If managing is the working the nuts and bolts of company policy, paperwork, and admin stuff that threatens to suck the soul from the free spirits of the world then leadership is everything else.
Not knocking managing. Some of the admin stuff is necessary and more still is important as it puts people at ease so they can truly be present at work. How much energy is wasted worrying about health care costs, security badge pictures, and parking validation? It's certainly good to handle these detail to keep the wasted energy to a minimum.
It’s these important things that support the most important part of leadership. A leader’s number one mission is to create an environment where people can be and operate at their best in what’s being created within the organization.
In shortest terms of all: leadership is about making space.
Literally and figuratively, leaders remove barriers than keep people from enrolling into what is being creating in their organization. Whether is freeing people from the worry of validated parking, coffee in the break room or creating space for innovation, risk, and change. In this way, leaders create an opening people can engage, own their work and contribute to shaping and achieving the vision.
The leader’s mindset, and word choice are critical to creating this space and to enrolling teams into the vision. The result is people who do great work because they want to instead of doing just enough to get by.
Here are seven words and phrases to change in your leadership vocabulary, to begin create space, and to create authentically connected teams.
Rule: There are policies that prevent getting organizations sued or people sent to jail and then there are guidelines. Rules that have no legal ramification limit what can be created or achieved. Yes, operating without "rules" can result in hurt feelings and strained relationships across organizational boundaries. To prevent this whenever possible, the leader must take responsibility and take action to enroll people and other teams into what’s being created. In the end, it comes down to choice. How does the leader want to operate in the organization and in their life? What is the leader, themselves, truly trying to create? Is the risk of strained, broken relationships worth the possibility of achieving the vision?
Should/Shouldn’t: Two more guild laden and choice limiting words never existed. Leading from guilt or manipulation leads to work being done as it always has been and just getting by. Simply state what you want and why you want it while demonstrating openness to other approaches. Invite others to enroll into the vision and amazing things will happen. 'Many times the outcome is far more impactful than the original vision.
Head Count: They are people after all…not cattle. This phrase dehumanizes people and creates unnecessary distance between leader and team. The team is the competitive advantage.
I have an open door policy: Demonstrate openness and welcome to team ideas and speak to the whys of things. Give permission whenever possible. These actions will speak louder than the phrase employees have heard many times before but experienced a different reality.
If only: “If only my VP would listen to reason.” If only there were more budget.” “If only my team listened and respected me.” “If only Mars were aligned with Venus.” Leader’s take responsibility. They declare the possibility of achieving a specific something and commit to removing barriers. If the greater organization declines to support that leader's declaration, and will not be moved, the leader must choose to create something that aligns to the organization’s vision or create their vision outside that organization. Either way, blame and playing the victim is does not result in creation, it results in just getting by.
I need: It’s not about you. It’s about what’s being created and the process of creation. Sometimes what’s needed is for the leader to put ego aside to enable the talent and brilliance of the team to explode, amaze, and achieve.
Finished: The process of creation, invention, and re-invention never ends…it just changes. It’s important to be clear about this with team members so they can choose how they will commit to the process.
Note that the trick is there is no trick. Changing words without changing mindset will not generate authentic action. Like a poor forgery, people will eventually see through and leaders will lose creditability.
What are your thoughts?
Contact me for support in changing your leadership culture and achieving amazing results.
For further reading: Tracy Goss, The Last Word on Power; Martin Heidegger, Being and Time.