In our strategic leadership workshops, we often hear from people some version of “But so and so won’t let me …” or “I’ve complained many times about our company’s … ” or “Our organization is so messed up that …” to which we sometimes say (kindly of course that “Whining is not a strategy.” If you are whining or looking at what is wrong, you cannot see opportunities and will not develop your skills. If, for example, you don’t think you are being provided with enough clarity about your job, instead of continuing to complain about or ask, over and over again, for clarity, ask yourself what you could learn about dealing with ambiguity. That will definitely lead to your next opportunity to learn and grow which is indeed a better strategy than whining!
“But I have no time,” is something I hear myself and my clients often say in relation to expressed desires about what we’d rather be doing. What I have learned from my 30-day blogging challenge is that by not prioritizing our creativity and making time for it, we just drift through our weeks, and one day jumbles into the next.
When we make time, however, things come together, they fall into place, we complete puzzles. And, according to Amabile and Kramer of The Progress Principle, engagement relates to our ability to see progress everyday.
For people who work on complex, long term projects with lots of moving pieces, doing something tangible every day that nurtures you and your creativity is not a nice to have, it’s a need to have.
I’ve written about the importance of having cheerleaders in your life, especially when you are trying something new and/or taking risks.
But we also need to step back and analyze who’s in our network more broadly in order that we don’t get blindsided by circumstances and perspectives we hadn’t considered.
Who do you interact with most and/or consult with around projects? Are they all like you? Or is your network diverse?
Checking the weather is an ingrained behavior in most of us, a way to measure all kinds of things it seems. I realized recently just how delicate the balance is between a focus on the future and an experience of the present. I spent so much time getting concerned it would rain on our vacation that I sometimes missed whatever sun did show up! I also realized that when it did rain, there were other interesting ways to enjoy my vacation.
It seems to me we may do the same in our organizations. In our desire to be strategic and anticipate what might come, we neglect the present experience and the opportunities that might be there.
Where is your focus and how does it help and hinder you?
Dave and I just finished teaching our 4 day Strategic Leadership program at Royal Roads University last week and had a wonderful time with an energetic, bright and creative group of people. One of the major concepts in the course is the importance of convening diverse groups of people to plan strategy in our increasingly complex environment.
This can be a tough concept for folks who have been trained to develop strategy from an “expert” mindset. “What could someone not familiar with our business possibly contribute?” is a question often asked.
As it turns out, they contribute a lot, namely in the area of helping to surface our own blind spots and bringing random, creative ideas to the forefront. Novel strategic approaches and newfound energy is unleashed when one is open to feedback and insight.
Is this easy? Absolutely not. I think it’s the human condition to assume that we know and understand our own blind spots (ironic though that sounds!). Incorporating feedback that points out how flawed our thinking and strategies have been is a blow to our identity. And that’s what makes it so hard. Just who have we been continuing to pursue a course of action despite its ineffectiveness?
And that’s what great leaders can do – develop the humility to admit they have been off course or better yet, assume they may have been and bring a “non expert” in to provide a different perspective.
A number of the people I’ve coached over the years have received feedback that they are not “strategic.” What it usually boils down to is that while they are good executors, sometimes this propensity towards taking action and “doing things” leads to a narrow view of the longer term challenges and opportunities in their organizations. Strategic leaders pop their heads up, park their day to day “to do” lists, take time to think, and identify the trends and patterns that are happening around them.
If you want to learn more about strategic leadership, Dave and I are teaching a 4 day strategic leadership program on May 6-9 in Victoria. We’ve taught this course several times now and participants find it engaging, insightful, and provocative. We’d love to see you there!
As organizations grow more complex, the old parable of the blind men and the elephant remains amazingly relevant. How you make decisions and even communicate with others depends upon what part of the system you “see.” Do you have a hold of the tail or trunk but fail to acknowledge the ears? Once we recognize that we may be blind to other parts of the system, we are less likely to personalize actions from others and work harder to understand the whole system before we ourselves take action. Using this parable to guide problem solving meetings forces us to slow down and understand the system before we engage in the favourite activity for most people, coming up with solutions.