Do You Hear What I Hear?
A critical doer keeps risk and failure in context with opportunity and success
One of the greatest misconceptions in the dynamics of people is the binary paradox that people are either leaders or followers. As with most things that we limit to “either/or” options, this perception is wrong.
The trick in moving organizations successfully toward fulfillment of a vision if finding followers willing to lead despite the risk to the organization and potentially their own career. Identifying this caliber of disciplined follower with the willingness to lead has everything to do with success.
I’ve made an observation through the years that your ear can be trained to listen for a telltale sign of the follower capable of balancing risk and reward to move an organization forward.
When presenting a vision or an opportunity to your people, listen carefully to the first response. If the first response consistently involves why something can’t be done, the difficulty of the challenge, the consequences of failure, or similar comments there is a high probability this person may not be the follower capable of helping you lead change.
Conversely, if the response consistently gravitates to benefits of success, ways it could be done, excitement of the challenge, or other comments that focus on a positive outcome the probability that you’ve identified a follower capable of leading change is much higher.
Here’s the point that will help you move from critical thinker to critical doer. Is the problem what someone else hears, or is it your outlook? A critical doer will recognize their words reflect their outlook and make it their business to focus on the positive. With an opportunity focused outlook, the challenges become part of the environment that need to be dealt with but they do not determine rightness or wrongness of a vision.
Listen to your own words when an opportunity is presented to you. Your words should reflect a firm grasp of the positive while the challenges appropriately reflect the landscape to get to success. An opportunity focused outlook opens a world of possibilities, a negative or risk averse outlook limits opportunities for organizations and individuals.
Others are listening to you…what are they hearing? Take charge of your outlook and keep opportunity and risk in perspective to maximize your probability of success. It’s what a critical doer would…do!
Leaders REQUIRE followers. Followers REQUIRE leaders. Otherwise, the notion of either is non-sensical.
There are “appointed” or “formal” leaders deriving their authority primarily on the basis of their position. There are “informal” or “peer” leaders who derive their “authority” based on credibility, personality, and willingness to step into the breach.
Organizations require both to really blossom. And it certainly helps if the formal leader has the credibility, personality, and drive that makes the informal leaders emerge.
As the leader trying to lead the organization in making changes, don’t confuse open and honest debate with resistance. “We tried that 10 years ago, and it didn’t work.” As the leader, how do you take that statement?
One way is stubbornness or outright opposition.
Another way, is as an opportunity.
Compare then to now. What has changed in the environment? Personalities of the stakeholders? Enabling technologies? An opportunity ripe for the picking? How about the capabilities of the work force? How about the emergence of a leader willing to take risks? A leader willing to trust and enable his subordinates? A leader willing to accept failures as part of a learning process as long as those failures don’t cause the organization to die?
What is really more important–who we are as individuals or what we can accomplish as a team committed to an alternative future other than just station keeping?
Station keeping leads to stagnation and the loss of relevance. The loss of relevance leads to decline. And decline spirals with even less relevance until the organization dies.
So back to the question above. As a leader — listen — but also be ready and willing to offer the other side of the debate. Lead, navigate the difficulties, but always lead.
So how can the leader be prepared to engage and win the debate. Not based on force of authority, but based on informed, credible argument. Fundamental to that effort is a personal commitment to learning and to the willingness to be innovative.
The important question really is “How can we take this situation and turn it into an opportunity?”
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