They pulled me aside during the break. We were just talking about giving feedback and showing appreciation to others. They stayed at their table while everyone else got up for the break and snacks.
“Can I share something with you?”
I came in a little closer, my mind racing to replay the last few minutes to see if I said anything weird.
“You talked about providing sincere feedback and appreciation. Making sure that it is not a superficial ‘drive-by’. I just realized that I was taught to do this in college, and have been providing this my whole career.”
They studied physical education. They were taught a method of feedback. It was intended to help young children with basic early skills.
In order to pass this class, they were timed and had to provide 5 quick positive feedbacks, before they could provide 1 redirecting ones. They were filmed and each positive had to be different but quick.
Way to go.
You could do this better.
They didn’t realize it but had been following this method for more than 20 years.
They saw that their feedback was systematic not sincere.
They realized that this scattering of seemingly shallow praise was not hitting the target.
They were well intentioned, but needed to change.
They didn’t even realize the pattern they formed.
What feedback patterns are you caught in?
How has systematic replaced sincerity?
Over the next few posts we will tackle a few ways to provide feedback and appreciation.
I used to give an assignment to leaders and supervisors at the end of a session.
“Go back to your organization and find a project to delegate down to someone else.”
The reason for the assignment was simple. We had discussed the importance of conveying trust in others and to build their capacity within the organization. We reviewed some some key points from Dan Pink’s book Drive and discussed how delegating projects would resonate with the key drivers for all employees: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
Weeks or months later, I would check in with these leaders. Almost no one delegated a project.
I asked why.
“You don’t understand, I got back to the office and am so busy, I just couldn’t find the time to sit down with someone and explain it, it was easier to do it myself.”
“They wouldn’t do it right anyway, and when you think about it, I was saving them from failing.”
“I need this done a certain way, and don’t want to worry about if it is done right.”
The lists, and the excuses kept coming. For the few leaders that did delegate projects, many of them picked the worst project on their list and passed that down to someone.
Each excuse was almost a direct hit against the primary drivers for employees.
Autonomy – people want some self direction and control over their working environment which may mean taking on projects and doing it their way. Lack of delegation sends the message that you are in complete control and there is no room for others to develop their own way or style.
Mastery – people want to be good at things, and that means trying new things, working on new projects that develop and refine skills over time. Lack of delegation keeps their skills shallow, and maintains your expert status.
Purpose – people want to feel like their work matters, and their time is meaningful and makes a difference. Lack of delegation makes others feel unimportant, and worse conveys that you do not trust them or value them and their contribution.
I had to change the assignment.
“Within 2 weeks, find the project or assignment is BIG and IMPORTANT that would give you the most satisfaction, organizational recognition, and reward and delegate that one. AND find your partner here today and tell them about this project then call each other each week to ensure it is delegated.”
At first you could have heard a pin drop.
The big and important one? YES!
The one that would give the most rewards? YUP!
Now when I check in with these leaders I hear a different story.
“It was pretty scary to give up a big project like that, but I was surprised, they took it on and completed it. They seem more energized and are looking for the next project.”
“They went in a different direction then I expected and that made me worry, but the result was better than expected and frankly maybe better than I would have been able to do.”
“Not only are these employees taking on more projects and responsibilities, I find that I have more time to do my core job and I am less frantic and busy.”
So the choice as leaders is simple. You can keep everything to yourself (most likely out of fear and control) or you can learn to pass down important projects and assignments. When you choose to keep it, you convey a lack of trust and your work will continue to be hectic and busy. When you choose to pass projects to others, you convey trust and importance in others, and build their capacity.
One leader candidly expressed their fear in doing this.
“What if I delegate these important things down, and my employees become better at these things than me? Won’t I be working myself out of my job?”
My response was simple.
If you are the kind of leader that can build the capacity of teams in a way that you are no longer needed, you most likely have a much larger and more important career as companies will pay a lot to replicate that in their organization.
The session is about conflict and learning their preferred styles and other styles.
The session ends with some group work and a case study.
The case study provides a scenario and context to apply what they just learned.
The scenario describes being partnered with a peer to organize and work on a project together. But, when they arrive at the meeting, the peer has already started the project and assigned work to other members of the team.
Participants are asked to describe what they would do.
The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same.
“I would confront this peer about moving forward without me.”
“I would address this peer’s behavior and establish some structure and boundaries so we are working together on this project.”
“I would talk to my boss about this peer and make sure our roles are clear.”
The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same.
The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same, until recently.
This group surprised me.
“I would thank the peer for taking initiative and ask them how I can help moving forward.”
“I would support this peer and see if they need me to take a more active role.”
They went on to explain their response.
“You see, I am super busy. And just because it didn’t work out perfectly, or not exactly what I had in mind, that is fine with me. I appreciate when someone takes initiative and gets things moving. I don’t always have to be in charge, sometimes I can play a support role for what is already in motion.”
Let me say that again. Wow!
A much different response and view of someone else taking initiative.
A response that rewards action and doesn’t take things personally.
How many times do we see taking initiative as a threat?
How often does our ego get in the way of movement?
How often do we see negative things when there is something positive to be appreciated?
Maybe it is time for a new response to taking initiative.
Just because that project, that dinner, that event was not exactly what you had in mind, can we learn to appreciate those taking initiative instead?
Let me know if you struggle with others taking initiative and if you try taking this alternative view in your own world, workplace, household, or lives in the comments section.
Leaders are told all the time to stay out of the weeds.
The more senior the position the more we hear this advice, and these words about the weeds.
“Let’s stay up at a 30,000 or 40,000 foot view on this issue.”
Then the advice switches to altitude and taking a big picture view.
Simple advice: stay out of the details and keep your distance.
This weed/altitude advice attempts to keep us from micromanaging the operation.
But over time, this weed/altitude advice keep removes us from the action.
Ironically, when we stay “out of the weeds” too long, weeds start to sprout, root, and take hold in our organizations.
Weeds of poor customer service.
Weeds of missed deadlines.
Weeds of a culture not focused on deliverables.
Weeds of excuses and justifying the lack of results.
We may need more balanced advice.
Sometimes get in the weeds and stay close to the action.
Sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. You need to get in the dirt and pluck weeds.
When should you get in the weeds?
When a pattern of customer complaints emerges?
When deadlines are missed?
When more time is spent justifying than solving?
Maybe regularly enough before patterns of complaints and lack of results can take root.
Gardens need regular weeding. Our organizations need regular weeding too.
If you don’t spend time in the weeds, those weeds may be the thing that chokes out your organization. Weeds make us vulnerable to losing market share, customers, and good employees.
Balancing time in the weeds and big picture thinking time will have to be a topic for another day. But for now, if you have been up at 30,000 or 40,000 feet and removed from the action; walk around, get close, and look for weeds. And when you find weeds, get rid of them.
We want people in our organizations to have more Ownership.
Ownership of their work, their deliverables, their customers.
We want Ownership of new initiatives, projects, and ideas.
Ownership means taking the responsibility and leadership to create something and move it forward.
But there is another side of Ownership.
Ownership can mean holding on so tightly that others are not allowed to participate.
Ownership can mean simple edits or suggestions cause an overreaction and are rejected.
Ownership can create narrowly crafted solutions that didn’t consider other needs and perspectives.
These two sides of Ownership create the Ownership Dilemma.
Ownership can stem from the need to control.
But Ownership will take control when needed and move the project forward.
Ownership can stem from the need for power, status, and recognition.
ButOwnership is not afraid to step into positional authority and lead.
Ownership can be ego-centric, not letting others views or ideas into the mix.
But Ownership takes pride in their accomplishments and achievements.
The Ownership Dilemma can disrupt your organization, and we have a few tools that can help.
One way to measure Ownership is through an assessment of “driving forces” or what motivates us. One area measured is “Commanding.” This “Commanding” score can identify for you and your employees the healthy levels of Ownership, or if Ownership may become too overbearing and controlling. We can also learn where Ownership is under-developed and how your team can work to improve their Ownership of their work, projects, and customers.
Are you struggling with the Ownership Dilemma with your team? Are you wondering why your Ownership seems to manifest as control? Are you hiring and wrestling with getting the right fit and the right level of Ownership?
Understanding your own style, and your collective team styles can help you move past the Ownership Dilemma, to a healthy level of ownership. We are here to help, contact us today about how we can help you and your team better understand their styles, including their level of Ownership.
It started out like any other goal setting session. One person was a little late. When they arrived, there was instant credibility as they entered the room. They took their seat at the head of the table.
Head of the Table.
Introductions. Head of the Table had done just about everything. They were in their mid to late 80s, held prestigious positions, made a difference, and created things. Decades of life and success.
Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success.
The goal setting and strategic vision session began. Before too long, Head of the Table (before it was time) stated a clear and specific goal that set the stage. The goal was bold, big, and a little disruptive. You could see the goal pass through the group like a wave.
Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage.
The discussion keep moving and started to flow. There were other voices, other perspectives, other ideas. As the day progressed, there were more voices, more perspectives, more ideas.
Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage. Other Perspectives, other Ideas.
Then something happened. There was a shift. Head of the Table made another bold move, yet another surprise. Head of the Table announced that after hearing the other perspectives and the other viewpoints, their original idea was not as good, not as applicable, and not what the organization needed. They had a changed mind.
A Changed Mind.
The room energy got an immediate boost. Some of the more timid and less experienced participants (who had introduced the different ideas and perspectives) found their voice. Those voices began to participate with a new-found confidence as they felt able to share their vision of the new, the different, the better.
A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice.
As the day moved towards conclusion, the goals, the vision, and the plan started to take shape. Building a plan was not the exclusive thing built that day. Excitement was building for the new future and direction of the organization.
A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice. Building Excitement for the Future and Direction.
Thank you Head of the Table for leading the way, for staying engaged and active over so many decades, and for demonstrating to all of us the power, and impact of a Changed Mind.