How can we attract and retain leadership? In our own families, how can we inspire leadership in our children? How can we create strategic partnerships in our marriage? When top leaders are thwarted, companies become stagnant and produce a cold and impersonal work environment; usually with unhappy people and/or a high turn over rate. This often results in top leaders being so stifled, they eventually leave.
The death of leadership begins with processes, policies and managers stuck on those systems above relationship building. Managers are often ‘focused on technicalities and processes being right’. Technicalities and being right usually doesn’t bring people close or closer to gaining understanding. We need only look at our relationships with our spouses to see this tactic will not get us very far!
So how do we shift our culture? How do we create space for leadership and attract top talent? How do we shift our companies/children/marriages and ourselves toward a leadership model so can we can grow?
In companies, it starts with the on-boarding process. Do we have interview questions designed to attract leaders? Do we know how to identify them or what qualities they possess? One way to determine someone’s style, is to provide an essay style questionnaire for them. It takes some understanding of language to know what language to look for. Not only do leaders see things differently they also use different language.
Managers use words like: Problems, Fix, Breakdowns and Blame.
Mangers see problems that need to be fixed. They see breakdowns as a fault of a person, and look for someone to blame. Once they fix the problem, and identify some person to blame, then they have a strong need to be identified for their hard work. They often work harder than most others in the company, because they believe they have to. They are so busy seeing problems everywhere. They spend most of their time addressing problems, and that is how they prove their value or worth.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius
The language of leaders: Challenges, Opportunities, Breakthroughs and Growth.
Leaders see challenges instead of problems. Challenges are temporary circumstances that present themselves and then creative solutions are worked out to a breakthrough. They believe breakdowns are simply a step in the process to breakthroughs. Breakdowns often times cultivate relationships, lead to personal and professional growth, and uncover creative ways to move forward and grow.
“We are here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?” – Steve Jobs
Unfortunately, without a strong hiring process, we often don’t realize who the leaders vs managers are until we’ve hired them. We also may not have training programs and ongoing leadership opportunities to grow talent. We need to be the teacher by our example, create space for talent to rise on their own, and minimize the impact managers have, by training managers on how we want them to respond and why. This takes time, but it’s worth the investment.
In fact, we may be able to help a manager grow their leadership talent. This does happen when someone comes from a very rigid policy driven background but is ready for a more creative opportunity. An example would be to give them an assignment and explain we are not going to give them much direction. We explain we want to give them the space to be creative and we also pointedly make them aware this is how we would like them to lead their teams. We only give them an outline of what is needed and a completion date. This is a great way to see where team members fall into the manager / leader category.
Loose parameters drive a manager crazy, and a leader into a creative tangent yielding all kinds of new possibilities.
We must constantly remind managers the key to managing people is to be gentle. Managers tend to give very abrupt and abrasive responses “our policy is we do not offer that, you do not have the authority to do that, I want to warn you, I want to caution you, I’m not saying you do this but people may think….”
This is not only the response of managers but also people who don’t want to create more work for themselves. This is the response of a C player who does not want to explore options any further and wants to check this nuisance off their do list.
We need to be mindful that managers see problems. So before we fall into the web of ‘whack a mole’ with them, we can learn to ask them questions like “how would you handle this, how would you share information with the goal of building a relationship with your team, is this something worth focusing on or does the bigger picture seem handled?” By asking them questions, we enroll them in the leadership process, rather than become reactive or focus on problems with them without realizing it.
“90% of the game is half mental.” – Yogi Berra
At home, with our children, and our spouses, the key to developing strategic partnerships with our at home team is the same at work.
1. Ask questions. So often we try to fix or solve. Most times when our spouse or children come to us they are looking to strategize. They want us to listen and by asking them good questions we can gain understanding about what they are thinking and how they are feeling without making assessments and then trying to fix a problem. If our assessment is not accurate both parties may leave the conversation feeling frustrated.
2. Share personal examples. Too often people give advice. Do this or don’t do this. Instead we can share this is what happened to me and this is what I did. In this way we learn more about each other. We stop being the authority or dictator and become the partner and leader. One day my daughter was upset by being bossed around by her older sister. I shared a story about when I was little and my older step sister upset me. She laughed and hugged me. By sharing my story, I let her know that I understood how she was feeling.
3. Let things ‘season’. We often times feel like we need a conclusion. Sometimes we just need to talk and let the information season. My rule is at least one night of sleep before revisiting a challenge. Sometimes, it’s 3 days. There are very few decisions that must be made instantly and yet in order to check off the to do list we often give a knee jerk response. I personally keep a list so they stay on the radar, but I prefer to make decisions in a calm space instead of ‘under fire’.
“Time has a way of showing us what really matters.” – anonymous.