Here are a few of my recent articles, published on LinkedIn. To read them all, please use the link provided at the bottom of the page.
Just move the cat food, dammit!
Earlier today, after squirrel-proofing my geraniums, I walked inside to throw away a tiny offcut of chicken-wire.
What followed reminded me about one of my all-time favorite behavioral change books: SWITCH, by Dan and Chip Heath. I thought it might be useful to walk you through my practical experience of their insights, learned many years ago, yet so practical, that they sprung to mind, yet again, just this morning.
In the book, the authors highlight the brain's inherent conflict between our rational mind and our emotional mind. They propose three powerful techniques that contribute to effective and sustainable behavioral change.
These techniques are:
- Direct the Rider (our rational mind);
- Motivate the Elephant (our emotional mind); and
- Shape the Path (prepare the environment).
This last technique of Shaping the Path is what played out for me this morning…
Now I consider myself reasonably committed to recycling and upholding good citizenly practices (my emotional mind and the domain of My Elephant). I also totally get the many reasons why proper waste management is important (my rational mind and the domain of My Rider). However, when put to the test, this just might not be enough at times. Especially not whilst grasping a fist-full of wire cutters, gardening gloves, and a watering can in my left hand, and contemplating how to prize open the garbage bin, irksomely sporting a large container of cat-foot on top (coupled with a smaller pack of cat-treats precariously balancing, like a turret, thereon). This is, after all, a really handy place to store cat-consumables given that Jessie's feeding bowl is just around the corner.
Being the solid citizens that we are, our recycling bin is - of course, much larger and way more frequently used, hence the common practice of dumping the cat-food containers on top of the lesser-used garbage bin. This makes logical sense...
And so it is that I sneak a peek at the unhindered, surface-free recycling bin, standing fetchingly alongside the garbage-bin-cum-cat-food-storage-thing - a mere foot-pedal pump away from ridding myself of the obnoxiously small off-cut of chicken-wire in my right hand. A quick jab of the toe that will allow me to carry on with my productive morning. A quick jab of “the toe of The Rider”. I mean, after all, “it’s only a small piece of chicken-wire. I’m sure someone sorts all of this stuff out before it could mess up a recycling machine right? Ah, yes, that probably creates jobs too, that’s always a good thing! And it’s not like I ALWAYS do this, I do my bit, I’m a good citizen, there are PLENTY of “OTHERS” who probably don’t bother. Just this once, I deserve not to have to inconvenience myself - don’t I?…”
To change behavior, no matter how well you appeal to people's emotions, or how expertly you moderate their anticipated rationale, success also requires preparing the environment by shaping the path. This is about creating conditions where achieving the desired behavior is made as seamless and effortless as possible. By relocating the cat-food containers to the nearby cupboard, access to the garbage bin immediately becomes as effortless as that of the recycling bin, thus diminishing the impulse to do what’s expedient, even when one knows that it might not be what’s right.
To enable change, always make it easier for people to do the right thing. After all, we are human beings and our default condition comes standard with all its potential and limitations. There are plenty of situations requiring us to lean hard on our resilience to uphold what is truly right…let’s conserve our worthy behavior for these moments by simplifying the mundane wherever possible.
Just move the cat food, dammit!
This is a short video clip (narrated by Dan Heath) relating to the above and if you enjoy it, I recommend picking up the book too. It is a great read.
If you enjoy SWITCH maybe check out social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's book The Happiness Hypothesis, where he first used his analogy of the Rider and Elephant - which Chip and Dan Heath adapted practically for their change behavior techniques in their book. More recently Haidt wrote his fascinating The Righteous Mind where he examines the political and religious divides playing out in society today. Another great read!
Reducing Control to Cultivate Accountability
“To be granted legitimate power in the workplace there needs to be a preparedness on the part of the leader to let go of their need to control the outcome”, I pronounce. The faces of sixteen senior executive’s stare back at me in silent disbelief diluted only by a sense of civil enmity. “Just when I was beginning to think that I might actually enjoy this workshop, she drops this bombshell”, they probably surmise…
This is my window of opportunity, the first of a handful of pivotal moments to transform minds and slay some inherent leadership convictions that have fomented the specious leaderscape of contemporary corporate culture. I take a deep breath, summons my courage and jump right in.
What culminated in this awkward moment (of which I have grown quite accustomed to yet still approach with anxious consideration), is a morning exploring a particular leadership challenge - that of determining why some people seem to work because they have to and others because they want to. There is invariably agreement that the latter is preferable. While this might come at a price that leaders need to be prepared to pay, it is also an opportunity for significant personal growth.
The corporate world is navigating the consequence of their profit above people approach to leadership, many of which responded to the thorny issue of attraction and retention by plying their unsuspecting employees with “nice things”. And yes, it is nice to provide award-winning workplaces, don’t get me wrong. But when I back saunter to my desk after a game of foosball, mango smoothie in hand, Rufus bounding contentedly at my heels, just in time to get in some serious work ahead of my feet 4 pm desk-side massage - I arrive back at my desk, and my boss is still an asshole then let’s face it - all of this is for nothing! Well done on fuelling the conditions for entitlement and cynicism but maybe it’s time to get real and build legitimate relationships that unlock loyalty and trust. Because people are not loyal to things. They do not go the extra mile for things. People are loyal to people and they will go the extra mile for people and willingly commit to the goals and objectives of the organization because of people.
Willingness, commitment, and discretionary contributions are a direct result of the relationship that exists between the boss and their subordinate. Period! Management is either accepted or rejected based on whether the employee feels that their boss sincerely cares about them and provides them with an opportunity to grow. And loyalty and trust are either granted or withheld on this basis - not just towards the line manager, but by implication, the entire executive leadership and in fact, the organization itself.
This requires a shift in mindset from no longer just seeing your people as a means to get the job done, but rather seeing the job itself as a means to grow exceptional people.
But if we are to do this, if we sincerely regard the work to be done as our means to develop exceptional talent, then this also asks of us to be prepared to let go of our need to control outcomes. We cannot have both. If we are sincere about wanting to develop exceptional talent then we need to foster an environment that enables autonomy, creativity, and learning. To do this we might need to explore our own relationship with Trust and Control.
Trust and control are fundamentally mutually exclusive notions.
As we enable our people to do more (and be more), we are able to reduce the level of control in the relationship, trusting that they will respond appropriately rather than in their self-interest. We empower them by providing them with the means and ability to do their jobs successfully and then holding them accountable to deliver against the agreed standard. It is on us, as leaders to ensure that our people can perform to the highest of standards and to hold them to that expectation by trusting that they will step up. Sometimes, we need to get out of their way! We cannot be running onto the field to score the goals. The job of the leader as a coach is to be at the side of the field scrutinizing the play of each team member to provide them with immediate feedback to improve their game. Make sure they know how and why then courageously step aside and anticipate and encourage excellence. You are not just getting work done, you are developing strength of character. This is a fundamental change in how you view your role in the organization.
The shift that we are arguing for here, is not just at the level of behavior. It is not that simple – this is not a workshop about changing behavior because that would be deeply insulting as most well-adapted adults already know how to behave well or badly! The transformation that needs to happen sits at the level of Intent – one’s deeper motivation.
In every moment that you face your Intent is either to GET or to GIVE.
In every interaction that we have with another human being, we judge them not on the basis of their behavior, but on the basis of how we perceive their intent. Are they in the relationship for what they can get from you – or what they can give to you?
Leaders are experienced as giving when they shift their Intent from seeing their people as their means to get the job done, to see the job as a means to develop exceptional talent. They do this by empowering their people to be excellent human beings. Individuals who will shoulder their responsibility and pursue what is right, rather than what is expedient. Individuals who are accountable for their actions and the quality of their contribution in their engagements with others. This requires two things from the leader – sincere care and a desire to enable the growth of the individual under their command. When the leader gives to their people in this way, they are rewarded with loyalty and trust. When they ask their people to do things, their people respond by engaging their very best efforts in pursuit of excellence. And in doing so they not only grant the leader the right to ask them to do things, they fundamentally grant the leader the right to exercise power over them. Legitimate power. The power that does what power is supposed to do which is to care for the subordinate in a relationship of power and to enable their growth.
Power is given. Control is taken. In the absence of legitimate power all you have at best is control.
This is therefore not only the distinction between those who work for their leader because they want to, or because they have to but also the litmus test of legitimate power. When you have the willingness of your people, they grant you the right to ask them to do things. They grant you legitimate power. But this comes at a price – that the leader shifts their intent from what they can get from their people, to what they can give.
If we are proposing a preparedness to reduce control to establish legitimacy in relationships, it might be useful to consider how controls function within an organization. When we examine the controls typically found in organizations they invariably fall into two broad categories of systems/processes and structures/people. When we reduce controls, systems/processes should get quicker or shorter and structures/people should get flatter. However, some variables must be considered…
Firstly, the level of control is directly related to the maturity of the individuals. Consider the criteria for your 15-year-old daughter going on her first date compared to that of her 23-year-old sibling, because it also takes time to mature accountability. Maturation is a journey over time. As an increased level of accountability is demonstrated, controls can be correspondingly reduced as trust is developed.
When controls are reduced, they are replaced with increased levels of trust and accountability.
What should happen over time is that rules, policies, and procedures become more like guidelines. Where individuals are not acting appropriately, their actions become a means for the leader to have a conversation that reinforces the required standard and the legitimacy of the relationship itself. If an employee’s entire left thigh is flaunted through a gaping slit in their denims it is not provocation for HR to update the dress policy! No, it is an invitation for the leader to have a courageous conversation to remind this individual that while tasteful slits might be trendy and considered acceptable in the workplace, their gaping hole is perhaps not so! Every opportunity for leaders to have these types of conversations are moments to reinforce legitimacy in the relationship. This is not a relationship of equals, it is a relationship of power and to deem this power legitimate, the role of the big one (the parent, or boss, or coach) is to enable the growth of the little one (the child, or team member, or athlete).
Power is legitimate if the aim of the relationship is to enable the subordinate.
I hope that we have restored some dignity to the concept of power. I have learned from the work that I do what a bad rap power has attracted. Undeniably power can corrupt. But let’s clarify. Illegitimate power corrupts and oppresses. Legitimate power empowers those in your charge. Ultimately, it is your people who will decide if you have legitimate power. If they do not deem you worthy of this endowment, you can put all the controls in place that you can think of but nothing will safeguard you against their wilfully non-compliance. An exec told me some years ago how they discovered employees getting around a rule that imposed a 30% cap on “beverages” as a percentage of the total meal cost expensed when taking clients to boozy office lunches. Employees simply learned to pick up the meal portion of folks at adjacent tables to inflate their food expenses accordingly!
The more control you impose the less control you have.
I recently came across some research that I found quite fascinating and consistent with our Schuitema arguments relating to controls and accountability. In this research Harvard professor, Ethan Bernstein explored the Transparency Paradox by observing workers in a mobile phone factory in China. In this environment, the resolve for transparency was quite staggering. Bernstein's research highlighted how broad visibility intended to increase transparency actually bred hiding behaviors which resulted in reduced transparency. It also measured a resulting productivity cost of 10 – 15%. It’s a long read, but if you fancy giving it a try: The Transparency Paradox: A Role for Privacy in Organizational Learning and Operational Control. And if you are yet to discover Jono Hay and his delightful source of Sketchplanations, you might want to check him out too! It was through his recent post that I found this reference to the Paradox Principle and his great sketch that follows:
This article is against the backdrop of a climate of accelerating global corporate mistrust at the center of societies plagued by consumerism and a formidable sense of self-interest and entitlement. The result is an environment of low trust levels with a plethora of controls to safeguard against the untrustworthy few – but at the expense of cultivating an environment in which the majority don’t take accountability. It is for this reason that cultivating an environment where people will do what is right rather than what is in their best interest is thus paramount! The end goal is cultivating accountability in individuals to enable better organizations and society. In an environment of accountability and excellence, mediocrity simply cannot take root. There are consequences for unacceptable behavior enabling those who are conscientious and take pride in exceptional contribution can flourish. But they will not do this where there are petty controls in place and distrustful micro-managers checking up on their every move. Individuals need to be given the authority to make the decisions required to deliver on their mandate and thereafter held to account for executing this honorably.
When people are suitably empowered they will commit and willingly pursue the goals and objectives of the organization as their own. They will become loyal over time. When people are working because they want to, not because they have to they will go the extra mile as they pursue their own personal excellence. When people thrive at the intersection of high performance and purpose creativity is unleashed and productivity and innovation ensue.
And so it is that at the end of our two days together our workshop concludes and the sixteen senior execs return to their desks to embark on their respective journeys, equipped with the awareness that when we shift our intent we change the very nature of how we engage our world to enable transformation at the level of our deepest motivations. I pack up my box with my usual sense of deep gratitude to Etsko Schuitema for the profound insights he has bestowed upon me and am reminded once again that when we change how we see the world, the world we see changes too.
Thriving in Times of Disruption
I recall sitting in a coffee shop some years ago, reading through an annual report published by the World Economic Forum, in which they predicted the key workplace skills that will be in demand five years into the future. That particular year, they had deprioritized decision making as a key future skill. The reason: a computer had been appointed to a company’s Board of Directors that year.
Last week I noticed a distinction that had crept into a research paper making mention of the shifts happening in the workforce due to automation and AI, where specific tasks and jobs are moving to the domain of machines and automation. Now it wasn’t the data relating to these shifts that caught my eye, so much as noticing for the first time, a distinction made through the use of the terminology of “human workforce” and “human employees.” Really?
It is for this very reason that I unreservedly believe that there has never been a better time to be a human being in the workplace today! Because human BEING is so much more than just human DOING. While machines and algorithms can take over much of the human doing stuff, if we play our cards right and rise to this challenge, it will be impossible for them to replace the human being. In the wise words of Terry O’Reilly whom I had the honour of sharing the stage with recently “the answer is always hiding in the obstacle”. If our obstacle is our relevance in the threat of technological advancement, perhaps the answer is to worry less about the technological advancement in a changing world - and focus more on ourselves. How we can become truly human in a time when our very relevance feels threatened.
Yes, we are living in times of disruption. Complexity and uncertainty are a given and the pace of change is faster than ever before, exponentially so. It is survival of the fittest, fastest, best and cheapest. We are asking our people to do more, with less. Business owners and leaders are crying out for help. They are trying to stay alive, to stay relevant and look for new ways to continue to grow and to profit - and they know this is likely to come at a cost - to their people and their culture.
Employees are feeling overwhelmed and fearful for their futures at a time we are facing an existential vacuum in society as a whole. Stress-leave is taking on epidemic proportions – paradoxically making robots and automation even more appealing and cost-effective! Power hungry unions disempower employees further – again making automation attractive to business.
But growth, real growth - transformational growth only happens in times of discomfort when we are forced to adapt and to change. To step up and be better. To shoulder the burden of responsibility to lead a productive life and make a meaningful contribution to others. It is time to put humanness back at the heart of business by empowering our people and organisations not only to survive in times of disruption, but to thrive!
I believe a focus at three key levels can empower us to achieve excellence and thrive: Leadership, the Environment and the Individual. Here's how...
Authentic and legitimate leadership is paramount.
If we need more from our people during times of disruption we need to appeal to their discretionary effort. The kind of commitment and contribution that is offered up only when people are fully engaged in the work they do and pursuing their own personal excellence. When employees do more than just show up for a pay-cheque. Besides the costs of a billion-dollar talent-acquisition industry that has mushroomed over the past decade, largely fed by ineffective leadership - constant employee turnover simply undermines sustainable business practice. People leave bad bosses, period. It is time to plug that leakage!
Over the past twelve years, I have had the profound privilege of knowing and working with, Etsko Schuitema, an anthropologist who has devoted his working career to understanding what makes humans excellent, and how this translates to excellence in groups, teams, leaders and organisations. Etsko cut his teeth in the mining sector in South Africa during the late 1980’s where he carried out exhaustive research to understand employee satisfaction and its relationship with trust in leadership. After studying multiple hypotheses (the findings of each fascinating in its own right), he took away one golden nugget which was to become his grain of truth to inform his life-work. This is...
Management is either accepted or rejected on the basis of their perceived interest in their employees welfare – in other words, do you sincerely care about me, as a human being – or do you just see me as a pair of hands to get the job done.
TRUST is either granted or withheld on this basis.
Now this is pivotal because in times of disruption, we need more than just a pair of hands to get the job done. We need to unlock the discretionary effort which is only accessed when our people come to work because they want to, not just because they have to.
Now when we ask people to describe the kind of boss that they would work for because they want to (and the Schuitema Group has asked this question in workshops in over 33 countries around the world), the list of characteristics look something like what you would expect: someone who listens, is approachable, inspiring, brings out the best in me, is driven, experienced, visionary, empowering, fair and honest, etc. Now what is interesting about this list is that when we examine it closely, we can distil this list into two fundamental underlying themes. The first theme is Care and what the employee is saying here is “I want you to care about me sincerely, as a whole human being, not just a set of hands to get the job done, that you need doing.” And the second underlying theme is that of Growth, that “I always want to know where I stand and work for someone who is honest and fair and will challenge me by giving me honest feedback that will empower me and help me to grow.”
And from the worker who shovels dirt in the mines, to the accountant sitting in a glass office, humans around the world when asked to describe the boss they would work for willingly describe someone who cares for them and gives them the opportunity to grow. These themes are universal. If leaders do these two things, they will be rewarded with willingness, trust and loyalty. Hence the cornerstone of Etsko’s Leadership Excellence work is his Care and Growth™ Model.
Leaders can no longer merely see their people as a set of hands to get the work done, they need to start seeing the workplace as an opportunity to grow exceptional talent. Period.
Now this is not as simple as a change in behaviour that we are proposing here. This is not just about “nice-e-ning up” a bit, becoming more agreeable, patting people on the back or dishing out high-5’s and “good job’s” more often. No. What we are talking about here is a fundamental shift that sits much deeper than just the level of behaviour. It is a change at the level of ones deeper motivation in life, their Intent. Because it is our Intent that drives our behaviour…
In every interaction that we have with another human being, we judge them not on the basis of their behaviour, but on the basis of how we perceive their intent.
Now a leaders intent can either be to GET something from their people, or to GIVE to them. Our intent as human beings can essentially pattern only in these two ways - to get or to give. And when we say GIVE, we mean GIVE to GIVE away. If you are simply investing in the emotional bank account of the other for realization at a future date, you are not giving, you are in fact taking! Because giving is unconditional.
Leaders give to their people by caring for them and giving them an opportunity to grow. We call this empowerment. They empower their people to reach their full potential by achieving personal excellence.
When leaders stop seeing their people as a means to get the job done, and start to see the job as an opportunity to develop exceptional human beings by empowering them to achieve excellence, then they have made the fundamental shift that needs to happen. A shift in their intent from getting to giving. And when leaders do this authentically and sincerely, they are rewarded with willingness, commitment and contribution in the short-term and trust and loyalty in the longer term.
Leaders cannot expect their people to contribute, to become willing, to give of themselves and pursue the goals and objectives of the organization, as their own - unless they experience that the boss is there to give to them - by caring for them sincerely and giving them the opportunity to grow.
Equally, the environment needs to enable individuals to grow and achieve personal mastery by delivering their very best work. For leaders to unlock willingness, creativity and innovation, the environment must enable bold and agile decision making. Organisations should foster an environment that encourages learning, autonomy and personal accountability.
This is achieved through empowerment.
Empowerment is the incremental suspension of control, with the aim of cultivating accountability in the individual. So that when faced with a decision, the individual will do what is right - rather than what is expedient.
In times of disruption, where speed to market is key, we need our people to be bolder and more agile in their decision making and actions. They need to have the autonomy to do their jobs without unnecessary red-tape, futile policies and distrustful leaders with control issues getting in their way! The effective manner of reducing unnecessary controls in the business is by replacing them with a no-nonsense measure of good old fashioned accountability. Control and accountability are mutually exclusive concepts. You cannot have both. The more control you impose, the less control you have and all that you have achieved is to safeguarded against the untrustworthy few, at the expense of the majority of individuals not assuming accountability. Because well-intended policies so often undermine the opportunity for leaders to establish legitimacy with those in their care. Policies and rule-books absolve leaders from having courageous and authentic conversations with the aim of cultivating accountability and personal excellence. Period.
This is where I love the Mary Barra story, who prior to her current role of Chairwoman and CEO of the General Motors Company, was appointed to a role of Head of Human Resources internally. In one of her early meetings with her HR team she watched them fretting about the details of their already laboriously long dress-code policy in the employee handbook. She asked why they couldn’t simply say “dress appropriately”. Of course this was met with the expected resistance initially, but was eventually adopted and provides such a great example of empowering your leaders and employees to “just do what is right”.
If a team member is wearing denims that are torn at the back with half their backside hanging out, it is not necessary to update the company dress-code to ban the wearing of jeans with tears in them! No. There are some very stylish ones with small slits above the knee that might be quite acceptable in a modern office environment. What is however necessary is for this employee’s leader to have a swift conversation and point out that while their pants might look great on the weekends, they are however simply not appropriate to wear in a professional business environment! End of story.
Holding people appropriately accountable is what builds legitimacy into the relationship between the boss and their team members. There are three levers to empowerment and all three levers have to be pulled and in the right order. These are Means, Ability and Accountability. First provide the means and the ability, thereafter hold people accountable to perform excellently. When we do this right, we empower our people.
You might have heard the proverb “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. This describes Etsko Schuitema’s Empowerment Model beautifully! Let’s say I teach a man to fish, and after providing him with all the necessary Means (a rod, reel, bait and beer, etc) and Ability (I show how to cast, reel in, bait up, etc) to fish well, at the end of the day, sweaty and sunburnt we pack all the equipment back into the truck and head for home. If I now say to him “don’t worry, if you cannot catch fish, you can swing past my house anytime - I have a freezer full of fish”, what have I done? I have taken away his need to fish, his will. If I do not hold him Accountable to catch fish and responsibly provide for himself and his family, I have in fact disempowered him!
All three levers need to be pulled to truly empower individuals. First provide the means and ability, then hold the individual accountable to deliver excellently against the agreed standard (standards and expectations are part of the means, along with authority, time, tools and resources and systems). This model is applicable in any relationship of legitimate authority, be it the workplace, parenting, schools, sports, etc. When we do this, we build excellence. When we do not, mediocrity slinks quietly in the back door…
In times of change and disruption, mediocrity is not going to cut it. We need to step up and shoulder the burden of our responsibilities and give unconditionally in every moment that we face.
To be clear. When we hold people accountable, there is a vital difference between an individual who with benevolent intent gets something wrong (makes a mistake) and an individual who behaves in a wilfully negligent or malevolent manner. Where someone makes a mistake it might be appropriate to provide additional means or ability or to re-clarify the standard or expectation. It is about understanding what is going wrong with the intention of getting things back on track. This is most likely a conversation with the aim of fixing and helping. However, someone who surreptitiously sneaked personal expenses onto the company credit card didn’t make a mistake. They stole from the company. Likewise someone who doesn’t bother turning up for scheduled meetings or is generally not bothered to meet the standard and deliver excellently should NOT be given more means or ability - they should be dealt with immediately and where necessary by means of an exit strategy from your team. These are not mistakes, this is wilful non-compliance. Human risk is the risk that people don’t do what they should, or do what they shouldn’t. How we hold them accountable for either needs to be clear and distinct.
When leaders demonstrate consistency and differentiate between punishing wilful negligence and tolerating well intended mistakes, they invite bold and courageous decision making where individuals will do what is right, rather than what is expedient. In doing this we provide a safety net where failure is not only tolerated, but encouraged - and an environment of pushing traditional boundaries, autonomy, learning and robust and continual feedback.
Peter E Greulich captures IBM’s Thomas J Watson Sn story on tolerating thoughtful mistakes beautifully to demonstrate how the environment, in other words the conditions created by leadership, need to not only tolerate but actively encourage mistakes that are made through learning and trying new things. When we get this balance right, mediocrity is held at bay and individuals thrive!
In wrapping this up - how do we empower ourselves, as individuals, to thrive in these times of disruption, not only at work, but in our relationships and our everyday lives too?
How do we become bolder and more agile. I have proposed that the environment needs to foster this, but it is equally important that as individuals, we are able to step up and move to action. We stay stuck in a place of inertia and indecision when we are unwilling to put ourselves on the line and hold ourselves accountable for the decisions we make. Because then they are ours to own. So how do we then ensure that our decisions are “right”, enabling us to become more courageous in our actions?
We can use what we have deep inside of us, so deep within that sometimes we forget; to create unfathomable impact in our lives. As human beings, we empower ourselves through our five innate powers: the power over what we SAY; how we ACT; what we THINK and how we FEEL. The fifth and most enabling, because it unlocks all the others, is our power of CHOICE.
We exist as individuals within a greater eco-system. We seldom act in isolation. Invariably when we take action, it is in response to some external input or stimulus we have received. We get triggered.
We can hastily REACT to this external stimulus by saying something or acting impulsively, without any inward reflection as to why the trigger makes us feel, think and react as it does... or we can pause briefly, reflect and choose our appropriate RESPONSE. We respond rather than react.
This act of choosing is pivotal because with choice comes ownership of the outcome or the consequence resulting from what you said or how you said something – and most importantly, an acceptance of how this makes you feel and think.
Together these powers comprise your ability to take effective action in the world around you. They em-power you to respond to the world and be response-able – able to respond, appropriately. We cannot control what happens to us and we are crazy to think that we can. However, we have full control over how we respond and by becoming conscious and deliberate about the role we play in situations, we find our own unique power.
We dis-empower ourselves when we give away our powers and believe that external forces cause us to think and feel in a certain way, or that they cause us to say the things we say or behave in a manner we are not proud of. Rubbish. These powers are ours to own, fully. We have to consciously and deliberately take ownership of them. Empowering ourselves is hard work – otherwise everyone would be doing it! It takes generosity and courage in every moment that we face.
In my favourite words from Viktor E Frankl:
“BETWEEN STIMULUS AND RESPONSE THERE IS A SPACE. IN THAT SPACE IS OUR POWER TO CHOOSE OUR RESPONSE. IN OUR RESPONSE LIES OUR GROWTH AND OUR FREEDOM.”
This can be scary because it is now within your power to respond to the burden of freedom over your emotions. It is also exciting because it implies that we are the architects of our lives and our futures. We are no more victims of our circumstances than we relinquish our powers. We can no longer blame and accuse and play the victim.
When we use these powers with an awareness of our intent, we become unassailable. Because every moment has two possibilities – what do I want to GET, or what should I be putting in, what should I GIVE?
If I respond to the moment by rising above my own self-interest to do what is right, in the moment I am in, I act consistently with my Values. The alternative is to do what is expedient by surrendering to my Needs. Now this does not mean that my needs go away. On the contrary. It simply means that I do not act upon them. Just because something is important to you does not make it an invitation to act upon it and does not make it a Value. A value is something that is right for the moment you are in and for which you are willing to rise above your own self-interest, or place your self-interest second.
And now for the bad news. Guess what our default wiring is as human beings - to act according to our needs or our values? Human beings, like most animals, by nature act in accordance with their needs, their instinctual orientations. In Millenia past when we ventured out of the cave, to go hunt down a woolly mammoth – it was survival, fight or flight, stay alive at all costs. Our survival depended on food, shelter and procreation. We find ourselves conditioned biologically and socially to act according to our needs…
However, what separates us from other lesser evolved species, is that human beings have developed the cognitive ability of CHOICE. We get to choose how we respond to most situations, even in high-stakes ones which are more difficult. We get to choose our Intent in every moment we face and in how we construct our lives. We are not hard-wired. We are conscious human beings shouldering the burden of our responsibilities, armed with the power of choice.
Norman Doige, MD helps us to understand how “for four hundred years mainstream science and medicine believed that brain anatomy was fixed and that after childhood it changed again only when it began the long process of decline. A neurological nihilism took hold and permeated our very culture with an expedient acceptance that since the brain could not change, human nature which emerged therefrom - is fixed and unalterable too. We are simply the way we are.” He helps us to understand that nothing could be further from the truth and that with the revolutionary discovery of neuroplasticity, we now know that our brains are pretty adept at changing themselves as a result of experience - in quite astonishing ways.
When we know our intent, we get to choose the life we live based on the worldview we construct. When we come from a place of gratitude, rather than resentment, we become architects of our own design rather than victims of our circumstances. We stand tall on our own two feet and shoulder the responsibility of our choices. Because, we can. They are ours to own, fully.
When individuals are committed and loyal and accountable and empowered with the means and the ability to thrive in an environment which promotes learning and tolerates failure…creativity and innovation are unleashed.
Getting this stuff right is good for business and good for the individual because the working environment provides the best human BEING training ground we could ever ask for.
When we are deliberate about our values, intent and behaviours, and integrate them into our everyday lives, to shoulder the burden of our responsibilities - we become excellent.
We discover our uniqueness, our humanness – which is impossible to automate, not now, not EVER!
Because there are some things that robots simply can’t do:
- They can’t look you in the eye and if they cannot do this, they cannot establish trust with another person they way that we can.
- They cannot be critical thinkers or authentically philosophical in the ways that the great minds of our time can. They will never have lived through life in a concentration camp like Viktor Frankl, to help us in our search for meaning. They will not have made sense of the work of numerous philosophers and behavioural psychologists like Jonathan Haidt to help us to understand our righteous minds. Nor have they stared deep into the abyss of human malevolence like Jordan B Peterson to help us to never repeat the insanity of our ideological pasts.
- They will never empower us like Etsko Schuitema has through his Intent Thematic, to understand what makes humans and organizations excellent.
- Can you imagine a TED talk delivered by a robot?
- Would you pay and dress elegantly to sit in the audience and listen to a robot singing Nessun Dorma or playing in the symphony? Or would you watch a troupe of 6-foot robots pirouette across the stage in a rendition of Swan Lake or The Nutcracker?
- Actually it is possible you might pay to watch that because here's another thing that robots cannot do very well - understand and be good at Comedy! They just don’t get it.
- Not to mention delivering personal, thoughtful service with empathy that makes a person feel taken care of, truly valued and appreciated. Because if there is one thing that robots truly suck at – it is delivering bad news.
- If this list isn’t long enough already, I haven’t seen a robot care for their family, put a band-aid on a grazed knee, wipe away tears, smile at their spouse, play with the dog or climb a tree.
Perhaps we should worry less about what machines are capable of doing, and worry more about what we are capable of doing. How are we measuring up on the stuff that makes us truly human?
Let them do some of the human doing whilst we ensure we are irreplaceable as human BEINGS.
Thank you Etsko, Taryn and Michelle for your teachings and the honour of spreading your profound wisdom with others in pursuit of human excellence.
The Role of the Coach is to Watch The Game
One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is developing the capacity to suspend control - your need to control the outcome. Incrementally suspending control is however necessary if you are resolute about empowering your team members to become the very best that they can be – both in the work that they do and in their everyday lives. This also provides a golden opportunity to practice maturing your Intent by shifting your attention from outcome to process. When you deliberately engage the latent potential in every moment you face you discover your own personal excellence.
Suspending control is not simply a behavioural practice to change. To be effective, the leader needs to examine, and where necessary, shift their Intent. Intent is what ultimately drives behaviour and is where the change needs to happen.
The workplace is in some ways similar to a sports game whereby a task or a ball is passed from one person to the next in order to achieve some sort of outcome or a goal. The role of the leader as coach is to watch the game, observe every move their players make to enable immediate feedback that will improve their skills and ability to perform at their very best. For them to achieve excellence. By watching the game intently the coach spots each individual’s needs and acquires an understanding of each players strengths to determine what position they should ultimately play. In doing so they enable the team to win the tournament rather than just settling for a trophy at the end of the game.
We see leaders getting this wrong in a couple of ways. The first is when they run onto the field to score the goal. This is problematic in many ways. Most obviously - if the leader is scoring the goals, they are thwarting their team members efforts in doing so. Not only is this discouraging but also, over time, quite offensive and frustrating. The team member is putting it all into play their best game, the goal posts are in sight – and from left field comes the boss wanting the ball! Just like the last time, and the time before that. As the player puts in less effort in future, the coach has to run onto the field earlier and earlier in the game as the disengaged player coasts along in safe-mode whilst most likely updating their resume between games.
Furthermore, as long as the coach is on the field, their attention is on the ball, the goal posts and the scoreboard. While they may glance around to see where immediate key players are they will not have eyes on the game to suitably watch what’s playing out across the extent of the field. They are unable to provide sufficient feedback to improve the game of all the players or to call time-out where necessary and fix what’s going wrong in real-time.
This is not to say that there might be times when it is appropriate for the leader as a coach to be on the field and among their players. What is important is that leaders understand why they do this and consider the impact it might be having on their teams, and the overall result. Knowing this requires some introspection and an examination of one’s intent. Their deeper motive…
Providing feedback to leaders on their results from the Schuitema leadership diagnostic afforded me some valuable insights in understanding what might drive this behaviour. This particular diagnostic provides the leader with feedback from their direct reports as well as their peer group, their colleagues in the workplace. This is where we can see behavioural patterns emerge.
Very often a golden thread can be pulled through the leaders’ results. This starts when team members indicate that they do not have sufficient Authority to be effective in their roles. Very often this then links to a low overall Trust score. On the surface this can be soul-destroying however on closer inspection, one distinguishes the double-edged sword of trust. The one expression of trust concerns itself with whether you are trusted in the eyes of others - considered trustworthy. The other is your perceived willingness to confer trust in others - to be trustful of them! A leaders low overall trust score is frequently linked to the latter whereby a high trustworthiness score is coupled with a negating score in their perceived ability to be trustful of others.
To understand this better we continue to weave the golden thread. This commonly takes us to an elevated Reliabilityscore, as rated by their peers. When a leader is considered to be very reliable amongst their peers, it is because they are truly consistent at delivering on their promises. They do not falter. When considered highly reliable, they are most often also perceived as trustworthy. And herein lies the rub! The more reliable the individual is, the higher the standards to which they hold them self to, and therefore the more likely they are to expect their team members to uphold these high standards too. This makes it almost impossible for them to trust others to do their jobs without having a say in how they are doing them. They will experience a strong need to check-up on their people and manage the outcome as best they can. Nobody drops the ball on their watch dammit!
The last score we look to is that of Humility,which provides a final perspective and also helps us understand the leaders Intent, their deeper motive. Are they perceived as caring more about themselves and the significance others afford them, or do they grant significance to others and find value in colleagues ideas and insights? This can be quite telling and shed some light on what is driving the behaviour of the leader.
Is the coach running onto the field because they believe only they are capable of scoring the goal or perhaps need to be the one who scores the goal and gets the glory? Or are they running onto the field because they are so afraid that the player might not score the goal and they will lose the game and lose face? Perhaps they are on the field because they believe that their being there is in support of their players and they want to do all they can to help the team? If so, are they in the way or just supporting whilst trying their best to get back onto the sidelines to watch the game? This is a lot to consider and the cost is high if we don’t figure out what’s really at play. In the absence of a diagnostic, some personal reflection, vulnerability and open communication with team members can go a long way towards appropriately getting off the field and watching the game.
What you really need to decide is if you are in this to be a manager - or a leader. Managers manage resources to achieve a result. They control their people, to achieve the results that they desire.
When responsible for a certain function in an organization, you are by default a Manager. Managers manage things. When we consider what managers manage, the typical list might be budgets, processes, inventory, projects, etc - and…people.We reduce people to things when we try to manage them!Managers manage things. Leaders lead people.It would sound strange to say that you lead a chair! Managers are responsible for what they GET from their people, leaders, on the other hand, are there for their people – for what they GIVE of themselves, for the people they lead.
Leadership, therefore, requires a deliberate shift in your intent to focus on your people. Yes, you have to manage all the other things too, that is your job. But the people you are accountable to lead become your focal point - your opportunity to enable greatness in others. To develop exceptional talent. This requires a shift in your intent from viewing your people as your means to get the job done, to seeing the job as an opportunity to teach them something. To use your experience to grow exceptional talent.
Shifting your intent as a leader requires a preparedness to let go of your need to control the outcome. When you do this, your people will experience that you are sincere in your intent to use the job as a tool to teach them something to enable them to grow and to thrive. When they experience that you are there to give to them in this manner, they become willing and in doing so, grant you legitimate power.
Legitimate power requires the willingness of the people. Your people. You are only granted this when your power is deemed legitimate in their eyes. When they perceive that you are in the relationship not for your own self-interest and what you want to get, but for what you are prepared to give to others, they grant you power.
In the words of William Henry Harrison: “The only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.”
Power is given. Control is taken. Managers revert to control in the absence of legitimate power. Leaders exercise this legitimacy to enable the excellence of their people.
Thank you Etsko for your teachings and the honour of spreading your profound wisdom with others in pursuit of leadership excellence.
The Other 4 C's
We have heard much about the four C’s of 21st century learning: Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity. Skills sufficiently important to our future of work, that they have been adopted and implemented into curricula of schools and professional development programs in various countries globally.
I believe there are an additional four C’s that merit a mention. These are Care, Contribution, Courage and Choice.
More than competencies, these four C’s also embody awareness’s that can help us to achieve personal excellence in our lives, now and into the future. Whilst learning specific skills will most certainly help us adapt to a changing business environment, it is likely to be changing how we think that can unlock our personal excellence. I believe success in the future of work will depend more on who you are and how you show up, than what you can do...
Step into your innate power by caring. Care about what you do in every moment and who you are in every interaction.
Etsko Schuitema proposes that care sits at the heart of any legitimate relationship of power. The invisible line between power and control. Power is given. Control is taken. Power requires the willingness of the people. Other people grant you power. And this is only granted when you have earned the trust and loyalty deserving of such a relationship by sincerely caring for the other.
Willingness is unlocked when others experience that you are there to GIVE to them, by caring for them and giving them the opportunity to grow.
To understand an abstract concept such as power, it can be useful to consider the first manifestation thereof. Invariably parenting would be the first relationship of power that we experience in our lives. In this relationship, there are two parties. The parent and the child. And the role of the parent is without a shadow of a doubt, to care for the child and enable its growth. When the child experiences this, they become willing and thrive. The role of the BIG one in any legitimate relationship of power is therefore to make the small one big by caring for them and enabling their growth.
By extension, the role of the leader in an organization is to care for their team members, and to give them an opportunity to grow. If the leader does these two things, they unlock willingness and their team members grant them legitimate power.
Conversely, when team members experience that the manager is there to take from them, and that they are regarded simply as a resource - a human resource, to get the job done, they will eventually resist and possibly even rebel. Until such time, don’t hold out for any discretionary effort or going of the proverbial extra mile!
We cannot expect our employees to give of themselves to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization – unless they experience that their boss is there to give to them.
This is an important distinction in that it is also the distinction between a manager and a leader. A manager is concerned with what he/she gets from their people. And they are likely to try control them to get the desired result. A leader is there for their people and shows this by sincerely caring for them. They are the one doing the giving and are granted legitimate power. Managers revert to control in the absence of legitimate power...
When we ask people to reflect on someone whom they deeply admire, the responses we receive are surprisingly consistent in the 29 countries we have done work in, around the world. We hear stories of kind and loving grandparents, selfless single mothers, a next-door neighbour who would give you the shirt off their back. A boss who took a chance on someone. A husband, a wife. The themes that emerge are those of generosity of spirit, humility and caring for others.
People are significant on the basis of their contribution. The measure of contribution is the value a person adds in his/her life. It is about what a person puts in not what they get out.
It is not about what we get or accumulate in our lives, it is about the positive difference that we make to those we impact on. What people give is how they contribute to others. What people get is what they acquire and accumulate for themselves – be it fame, fortune or things.
When we are here to give, this is not driven simply by our behaviour. We might outwardly see generous behaviour but to be experienced as sincere and authentic, this must come from a place deeper that just what we do. It must come from a place of why we do it – our Intent.
Our Intent is what sits behind the eyes and in our heart – it is our deeper motive for doing what we do.
In each moment that we face, our intent can pattern in one of two ways. It can be based on what we GET, or on what we GIVE.
Of the two, I have control only over what I give, my contribution, and the quality of my contribution. The more I construct my world based on what I get, my needs and expectations - the weaker I become. The more unconditional is my giving, the opposite is true and the more empowered I am.
If our world-view is based on what we want to get, we will base our decisions on what is in our own self-interest. Being here to give requires us to suspend our own agenda, and do what is right for the other. When we do this, we face each situation in accordance with our values, rather than our needs. Which is tricky as we are hard-wired and socially conditioned to act according to our needs, survival in scarcity. But we are not living in scarcity, we are living in abundance and the world has given us way in excess of our due…
It is not about what we are owed, or our rights. It is about what we owe, and our duties to the other. It is about our choice to be here to give and to contribute excellently in whatever we do.
Moving from a place of being here to get, to being here to give is a journey of maturing our intent. It is quite appropriate for an infant to be here to get, and to behave as such. But as we mature and become more self-aware, we also develop the ability to shift our intent from one of getting to giving. The work to be done is on the inside, in reflection and meditation. It is about being deliberate in how we act and how we construct our world-view.
When we understand and mature our Intent, we can quite literally undo who we have been made to be – to discover who we really are.
Fear is a useful response for survival. When unchecked, it can also keep us stuck and hold us back from achieving personal excellence.
In her 2009 article “Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware shared her insights from conversations with patients during her time as a palliative care nurse (https://bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying/). Two strong themes amongst these regrets relate to courage and choice. Patients expressed the regret to not have had the courage to live a life true to oneself and to express ones feelings. To the extent that many patients had developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried during their lives.
The delicate issue about Courage, is its keen relationship with Trust! Which can be as problematic as the chicken and the egg causality dilemma. Which one needs to come first in a relationship? Do I need courage to trust, or do I need to trust to have courage?
This is where Etsko Schuitema’s wisdom is most useful once again. His Intent work suggests that an inner reflection enables an outer action. In other words, our behaviour is driven by our Intent. Coming from an inward place of trust enables our outward action of courage. The most difficult time to muster up this trust is the very first time in any situation. But to act (with courage) there needs to be at least a small initial degree of trust. This enables our courage to act. Of course, if the outcome is positive, it is easier to trust more the next time. And so, the courage then enables more trust. The relationship between the two is mutually inclusive.
Furthermore, when we are here to give, we come from a deep place of gratitude. It is this gratitude that enables our generosity. This generosity is more than a giving of things, sometimes it requires a giving of ourselves. When we give things we are able to rise about our fear of loss of things. When we give of ourselves, it requires more than generosity, it requires courage. Sometimes we have to put ourselves on the line for what is right.
When we come from a place of gratitude and are here to give, it empowers us to make bold decisions and deliberate choices. Because when we are acting according to our values, we know that the outcome will be, to the very best of our ability, the right one. When we do this, we are fully empowered to act. Perhaps the outcome will not be in our self-interest – but if we have acted for an order of reality that is bigger than our own self-interest, something for which we are prepared to place our self-interest second – then we have acted according to our values and done what is right. This should give us the courage we need to boldly step into our decisions, and own them, fully.
The best part is - we get to choose our intent. It is not something that happens to us, it is something that as adults, we determine for ourselves. It is quite appropriate for an infant, and a young child to be here to get and behave in a selfish and immature manner. Their life is owed to them in its greatest sense. However, as we mature as human beings, we start to feel the deep sense of contentment that comes from giving to others and giving of ourselves to achieve excellence in the things we do. At this time, our lives become less about what we want to get from the world, and more focused on what we can give. Our contribution and the quality of the contribution we choose to make.
The thorny issue about choice, is that it comes with responsibility for the outcome! We are responsible for the choices we make. Response-able. Able to respond. We are response-able for our five innate powers. These are the power to speak, act, think and feel. Our fifth power is the power of choice itself. Because we choose what we say, how we act, what we think and how we feel.
When we are fully prepared to own our powers, and be responsible to others for them, we are empowered. Trying to be responsible for someone else’s powers, in other words, what they say, how they act or what they feel or think leads to rescuing and unhealthy dependent relationships. A powerful NLP pre-supposition is that “people have all the internal resources they need to succeed”. Sometimes, with the best of intent, we try to rescue and unintentionally disable those around us.
When it comes to our using our powers effectively and being deliberate about our intent – our focus needs to be on the self. Inwardly, so that we can understand the choices we make, and own them fully. This requires deep reflection, constant self-awareness and a trust that the world can look after itself, if we can just start with ourselves.
Because when we face our lives from a place of gratitude we care deeply and contribute significantly in every moment we are in. We are courageous because we make choices and own the outcomes. We are truly empowered to achieve personal excellence.
THE TRUE ROLE OF THE LEADER
Without a doubt, the workplace of today is a very different place from that of years gone by. I sometimes wonder to what degree winning organizations are getting it right by design…or by default. Is it easier to create a worthy employee experience in a smallish start-up, or is it easier in a large established corporate, where internal divisions are dedicated to achieving such things? And how does this translate to employee engagement?
There is one thing I am pretty sure of - the role of the leader cannot be underestimated in achieving a winning corporate culture. One where employees thrive to the extent it is experienced right through to the customer, interaction by interaction.
This is how I see it. If you have read previous articles of mine, you might recall my views on employee experience and employee engagement and how the two have become blurred. How organizations have adopted established marketing terminology, and applied it, internally, in the employee space. Possibly this terminology, even externally, might be inadvertently misleading. Is Experience considered to encompass Engagement? Employee Engagement seems to have been swallowed up by the concept of Employee Experience. We think that total experience includes so much more than just engagement – so this must be better. Right. Wrong, be careful. I think experience runs the risk of overshadowing the importance of engagement, both internally and externally.
Engagement is engagement. It is about human relationships. How we engage.
Within organizations, it is a direct result of the relationship the exists between boss and employee. If I saunter back to my desk, smoothie in hand, Fido trotting at my heels, ready to get in some work before my 4pm desk-side massage – and my boss is still a total asshole, then all of this is for nothing. Yes, all of this is nice to have and the provision of a great experience at work is necessary. But unless this is underpinned by a culture where employees experience that their boss it there to give to them, by caring for them, and giving them the opportunity to grow – it is not going to move any dials on engagement, retention, loyalty and trust for any sustained period of time.
If you want to build a sustainable business, one with a winning culture, where individuals can apply their talents and expertize to make their organization (and their world) a better place – every single manager throughout the organization needs to know how to legitimately lead and empower others. This is not achieved by the provision of foosball tables and fresh fruit.
It is achieved when we stop viewing our employees as a means to our end – a way to achieve a result. It is when we view them as the actual result.
When we use the smorgasbord of tasks and deliverables that await us in the organization every day, to truly empower our people to polish their skills and expertize – and achieve personal excellence. Become better at human being...not just human doing.
So often budget, time and effort is wasted on training for training sake. To make sure that managers tick the checkboxes of an employee development plan, and allocated budget that can be justified by showing that "the training directly relates to the business objectives and the job they are doing". I remember this well. Teach them what we need them to know, so they can do the job better, and achieve a result for the shareholders. Then one day I witnessed and understood that if you want to move the dial and create excellence, you need to stick your neck out a bit.
You need to provide your leaders and employees with learnings that will help them to examine their own personal intent, and help them to grow, as human beings. In doing this they can bring their whole self to the workplace - because when they know who they are and what makes them great, they will bring greatness wherever they go and to whatever they do.
If leaders can shift their focus from enabling and driving Performance, to enabling and encouraging Purpose, they can help their people to grow in ways that will enrich the individual, and the organization. When employees feel cared about, and are given the opportunity to grow, they become willing. People by default seek to achieve excellence, to do a great job and to make a positive impact wherever they contribute. If we can help them to find purpose in who they are and how they show up, and to achieve happiness, we have not only done what is right, we have done what will build a sustainable team and organization into the future. Not to mention the world...
In my experience there are 3 reasons people give discretionary contribution: their leader has unlocked this in them (by caring for and growing them); they believe in the benevolent intent of their organization; and it is just how they were raised (thanks mom!). If you are one of those people who love what you do, and find total engagement and satisfaction in your work, and in your personal life, and love to contribute to the very best of your ability - it is likely that you feel that you are achieving your purpose and you are probably able to come from a place of self-worth and deep gratitude. You recognise that this world has given you way in excess of your due as you face each moment with humility, generosity and courage.
Because when we fill our team with individuals who are here to give more than they take, set their colleagues up for success, and strive for excellence in all that they do - then we have the pixie-dust that makes exceptional teams go on and do extraordinary things. And in so doing, they close the gap between brand promise and customer experience externally. And internally, they enable a winning culture where people experience a sense of pride and belonging as they rise above their own self-interest and achieve greatness.
Leadership, Accountability and Excellence are all choices
Last year, when asked what the world needed most, there was no hesitation in my response. Leadership. Authentic leadership! The kind that would make our world a better place. Leadership that would humanize business and enable meaning and purpose in one’s everyday life. While I still hold this to be true, I have realized that to achieve this kind of leadership, an examination of Accountability and Excellence might be useful.
Leadership, Accountability and Excellence are mutually inclusive. You cannot achieve excellent leadership without cultivating good old-fashioned, no-holds-barred, Accountability within yourself and those you lead.
Far too frequently we bear witness to the greed and self-serving intentions of both corporate and political leaders, who make expedient decisions with catastrophic outcomes. Free-falling share prices, layoffs, destroyed reputations, to name just a few. These are decisions made not in the interests of the people they have been appointed to serve, but rather to serve the self.
Cultivating accountability is about holding one's self to account, and also having the courage to hold others to account. Both require an understanding of Intent. Schuitema's Intent thematic teaches us that our intent is the deeper motivation which drives our behavior. The recipient of your actions may experience your behavior, on a surface level, but how they respond is very often determined by how they interpret your intent. Do they experience that your intent is to give to them, or to get something from them?
Your intent can pattern in one of two ways. It can either be based on what you get from the world, or it can be based on what you give. If you are focused on what you get, you make decisions and construct your world-view based on your needs and what best serves you. If you are focused on what you give to others, you can rise above your own self-interest and act according to your values. This requires a deliberate suspension of your own agenda, to focus on the agenda of the other. The bad news is that as human beings we are hard-wired to act according to our needs. Historically we did, just to stay alive!
However, what separates us from lesser evolved life-forms is the gift of choice. We no longer need to act according to our needs. We can give each moment its due and act according to our values. We choose...
Further to this, I cannot control what I get from the world, so if I engage the world based on what I want, I become weak. Conversely, because I always have control over what I give, and the quality of my contribution, if I engage the world based on what I give, I become powerful.
When we are here to give, we become powerful and achieve excellence.
To finish up, let’s consider leadership, accountability and excellence in the workplace. To achieve a culture of excellence, the employee needs to experience that their leader is there to give to them, not simply to use them to get a job done. This requires that the leader gives the employee the means and ability to do an outstanding job. Thereafter, the leader must also hold them accountable for outstanding delivery the agreed standard.
The leader who does not hold employees accountable for excellence is not only breeding mediocrity but is also not acting in the best interests of the employee. The role of the leader is to create excellence in every one of his team members.
In the highly competitive world that we find ourselves in, one of our biggest differentiators lies in our people and the ability to unlock willingness and excellence. The workplace is no longer just about getting a job done. Those days have passed. The workplace is about growing great talent.
If you are here, under my watch, together we will deliver excellence. I will give to you, by caring for you and giving you the opportunity to grow. I will ensure you have the means and ability to do what is required of you. I will be very clear on my expectation and I will spend time with you to ensure you can perform at your best. I will then hold you accountable. Accountable for excellence. Because I care about you, and I care about my organization and the world in which I live. I want it to be a better place.
I choose to lead according to what is in the interests of others, not myself.
Are YOU a Manager or a Leader?
I have often seen this important designation referred to as Manager/Leader. That benign looking / is possibly a very telling symbol.
I have also seen the name Manager and Leader used interchangeably.
I have seen years of debate on the difference between the two, and which term is appropriate in each situation. You know the rhetoric well. Are Leaders born or made? What is Leadership? And so on…
These are my thoughts on the topic, gained from having the privilege of working with Etsko.
If you oversee a certain function in an organization, you are by default a Manager. There are things in your role that you need to manage. When we ask groups what these things are, they come up with the typical stuff like budgets, stock, inventory, processes, deliverables…and people. And in that last item, there lies the rub.
True, you can manage all these things – but out of all of them, the only one you lead is people.
I cannot, for example, lead a chair. Or lead a budget. The minute we put people into this category, we reduce them to things. We do the same thing to people that we do to things.
We reduce people to things when we try manage them.We conveniently call them resources. Because we can manage resources, right? Hell, we even have a Human Resources department to manage these resources.
And because we quite unashamedly refer to them as resources, people don’t always realize right away that they are being used. But the nature of a resource is that it is used and over time, even used up. Sooner or later they figure it out, or they start to feel like a resource and they start to feel like they are being used, and over time they become disengaged, and decreasingly committed, and what suffers is the job, customer experience and the result.
You can no better lead a resource than you can lead a chair. You lead people. Leadership requires a deliberate focus on the people in your role.
Yes, you get to manage all the other things too, that is your job. But the people you are accountable to lead become center stage. This requires a shift in your intent. Do you view people as a means to get the job done? After all, you are paying them a salary, right? If this is true, then go ahead and be honest with yourself and stop using the /. You are a Manager, congratulations. You can manage your people and they will experience that you are there to TAKE from them. That you are using them to make a profit for a shareholder.
But if you show up at work every day to give of yourself in the pursuit of the excellence of others, then, and only then, you can throw away the / and proudly take on the designation of Leader. A leader leads people. And guess who gets to decide on which side of the / you are? You guessed, the people.
If they experience that you authentically care about them, as a human being, not a human resource who is just a set of hands to get the work done. And if you give them the opportunity to grow - then they will give you the status of Leader. They will experience that your intent is to GIVE to them and they will become willing, committed and go the extra mile. You cannot expect this from them if they do not experience that you are there to give to them.
If you make the core of your job as a leader to develop exceptional people - by Caring for and Growing them, then I PROMISE you that they will achieve an exceptional result for you. And that is what we call Leadership.
Folks, beware the /. If you see it, or if you use it - therein lies an opportunity for excellence...
You might get to choose which side of the / you want to be, but your people ultimately get to decide which side you are.