Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Challenge of Leadeship - Shaping DNA

Sitting inside the challenge of leadership development is one of your most important jobs as a leader: that is to help employees and colleagues learn how to work together to expand their collective ability to handle complexity and change, to think bigger and bolder, and learn how to use feedback to become better navigators of the organizational and marketplace terrain. The practices are mind-opening, mind-expanding ways to stretch one’s normal mindset and mental boundaries and open up previously limited thinking in the workplace.

Imagine that you have in your power the ability to trigger this potential shift in colleagues and in the organization. Imagine that you have the ability to set the stage for growth beyond what is seen at face value. Imagine that you could shape and craft the environment at work in such a way that you would see talent emerge that previously seemed hidden. What would that work place look like?

Creating a We-Centric Workplace

Ask yourself these questions and determine where you are in your evolution as a We-Centric Leader. How are you shaping the environment for success? In what ways are you creating environments that enable colleagues to:

Focus Outward on Creating the Future
Create Feedback-Rich Relationships for Mutual Success
Make Beliefs Transparent, and Create the Context for Collaboration and Co-Creation

Conversations and Language:
Are conversations healthy? This means do people focus on complaining about others behind their backs, or do people have face-to-face healthy discussions about what concerns them. Is there a lot of triangulation (people using others to tell someone what’s on their mind) or can people give direct feedback to others? Is there an ongoing conversation among the members of the community/culture? Are people engaged in working out how to get to the end game, or are people distracted with conversations about whose fault it is that things are not moving forward?

Is there a blaming/victim culture or an accountable culture? Is the enterprise being run by fear or hope? Are people connecting emotional states with the type of conversations taking place? Is there a level of wisdom and insight about how the words we use impact perception and outcome? Are people savvy to the levels of non-verbal impact on the culture and on relationships? Do people share a common language? Do they share a common reality? Can people tell the truth? Or is truth telling painful and hidden to protect people from reality?

Heart & Soul:
Is there a spirit of appreciation surrounding the organization, or is there a punitive spirit? Do managers and leaders complain about poor performance, or are they savvy in the skills that develop talent. Do leaders and managers understand how to provide developmental feedback? Do they recognize good work and effort, or only look for what’s wrong? Do managers and leaders always look at the past and complain about what’s not happening, or do they understand how to focus people or create what people want to happen. Are manager and leaders always focusing on problems or do they focus on opportunity?

Actualization of Vision:
Are leaders providing direction? Organizations cannot move forward without direction. More often than not, the enterprise has gone through a visioning process and has constructed some conceptual framework for elaborating the vision, mission, goals and strategies. More often than not, these constructs are Two-dimensional not three-dimensional with a vision too far out for people to grasp the implications at their level within the organization.

Too often the guiding principles are on paper, not manifesting in everyday life; then breakdowns occur in the actualization of the vision, and this causes the greatest breakdowns between leader and employees. Leaders think they communicate the vision and therefore employees should be able to implement it. What’s missing is the interpretation of the vision down to the level of “what does it mean to me and what do I have to change to get there.” It also means creating benchmarks for measuring success, and sharing those measures and using them diligently to create a culture of learning.

Are employees collaborating and bonding across boundaries? Clanning naturally takes place when people work together. Its how people cluster together to support each other in the pursuit of their goals. Clanning launches the growth of customs and traditions that make up a culture and either strengthen it or weaken it. Some cultures form silos, which is where groups of people are excluded from others. This can be divisional, departmental, functional or sub-cultural. Healthy organizations create effective networks that allow information, idea and best practice sharing to take place through the enterprise and with outside vendors and customers. Sub-cultures are natural, yet they need to be monitored to ensure they don’t create blockages in the evolution of the enterprise.

The mental health of the organization depends on the “wellness” of the factions and sub-cultures co-existing and co-creating well together even in the face of their differences. When teams are in conflict, there may be excessive gossip from one team about the others, which can build up as if there were organizational factions at war. Remedy: Creating interventions to bring the groups together to harmonize or expand their common perspectives. Like an a-capella singing group – they can have different voices but when they come together they need to sing a common song.

Give and Take:
In what ways are colleagues engaging with each other for mutual success? An enterprise is like a community that depends on the sharing of resources, ideas and practices to survive and more so, to thrive in the face of outside challenges. A cultural fingerprint spans the dimensions from harboring to sharing. As colleagues learn to share, and trust, leaders mature and evolve the capability of sustaining trust in the face of challenges. Less evolved cultures are those that encourage lots of ideation, without the processes in place for ideas to develop and mature.

Cultures that encourage brainstorming with no support process for turning the ideas into reality create, over time, incredible frustration and disappointment. Unmet expectations abound and employees loose faith in their leaders and in themselves. A mature culture puts into place support systems such as Ideation Centers, and Innovation Centers. The management team resources projects designed to test and experiment to find new ways. Making mistakes is okay in the spirit of discovery. People are not punished, but rather rewarded for their efforts to come up with the next generation products and services; in maturing cultures, look for physical evidence of the systems and processes as well as physical environments in place to support experimentation.

Examine the reward and performance management systems to see support of experimentation. Listen to employees and hear how they are feeling and reacting to innovation and growth. What messages is the organization sending? Is there a way for people to contribute their ideas and turn them into reality? Is the culture protecting the old, or embracing the new?

Enterprise Mind:
Is there a feeling that “we’re all in this together?” Are employees and management linked as though they were “one mind?” Or is there tremendous fractionation and fragmentation about who we are and what we stand for? Are people thinking and acting from the “I” or from the “We”? Is learning taking place? Are people learning from past mistakes and using them to find new and better strategies. Are people doing this in collaborative teams or are individuals seeking credit for themselves? Is there an enterprise brand, and how developed is it? Do employees live the brand? Do they understand the brand? How do they engage with customers about the brand to build its power and magnetism? Is the brand only a logo, or products, or does it live a spiritual life engaging the hearts, minds and sprits of employees and customers? What efforts are taking place in the company to engage people in living the brand?

Is there a spirit of discovery and inquiry in the enterprise? Is learning taking place? Are people learning from past mistakes and using them to work better and smarter? Can people let go of the past, and embrace the new. Is there a feeling that everyone is connected and working to realize a purpose larger than any one person can encompass alone? Is there recognition of the importance of self-expression and developing leadership points of view? Are leaders pushing their ideas on others (creating an environment of compliance) or are they helping set the stage for employees to grow their points of view (take ownership and have strong commitment). Do people feel suppressed? What forums exist for employees to push against the current rules, and culture and create the next generation of thinking and being?

Raising Our Cultural and Organizational IQ
What kind of leader are you? Unaware leaders blame others for what is going wrong. Self-aware leaders are willing to look inside and learn what they are made of. They commit to exploring the dynamics of their own human nature, and are willing to address the impact they have on their organization’s culture. In doing so they learn what it takes to create an environment that enables colleagues to be fully engaged and motivated to achieve organizational and market place success.

Are you willing to look in the mirror and explore the dimensions of your leadership and how you influence others? Are you influencing in positive ways. If you are, the result will be nothing less than a profound impact on bottom and top line growth, and more importantly, your impact will create a cultural atmosphere that propels and sustains on going commitment and enthusiasm to achieve your organization’s audacious goals.

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