership: Staying in the FLOW

Staying in the flow of change and not avoiding or fighting it creates a dynamic opportunity for an adaptive leader. It is dynamic because… if you don’t stay in the flow of change–change will take you somewhere and likely to a place you don’t want to go. By staying engaged in the flow you learn what it truly means to be adaptive and begin to predict and speculate about change. All business systems have processes and ideally each process should have clear goals or outcomes defined. Its always comes back to “core purpose” to inform why we would adjust and change.

In order for us to measure progress towards results and adjust purposefully…we need feedback. So the key point for Adaptive Leaders is to make sure you are in the flow of as much feedback as you can get. When feedback is not a part of the system loop it leaves the entire system at a competitive disadvantage and at risk for failure. Marriages and families suffer from the same painful lack of good clear feedback that will give a person clarity about “what is” really going on and nothing less than complete candor.

It is hard as a leader to get feedback on our blind spots. Well, let’s say its hard to get really great feedback…period.  And it gets even harder as you get higher in an organization or if you are the owner. Why? Because whether we like it or not people are fearful of reprisal and not many of us are raised up to give candid feedback…even when it matters a great deal. How many blog posts and articles have painted the picture of how key leaders failed their constituents and customers? Too many to count and it is explained in hindsight many times as…they just didn’t see “it” coming.

Absent of feedback, the scene becomes more of a mad scientist approach that then leads to a mess of poor results and catastrophic impact to employees. An Adaptive Leader has to always make sure that they are seeking the feedback or information that could change a decision or the trajectory of a business. Many businesses that fail don’t have to and could avoid much of the trauma inflicted because of harsh corrections. I call it “whipsawing” an organization. Whatever you call it, it ain’t gentle. These types of corrections to a business system can’t be avoided in crisis, but that’s actually the point. Not every situation needs to be a crisis if you have a finger on the pulse of what is going on.

Can you set yourself up for more success? Heck yes! Especially if you are in charge of leading the system. You better have a say in what’s important and insert yourself in conversations that matter most. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself to see if you are “staying in the flow”.

  • As a leader do I participate in the designing and development of processes for feedback?
  • Do your feedback mechanisms with your direct reports create or maintain a high level of awareness needed to make decisions?
  • Do you engage a coach and confidant that challenges you with straight talk and investigates your perspectives?
  • What can you do to encourage candor and a culture of feedback?
  • How do you close the loop after you receive feedback? What does acting upon it look like?

Adaptive leaders understand (and respond to) change and are always moving with change. So much has been written about change and change management. However, much of what is written has been around managing change and not leading it. Even more pertinent to the concept of flow is the understanding of transition. Transition is essentially what it takes to move between change(s). Leading transition is different than managing change. Leading transitions requires keeping goals and values as the vanguard for why we transform ourselves to new ways of taking action and stay in the flow.

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Adaptive Leadership: Risk, Relevance, and Relationship

I want to challenge Adaptive Leaders to start with OUTCOMES and NOT RISK. Risk doesn’t have much to do with breakthrough decision making. When a decision needs to be made, making an assessment of risk is often the most prudent approach. It also greatly limits learning and can eliminate the many possibilities of success that otherwise are never considered. You do nothing differently and you get the same result…and yes…that is the definition of leadership insanity.

Risk stops leaders from making or keeping a commitment. We may stop short of something extraordinary for us that would seem…just to risky. Adaptive leadership is not just seeking relevance with risk or reward. It is about a relationship that treats each decision, individual, or team in a different way. Risk may never  be a relevant part of your decision making as a leader after you read this post.

Adaptive leaders know about commitment and understand what exactly they are committed to—right now in this moment—and over time. It is the balance of risk, the relevance to your values, and the relationship with a leader’s sense of commitment that creates breakthroughs. It is important to know, as a leader, that each person, situation, and team is unique to the breakthrough they seek. It is difficult to breakthrough without a relationship and relevance to values. 

What would it look like to be a goal maker instead of a risk taker? Adaptive Leadership certainly includes prudent decision making to minimize risk and maximize reward. This conversation is intentionally focused on getting crystal clear on how leaders can think differently about risk adversity and re-frame their entire view of risk. 

The bottom line on being an Adaptive Leader is not about going about “willy nilly” as a leader. It is the ability to ask yourself (and others) clarifying questions at strategic moments. The following types of questions are examples of clarifying questions.

  • What is the outcome I’m seeking? (This may seem to simple, but really powerful!)
  • What is most important and/or most essential at this very time in my life or this business chapter?
  • How can I get the clarity needed to make powerful decisions relevant to my values and goals ?

Adaptive leaders seek relevance rather than risk. Whatever you do to build a strong sense of clarity is critical. Being clear about the decisions you must make, want to make, or could make. Clarity becomes “job one” and a highly valued activity.  This takes a strong relationship with great coaches, mentors, and the embodiment of your personal values. Effective leaders stay in relationship with and connected to their values…all the time.

The most trying and difficult decisions can become amazingly clear to a value driven leader. This relevance to our values sets us back squarely on center for making sound grounded decisions. These important decisions are value based and goal driven. NOT driven by fear or unexamined goals. Clarity becomes the basis you can anchor to when making seemingly small or even life changing decisions.  Especially when making decisions that you have no experiential basis from which to ground your assessments. Thinking strategically with others becomes important if you are going to be able to understand the whole system.

Risk is not relevant in areas where we become extraordinary and work for creation of our future in new ways. The concept of risk is frequently made from an assessment based on what we stand to lose. It seems reasonable to say risky decisions have potential to cost you or create loss.

  • Should I or shouldn’t I?
  • What’s a person to do?
  • How could I ever give up that paycheck?
  • If I “fire” that customer where will the business come from? 

Value based decisions have the potential to create more abundance. You see beyond the paycheck and how spending more time with customers aligned with your values and goals will grow business results, not reduce them.

 

Adaptive leaders simultaneously see the current trajectory of results (and/or output) matched against the desired results (output). Then they declare a destination and make adjustments with courage and conviction. They have faith and believe in the outcome. If they don’t, who will follow and why would you follow them? Pretty simple really when we look at it that way.

Life is strategic. Almost all decisions we make are connected to the flow of our existence and purpose. You can make your goal to minimize risk…OR…live from a framework of commitment and values. The “knowing” of the values and purpose that define those decisions needing to be made becomes essential. There are few risky “life threatening” decisions but all decisions can threaten the life you want to live and work you want to accomplish. Living towards your desired outcomes is exactly related to the old metaphor of “Playing To Win” and NOT “Playing to Lose”.

Next time…Go with the FLOW of Change.

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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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Coaching to Core Ideals – Environmental Engineering of Success

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is ACCESSIBLE

  1. Physically available to the right people at the right time.
  2. Adept at creating forums where discussion and ideas get shared.
  3. Emotionally, mentally and intellectually available

Leading is about engineering success at many levels within an organization. Leaders are focused often only on the “output”. This is only part of the equation. The larger and more complex an organization becomes the more vital it is that I coach leaders around process. Leaders are responsible for the entire environmental system. Leaders are responsible for results or the output that is needed to create success. Success is certainly measured often with financial metrics, but results can be other tangible and intangible defined outcomes.

As an “environmental engineer” you need to quickly learn basic systems theory. The diagram below will provide your master’s level description.

INPUT => PROCESS => OUTPUT

<= FEEDBACK <=

You have to make sure that you have 1) the right inputs, 2) defined output, 3) effective processes, and 4) a grounded feedback. This post will speak to value of the process of creating forums to gain feedback and desired output/results for success. Each process should have a goal and each goal serves its accompanying process as clearly connected to the success desired.

A forum is a PROCESS where conversation can take place and people can be heard. Being heard is a basic human need. Regardless of what that content is…it is important that those you lead experience being listened to by you and others within your organization. I was intrigued that the definition of forum also included the words OPPORTUNITY and MARKETPLACE. Forums are about opportunity and creating an environment that supports not only the values of a leader, but the values of those they lead. A savvy leader knows that meetings/forums are an asset and not a necessary evil that is endured just to get—“the damn thing over with”.

Could you agree with this next idea? The extension of your internal forums into the marketplace makes powerful sense for many leaders to consider. In fact, the quality of the conversations you practice as an organization or team will directly impact the quality and effectiveness of conversations in the marketplace. How many times have we as leaders wondered, even aloud to a battery of subordinates—“Why do our customers feel that we don’t appreciate them?” I

s there a forum in your business that discusses “appreciation and acknowledgement” of each other and the customer? There is great benefit in getting people together in dialogue to share ideas, learn together, and develop relationships that establish accountability to the most important outcomes needed to succeed. There are several types of forums that leaders use to communicate their ideas. Meetings are just one of the important forums that can be a place where important knowledge, information, and direction setting goals can be shared.

Unfortunately communicating or sharing goals does not ensure they are understood and acted upon proactively. My coaching to clients and organizations is the following. Leaders are responsible for creating effective forums that nurture a well informed and aligned community within their business. Become adept at this skill and it will lead to proactive action, accelerated learning, and accountability.

The word “forum” has its roots in the Roman culture of public spaces usually in the middle of a city where speaking and debate took place. It was an important part of the Roman culture. In these forums (or meeting places) ideas, beliefs, and relationships were built. They had social significance for those that were a part of the community. With the Internet and mobile technology we can now create virtual forums like discussion boards, social medium, and blog posts as needed to respond to needs of businesses and customers.

These forums are valid ways for virtual and geographically dispersed teams/organizations to be engaged and connected to important with leader’s dialogue. AND it is often a huge miss on a leader’s part to not take advantage of using a forum to dialogue with their people and organization. It’s not always what does get said that hurts a company as much as what doesn’t get said. The unsaid things (have fun with this one), especially around times of stress (from growth or downturn) in the business, are missing links to understanding.

Managing transition and stress requires keeping people’s minds “right” around how to interpret what is going on in their organization or marketplace. Even more interesting is that when a leader doesn’t communicate people will make crap up. We are “meaning makers’ and we are constantly trying to make sense of our environment. Missing conversations are as bad as or more damaging than poorly held discussions.

One of the most potent and powerful learning experiences I have had as a leader and coach was training on facilitative leadership. Not all of it was about managing meetings, but there was a significant portion of this training around the whole domain of—how we meet. The process of meeting involved managing relationship, process, and results simultaneously. The core premise still resonates with me some 16 years later now. Meetings (or forums) are a microcosm of the larger organization. If you observe how a team meets you have a good view of the macro environment or culture of an organization.

What have you observed as a leader at meetings? Let me make a short list…

1. No agenda and lack of desired outcomes for meeting

2. No process for making decisions or even lack of what decisions needed to be made and by whom.

3. Too much for time allotted or too little time for so much…take your pick.

4. No clear roles defined for the meeting…like a simple “time keeper” makes a huge difference along with a note taker that captures commitments made, so that we can hold each other accountable

5. No clear purpose for “why” we are meeting in the first place.

I could make a list 3 times longer, but you get the point in most likely in your own personal experience. Death by meetings as a phrase even became a book by Patrick Lencioni! It’s a good read and the hyperlink will give you a good summary. There is even a clock that keeps track of the cost of meetings in time investment.

Content of a meeting is extremely important. However, I have seen very good content lose out for lack of meeting process and facilitation. Forums (like meetings) done well are energy builders and not energy suckers. They are forums of opportunity and not just opposition! Some people believe that modern day corporate environments are structured in ways that prevent productivity. I cannot necessarily disagree with that idea…yet coaching is about possibilities and I don’t see much opportunity in that point of view.

My coaching point here is make meetings an asset not “ass” set. Why waste precious time, money, and resources of your people…and maybe even worse is the time you squander as a leader. You could be out with customers or employees doing meaningful work and make more progress. Better yet engineer the environment you need to create a successful conversation within your business and marketplace.

Coaching Points:

  • Leaders are responsible for creating effective forums.
  • Engineer the environment you need to create a successful conversation within your business and marketplace.
  • Forums can be energy creators and leaders should use it build momentum towards meaningful action.
  • Building an aligned community within your organization will lead to proactive action and accelerated learning.

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Coaching to Core Ideals – Be There or Be Square

Coaching to Core Ideals – Be There or Be Square

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is ACCESSIBLE

  1. Physically available to the right people at the right time
  2. Adept at creating forums that important knowledge, information, and direction setting goals can be shared and understood.
  3. Emotionally, mentally and intellectually available in ways that they take risks in being vulnerable by sharing not only what they are thinking but what they are “feeling” or sensing

As basic as it seems, the biggest challenge for any leader is to show up. The gift of your presence is surprisingly underestimated by many leaders. Failing to be with your direct reports on a consistent basis is costing businesses and leaders dearly. Being with your people can not only increase top and bottom line results, but has huge strategic significance for you as a leader. “Showing up” for your people is strategically important in impacting long term results in a marketplace.

Spending time with employees and constituents in your organization is the foundation of relationship. You can’t build relationship without spending time. Not sure you would pay a consultant a lot of money to figure this one out, but I’m telling you that leaders within many organizations are spending very little time “in relationship” with the greatest asset in their business—the human capital —their people. Reasons abound as to why leaders run a deficit in time spent with people.

In many businesses the “span of control” has increased over the last 20 years to ratios that make for a very challenging leader/follower relationship. The increasing global nature of businesses has broadened the geographic dispersion to more internationally. Research has indicated in years past that 7-10 people are the ideal and thought to be the best ratio where teams and managers were most effective. More recently because of economic pressures and technology advances organizations have flattened out. Consequently there have been managers responsible for more and more direct reports.

There are many variables that could influence how to effectively manage more people and be available to them in meaningful ways. Some of it depends on the skill level of the individuals and the type of work being done by them. It seems more appropriate to think about the relationship that is needed in order to drive the results needed. All this aside, I’ve seen managers and leaders with very few direct reports fail miserably in “being” with the people they have been entrusted to lead. Conversely I have seen others build powerful relationships in spite of the large number of people they lead.

It really comes back to a leader and business owner’s clear line of sight to the success of people and the impact on bottom and top line results. We talk more in the next post about the concept of designing forums and space for conversation. Personal skills of time management and prioritization on the leader’s part are vital to success regardless of the numbers of direct reports. Managing your time becomes increasingly important though as people responsibilities increase. You must be better at everything you do to gain efficiencies in your time spent on any given task.

There are many ways that leaders determine when and where to invest in their human capital. With increasing span and consolidation/growth in the size of businesses segmenting employees has become essential in the talent development and management process. The implementation of the process of segmenting employees can be a good thing as long as it is kept in perspective. Success in leading people is ultimately done through commitment to a relationship to people and not a process. Processes should always serve people not the other way around.

Situational leadership is a great example of how a leader determines the focus and need of each individual. It really is a simple approach to making sure you spend time with the people that need you the most.  And when you are with them you are focused on the right conversation.

A good leader develops “the competence and commitment of their people so they’re self-motivated rather than dependent on others for direction and guidance”. – Paul Hersey

 The main thing I appreciate about situational leadership is that there is no one “perfect style” of leading people. Situational Leadership articulates that employees need support in building the necessary commitment and competency to perform. You can then determine not only what to spend time on with a person, but even the level of intensity. There may indeed be a time when those you lead have the skill, but lack the necessary commitment to be successful and vice versa. Understanding when someone’s performance is due to lack of skill or motivation is paramount to knowing what conversation needs to be taking place.

Showing up and being there for your people IS your job. BEING THERE is the core asset  whether you are the CEO of a global organization, president of a country, or line supervisor at a factory. Not being there could change the success of the person in their job and career and the long or short term success of the business. There are times that are critical points of a career, a business, and/or a crucial circumstance that will change the trajectory of a career or business; making yourself accessible is what wins the day for those looking to you as a leader in times that really count. And it counts every day.

 

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Coaching to Core Ideals – Are You An Owner or A Renter

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is DISCIPLINED

  1. Makes tough decisions in a timely manner
  2. Talks straight and moves forward with feedback effectively and courageously
  3. Does the not make their problems anyone else’s, they own them and act accordingly

In coaching leaders; whether they own their own business, lead an organization, or a team of sales and account managers there is one constant. Successful leaders are experienced in embracing their problems as their own and enlisting others in their network to help them. It never works to blame the market place or the incompetent leaders below you on the organization chart. Who do you think they get their leadership from anyway? This is not just a leadership play to run, but a powerful way to be with life’s twists and turns. The experience of owning anything is entirely different than renting or leasing it. Yet we all experience when we default to not excepting the “deed” on problems we face. Why would we treat the things we work so hard to acquire or dedicate so much of our lives to like they have no value? Doesn’t make sense does it.

Here is a part of the answer. When we have a clear line of sight to what we want from our life and business it brings more clarity to how we approach solutions to our problems. Our point of view is oriented in a totally different way. I heard this perspective quickly and simply explained like the following…

Scenario #1 – You’re driving a rental as a loaner while your car is being fixed and you need something at Wal-Mart. It’s a quick stop and these are the nastiest parking lots with high traffic and lots of shopping carts. Do you park way back in the empty spaces or do you drive as close as you can and even squeeze it into tight spot?

Scenario-#2 – You have been saving for 5 years and just purchased the car of your dreams. It’s a vintage Corvette or a latest model of the luxury brand you only dreamed of owning some day. Everything you ever wanted in a vehicle is now at your fingertips. Hey, it could even be a minivan! Now where do you park this vehicle? Even when you are in a hurry?

Likely the answer to Scenario #1 is YES to squeezing it into a narrow spot up close. At minimum you really aren’t even concerned with where you park unless you are trying to get your 10,000 steps a day in. The answer to the second scenario is likely—somewhere way back in the open spaces away from the masses of parked cars. Or maybe not, because there are a lot of people that treat their cars just like they treat their problems—they are renting them!

The car example defines that ownership can carry with it a completely different perspective. Ownership is an experience that has accompanying levels of responsibility. It’s still a challenge to sufficiently explain the concept of owning our problems and then getting into action on solutions. Mostly it is challenging because it is an experience or a way of being. There are employees or retail partners that have problems and struggle in overcoming obstacles that will grow their business. In corporate settings they can often serve as a rich resource of scapegoats for business owners and leaders. It is much easier to tell a story why something isn’t working or the numbers aren’t adding up—than to say …”I’ll own this one, now let’s look at some solutions. What’s possible here?”

Let’s look at the two words that can often start out most sentences for those just “leasing a problem”. IF ONLY…

  • The marketing department had a better strategy.
  • Operations had their stuff together.
  • Leadership listened better to our customers.
  • The price was lower.
  • Our people could handle negotiations more effectively.
  • I could win the lottery!

What does it really mean to own your problems? When does a problem become my problem and not someone else’s? How do I own something I don’t even control? If you have a case of the “IF ONLY’S” you need to find the cure and quick before you become irrelevant as a leader. This isn’t a “big company” problem. Individuals and small business owners can get caught up in this as well even when their own net worth is at stake. The magic comes when you can turn the culture of a business into one that doesn’t mouth the words “act like an owner”—it is powerful when you experience leaders acting like owners. Shoulder it up and move on down the trail.

What’s the magic in this discipline? It’s taking initiative at its very root. When I can have my business filled with solution oriented people it is a great day as a leader! Most likely the employees and down stream leaders are supported to solve problems on their own. They also have the resources and moral support behind them to ask for help. Realistically you will always have to stay in the game on this concept of being disciplined. We drift. Overtime we mellow out like fine wine and turn back into a fine “whine”. It is understandable that you don’t control all the outcomes or circumstances. I have to coach leaders to stay drilled in on the things they can control and influence. Crap happens even to the best of us, but how we deal with that “crap” is about being responsible. Able to respond in a way that will optimize and not minimize. How we deal with crap is all about responsibility. Park your car where you want…it’s your choice. You will just have to fix the dents in your leadership later. I leave you with this thoughtif you have something be a problem then its your problem. You can decide what you will do about it and get after it or let it go. Get on it or get off of it and move on.

Next time—Ideal Leaders are ACCESSIBLE.  Where are you hiding out? Can my leader come out to play?

Bonus Read (read on if you like, I take a poke at corporate HR) —Have any of you ever evaluated an employee in a corporate setting on their pattern of behavior? I can bet one of those “desired” behaviors was listed as—“ Acts like an owner” most likely in the decision making category. A classic sub-description is—Takes responsibility and initiative to accomplish a given task”. This idea of getting employees to act like owners is missing the boat. In reality I’m an employee with an mid-year and annual review that has a manager that wants me to act like an owner. Now if I own a lot of stock in the company that I work for I just may feel more like an owner. The problem is this—I just don’t get treated like one most days. And in fact when you own stock all you really have is the right to vote at annual meetings and that has been automated. The answer lies in the conversation above. And the question is what do I really own?  These latest fads in Corporate HR efforts to find some magic words to manipulate the masses just don’t work.

If you are asking me, to join in the concerted efforts of making “stakeholders” and the CEO with his crew more money; that’s a rental car move (see story above). If you have outlined to me as my leader and manager what the employment transaction is and what you want from me in performance—I can make that connection. I can also then own my dreams and how that transaction with you will make those dreams come true. Plus, I’m watching you as my leader to learn just what owning my problems really is like…it’s an experience that helps me with my own career and portfolio of skills. If your people aren’t doing what you want them to it’s your fault not theirs.

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