For his coaching preparation he asked these two questions:
1. How do I make the most of a big meeting with a range of stakeholders and power levels?
2. How do I get a tired/ineffective working group fired up to work effectively?
We ended up answering both in a way that he (and I) found really inspiring and useful… but the conversation didn’t go anywhere near where we expected it to.
Here's a crack at capturing some of it.
Seeing the World 'Straight'
In the introduction of my latest favourite book (Sand Talk: How Indigenous thinking can save the world), Dr. Tyson Yungakapore talks about how, in pretty much all indigenous languages, words relating to a ‘path’ never imply a straight line.
There is simply no conception that anything gets from A to B in a straight line, because the reality is that nothing ever actually does.
Yet we keep creating strategies and policies like that's how things work.
This ‘reality’ is showing up with particular insistence now.
Emergencies and crises tend to bring the interdependence of all things into clearer, and more relevant, focus. On a macro-scale, Climate Change does that. On a micro-scale, responding to Covid in the workplace does that.
The Role of Attributes in Building 'Team'
Why is this?
When Hierarchy Fails to Deliver
Hierarchy and skills work when we can identify a straight line between where we are now and where we want to be. But when interdependence reigns (essentially all complex, non-technical projects) any attempt to simplify the situation and bring what we love to call rigor and clarity to it tends to cause the very confusion we were hoping to avoid.
We do it intuitively!
A few months ago I delivered a training program for the Executive Team of a regional Water Corporation. Much of the first session was on this and associated distinctions. At one point the Managing Direction had a powerful moment of revelation and said something like:
Oh… that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!
I employed most of you guys not because of the skills you have (though of course I need them too), but really because of the kind of person you are!
In a world of interdependence, we need people who have certain attributes that allow them to work with and navigate change. We can call it flexibility, self-reflection, openness to feedback… I could go on. In different circumstances and roles the attributes people need to bring forth are different (a really important piece a lot of people in my position ignore) and the ability to change gear, change your approach, change yourself is probably the most fundamental of them all.
Focussing people’s attention on the attributes that matter most doesn’t diminish the importance of hierarchy and skills, it ensures that are used more effectively.
This perspective gives people a connection with each other that goes beyond their ‘relationship (how they feel about each other). They get to see the bigger picture/project they are working together towards and recreate the relatedness of the team on a new, more powerful foundation
This is what my friend and I talk about for the first half of the call!
For the second half we talked about the importance of how you are feeling… but that’s another story.
FYI, this conversation is a big piece to chew on. I do train teams in this but I'm happy to offer some short conversations with people. If you want to chat, you can find 45 mins HERE.
|An exercise to do in a couple of minutes that’ll really bring this home (you can do it with your staff too):|
1. Think of the most inspiring people in your life. Famous leaders everywhere (hopefully starting with your mum). Write a list.
2. Next to each name, write why you put them on the list. What is it about these people that makes them stand-out for you?
3. Have a look at your whole list and think about what is standing out for you
I bet that even is the people on your list had great skills and/or Hierarchical authority, that's not what you wrote done next to them!
4. Now to the same thing with your existing team...