I arrived early to see if I could get a table in the quieter part of the restaurant. I knew the conversation with my friend would need space to work. He arrived a little late and looked a bit rattled. Our small talk seemed to move him into a different frame of mind. His new role was challenging his ability to drive change successfully. He needed a new perspective.
As we began the conversation, I asked him to break down the issues, expected outcomes and give me a status. The list was long and the complexity real.
Then I asked about his team. Were they adding value to the process?
He didn’t know how to respond. After a moment he admitted he hadn’t stopped to think about it. We went back through the notes with this new question and added more context.
As we stepped back, it became clear. The enemy was in the room.
His leadership team was in fact, part of the issue. Rather than looking at the possibilities, they were pointing out what wouldn’t work.
It’s too risky.
It will take too long.
Our systems won’t support it.
It’s too expensive.
We’ve tried that before.
The enemy was already in the room – asking all the same questions. But these are the questions leaders face every day. Learning to change the question, that’s how we can refocus the team and ultimately the efforts.
I challenged him to go back to his team, acknowledge their feedback, but focus their attention on moving forward. As a leadership team, if you don’t like the outcome, you should ask what you can do to change it. After all you are in charge, the results are yours to own.
That is leadership.
Learning to set the tone that you expect from your organization is critical. In the past, the people may have been recognized and promoted into leadership because they were good at minimizing risk, finding the “missing link” or reporting the dirt on an issue or person. You need to establish that although, this information may be useful for course correction, it is insufficient to drive growth. Leaders add value in the “go-forward” action of an organization.
Back to my friend, he left lunch that day with a new perspective and most importantly a new approach to the issues. We touched base several weeks later. I could hear it in his voice, he broke the log jam. What had been invisible to him was now crystal clear. The enemy was in the room all along. The team was learning new habits and it was showing in the results.
What is your leadership tone? Do you reward your team for reporting the news or providing the value added leadership in making it happen?