When we are looking at change…whether personal change or organisational change, many of us take a deficit approach. We focus on what isn’t working, what is going wrong, what we need to make it better.
Yet taking our weaknesses and making them into strengths is the hardest gap to bridge. It’s hard to build the necessary skills in things that don’t come naturally to us. It’s also challenging to stay motivated, committed and engaged. How many of us feel excited about doing more of something we aren’t good at?
So whether you are thinking about your New Year’s Resolution or changes you are making in your professional work or business, why not try a different approach?
Rather than focusing on what’s wrong, identify where things are working really well and then look for ways to leverage it so it happens more often.
I was working with a team recently, who initially had great difficulty finding examples of when they worked well together. Eventually with lots of probing questions they identified a demanding project with a tight timescale where they had pulled out all the stops, worked really well, communicated effectively and supported each other to meet the deadline. Once we had that, we could identify all the elements involved and agree how they could replicate that in other areas of their work together. Remembering and visualising how it felt to be working hard, but effectively as a team, and the sense of accomplishment they felt also re-enforced their desire to create that environment more frequently.
Next time you are considering changes and setting goals how about considering:
- When are you at your best?
- When you are at your best how do you know? What do others see?
- When have you been at your best, even for a moment?
- How you can use that experience now?
Happy learning and Happy New Year
In their book “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones point out that in spite of the huge demand for more effective leaders, they remain in short supply.
This is partly due to the fact that organisations across all sectors still encourage people to conform or become inauthentic role players, rather than being clear about who they are and what they stand for. This of course leads to cynical, de-motivated and disengaged followers. Another reason for the lack of good leadership is the limited knowledge across the board about what leadership is and how it can be developed. I have written here before about how leadership is a dynamic relationship that is situational. So, something that works for one leader in one context won’t work for another leader or in another context. Therefore, focusing on the characteristics of leaders or attempting to imitate great leaders just doesn’t work. As Oscar Wilde says, “be yourself everyone else is taken!”
Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones argue that those people who aspire to be effective leaders don’t need to be fully self-aware but they do need to know enough about themselves to recognise their own personal leadership assets and how these can be deployed to best effect.
Leaders need to be able to:
- Show their weaknesses with care
- Tap into their intuition to judge timing and courses of action
- Manage people with “tough empathy”
- Reveal their differences with skill
My questions to you are:
- Which personal weaknesses do you reveal?
- How do you use your intuition?
- How are you different and how can that help you?
Identifying core values has been a more frequent theme in my coaching and facilitation work recently. In the last couple of weeks I’ve coached clients who want to re-visit their values and I ran a workshop just today about how to break through the barriers to outstanding success, where again we identified the participants’ values as part of the process.
What are values?
For me, values are usually one word, abstract concepts. They describe who we are and what is important to us rather than who we think we should be. We are naturally drawn to them and eager to express them. They don’t need any effort because they are intrinsic to who we are and when we live our lives in alignment with our values we are creating the environment that supports us to be the best we can be. Michael Angier described identifying values as being like developing a photograph in a darkroom. They are already imprinted and just need to be revealed.
How do they support us?
Clear values help us…
- Understand who we are and what we stand for
- Choose how we spend our time and who with
- Determine whether our actions are “right” or “wrong”
- Notice when we are going off course
- Make good decisions
- Stay motivated and inspired
Why are they so important?
Clear values are important because they are the only sustainable basis for goal setting. The reason so many goals require us to drive ourselves hard to accomplish them is they are not aligned with our values. We can all discipline ourselves to take actions towards goals for a limited period of time but it’s hard to keep up in the longer term or when the going gets tough. Any achievements will be also be short lived and unfulfilling. Compare that with identifying your values and then setting a goal for each one. Getting to work on those goals is far more likely to take less effort and produce lasting and meaningful outcomes.
Being clear on our values and expressing them in our lives, gives us a sense of True North. They help us focus on the compass rather than the clock.
Although it can be tempting, particularly in times of change and turbulence, to keep our heads well below the parapet, outstanding leaders do the opposite.
They demonstrate they can be counted on when times are tough. They aren’t afraid to step up and be counted, to face into conflict, and to nail their colours to the mast of controversial or unpopular decisions. That’s because they know that leadership is about constantly looking for better ways. Continuous improvement can only happen when leaders challenge the process, question whether the way things are being done, and still make sense.
This is one of the reasons why it’s often “lonely at the top” and, for that matter, lonely anywhere else that outstanding leadership is being practiced. In order to take a stand, leaders need a strong sense of self and lots of confidence in order paradoxically to feel comfortable taking risks, being wrong and making mistakes. In fact, research shows that successful leaders and managers have made more mistakes during their careers than the people they were promoted over. They were promoted for showing the courage and the strength of character to take a stand not because they were always right.
So don’t let the chance of being wrong get in the way of taking a stand when you feel it is the right thing to do.
My questions to you are:
- When have you taken an unpopular stand for something you believed in?
- When has your courage failed you and you have kept quiet?
- What made the difference?