I have the honour of working with many talented leaders, and I am struck by how often I say in response to angst ridden questions of what to do about something related to their people, “Why don’t you ask them?” I think the skills of analysis, innovation, risk taking, and execution lead many individual contributors to get promoted to leadership positions and those same skills need to be tamed in order to lead a team. It can be a tough transition to put those skills in the background and bring forward collaboration, reflection, empowerment, and inquiry. I have learned much about this myself this past year in that regard!
I was chatting with my coach the other day who asked me a great question, “How can you be on vacation?” Well, what a great question as I struggle to do just that! Eventually I found my way to no email. Being self employed it’s a challenge to unplug completely, but not impossible. Many studies have now shown that the constant binging or Siri like voice announcing “You’ve got new mail” raises our blood pressure and lowers our intellectual capacity. Even one full day away from email can have a positive effect. My next email vacation (and real vacation!) are coming up soon! When will yours be?
Getting feedback is tough. Being a facilitator/trainer, I’ve had a ton of feedback, mainly through anonymous surveys, about the quality of the work I do. Trying to put those negative pieces of feedback into perspective takes commitment and courage. It’s much easier to spend time figuring out who gave the feedback, but in my experience, this is just a way to avoid learning.
I have just spent some time with my sister and her family and noticed just how timely and specific her feedback is with her children, whether it’s praise or corrective. Why do we lose this as we get older? Just think how many dysfunctional situations could be avoided in the workplace if our feedback lag wasn’t as wide as the Grand Canyon.
When I ask people what they find inspiring in leaders, I often hear that they appreciate leaders who are authentic about what they need to learn, and quick to acknowledge the contributions of others. Jim Collins uses the metaphor of looking in the mirror to apportion responsibility and out the window to acknowledge the contributions of others.
We had the honour of working with the Victoria Brain Injury Society today as part of our once-a-quarter initiative and were blown away by their energy, engagement and vision for the future. I was also appreciative, as always, of working with great colleagues, Lisa Arora, Lisa Edwards, and Michele Breuer of the Victoria Executive Centre. Michele’s amazing meeting space inspired this blog. How often do you try to do important work in hotel rooms with no windows? For your next meeting, find a room with natural light and inspire and engage your participants.
I love researching. Give me a new topic and I lose hours reading blogs, book reviews, articles and so on. When I was completing my dissertation, my advisor finally said to me, “You are forbidden to go to the library (now he would say go onto the Internet ;)). You don’t need to read anything more, you just need to WRITE.” Well indeed. The same is true for many of our clients about their leadership. They just need to get out of their heads and books and into leading.
I learned about the importance of how we frame organizational situations early in my career. I had just started consulting and developed a great relationship with the training manager. A new CEO was hired and I assumed my strong relationship with the training manager would ensure continued consulting opportunities. Wrong. I had completely ignored the political realities of the situation.
Bolman and Deal’s framework is simple and powerful, but not easy to implement. We tend to frame situations according to our own biases; skillful leaders develop skill in all four areas and frame challenges and solutions accordingly:
Structural – leaders attune the structure to the task, technology, and the environment
Human resources – leaders align organizational and human needs
Political – leaders develop an agenda and power base
Symbolic – leaders create faith, beauty and meaning