Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Something positive from the floods

While the devastation from the floods in Australia will take a long time to clear up, as usually happens in Australia, the fact of the army of volunteers descending to assist in the clean up of ravaged areas is very positive. It is a story that is almost always repeated after floods, fires, and cyclones.

A question that this raises is: "Why can't we harness people's energy and ability on an every day basis in all areas of life?"

The answer is that "we can" and that good leaders - Third Generation Leaders - do it every day.

So how is it done? Third Generation Leaders can harness everyone's energies and facilitate engagement with some simple actions. Here is a key selection:

  1. Be honest and authentic in your communications. In other words, show unconditional respect to everyone.
  2. Don't pretend to have all the answers. Make it clear that you will really listen to suggestions and that you will fully acknowledge contributions made.
  3. Don't play power games - or any of the other games that are so often played in organisations - steer clear of hidden agendas.
  4. Let everyone know the real situation - give them the facts - and encourage them to buy in emotionally to the reality being faced.
  5. Let everyone know that their contribution will be and is appreciated.
  6. Help everyone obtain a clear sense of a shared purpose and allow them to say what they can and cannot, are willing and are not willing, to do. Train, coach, support and counsel as required to help people develop the competence and the willingness to do everything that needs to be done.
  7. Encourage shared accountability - accountability to one's peers, accountability to desired results, and accountability to one's own values and purpose.
  8. Don't try to tightly control people - facilitate success by supporting not controlling. Do what you can to ensure that people have the resources they need, where they need them, and when they need them. Get out of the way and let them get on with it. Stop micro managing.
  9. Provide feedback at every opportunity while seeking and being prepared to receive brutally honest feedback on your own behaviour as a leader.
Yes, there is more to it that just these 9 things - but implementing these will certainly start to get things moving in the right direction. Its not rocket science!

I'd love to know what you think about this. Please make your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at http://www.dglong.com

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Dawn of Something New

The start of any new year always brings with it a sense of a need for change – for something different. I guess that’s why so many of us make New Year’s resolutions – we want things to be different, in a positive way, from what has happened in the preceding year.

Two major events marked the start of 2011 for me.

On the evening of Sunday January 2 there was a major storm in Sydney, Australia. Our family was sitting around chatting when a bolt of lightning hit the house. Simultaneously there was a very loud “bang” a kaleidoscope of colours, and a smell of something having been burned. We were very lucky. Apart from the loss of some minor electronic equipment and the loss of internet access, there was no damage. It took us quite a while, however, before the adrenaline eased and we again felt normal.

The second event occurred a few days later. An overseas friend was scheduled to be married on January 5. His father had been ill for some time and on the morning of January 5 I received a message from him: “Dad … passed away a couple of hours ago. We are making arrangements for his funeral now.”

These two events highlighted for me the fact that, no matter what changes we may consider necessary and no matter what changes we might want to happen, sometimes change is brought about by circumstances totally beyond our control. The change caused by the lightning – the need for a new facsimile machine and the temporary loss of the internet connection – was minor, a very short-term irritant, and easily dealt with. The change my friend experienced – the loss of a much loved father and the need to postpone a wedding – was intensely personal and will have long-term impact on him and his immediate family.

The lightning strike has caused no change in my behaviour or that of my family. Something happened and, at the time, it appeared to be quite major. In fact it was trivial and was no impetus for change. The death of my friend’s father is different. No matter what, he and his family will experience long-term impact and their lives will never again be quite the same.

Over my years of facilitating change in individuals and organisations I have become increasingly aware of some truths relating to change:

1. It’s not whether or not something happens to us that is important, it’s how we react to this event that is important.

2. There is no absolute imperative to change. Unless and until an individual or an organisation “wants” to change, nothing will really happen. Of course there may be some cosmetic difference or there may be some immediate reaction to something that has happened, but overall the status quo will remain.

I was again reminded of these truths when I read the following: “Most leadership strategies are doomed to failure from the outset. Leaders instigating changes are often like gardeners standing over their plants and imploring them: ‘Grow! Try harder! You can do it!’ No gardener tries to convince a plant to ‘want’ to grow: if the seed does not have the potential to grow, there’s nothing anyone can do to make a difference.” Peter Senge, The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organisations, 1999, Broadway Business, New York.

January 2011 is the start of something new. Change is in the air. Perhaps we need to think a little about what makes us contemplate change as well as our role in facilitating any change that is required.

I’d love to know what you think about this. Please make your comments below.

More about me at http://www.dglong.com