Published in Conway Daily Sun
You don’t have enough money, people or time – neither does anyone else. If you think about the great stories of accomplishment, most are about heroes who accomplished something in spite of their tangible resources; they overcame adversity using their resourcefulness. Stop complaining and blaming. Be resourceful.
Our next two topics, collaboration and problem solving go hand in hand. If you research what are being identified as the biggest problems facing organizations today, you will find all the usual suspects including uncertainty, globalization, government regulations, technology, etc. Change is constant and coming at us faster every day. Not to be a downer, but for every problem we face, there is a fresh problem right behind it, or a new version of the same problem. It’s like playing whack-a-mole with our livelihood. How do we turn these problems into opportunities without losing our minds and our retirement plans?
Accept first, that we will never run out of new problems. So, your most valuable asset is your capacity to solve problems. That’s right – your biggest problem is to be able to solve problems – a special competency in its own right.
Second, accept that no one person can deal with it all. Too many managers are not secure enough to hire people who are smarter than they are – this is a must. Leaders do not need to have the answers as much as they need to
have better questions. Does it make sense that the people we hire should be the experts on their particular work? Does it make sense to include them in the making decisions? Does it also make sense that we should include people working on the sidelines who can share wisdom and insights from a different viewpoint? In reality, do we pretend to include these people by asking for input at meetings, and then making decisions on our own anyway? Why do we seem to have this need to be the lone genius? When did our egos become so tender that we need to prove how smart we are, how in-charge we are, how valuable we are? Our culture rewards great displays of perceived strength, but not actual strength. Actual strength is revealed when you are strong enough to make yourself vulnerable – to ask for help, to give others the lead, to collect the wisdom and insights of others and trust that the way others do something could work just as well as your way – perhaps better. What are the odds that you are the smartest person in the company, on every topic, every day, with every customer, with every supplier, with every product, with every situation that arises? Right - nil, zip, nada, not even on your best day. Want to argue with this point? Then either you hired people who are not smarter than you (fix that ASAP), or you are a one-person company with no customers or suppliers. When was the last time you wanted to follow and help a know-it-all boss? Exactly, people want to follow
someone they respect, who asks for help, shares the credit and works for the betterment of all.
Our culture also rewards us for not screwing up. There is more incentive to not get in trouble, than there is to take a risk and try to advance or excel. To share an idea that may not be the winning idea is to risk of being eaten by a co-worker or boss. So how then, do we facilitate meetings so they are meaningful for our people to engage in and leave the egos and hidden agendas behind? Typically, meetings have the boss facilitating, maybe getting agreement and buy-in on identifying the problem. The talkers in the group will discuss and brainstorm for a solution, while quiet, but smart people may share nothing, and this goes on until visible progress stops. We call this the groan zone, when participants start groaning. The boss will often table the discussion or make a decision, thinking it is based on all the collective input. We stop the real progress half-way through the process. We fall apart just when we could have come back together and had consensus on a truly brilliant solution. The best, new solutions tend to reveal themselves at the far end of the arguing and groaning and moaning – things become simple once again on the far side of being complicated. The trouble is we end the group groaning session just when we were about to break through. My partners and I specialize in teaching and leading facilitations to move groups through these hard conversations to get to real change and sustainable solutions. Our first mission is to create a space where everyone is invited to speak and it is safe to do so. While we have relatively simple processes for this, the execution takes determination and practice.
Being resourceful and collaborating, we might have a chance at problem solving. Often, organizations have a low capacity to solve complex problem, which limits their ability to deal with the rapidly changing environment. This keeps them in a reactive state putting out fires, with no time to get into a pro-active mode or fire-prevention, let alone growth and progress on their actual mission.
Now, if you are getting nervous about trusting your people to be able to handle this, our next article will tackle the topic of building the potential of your stakeholders so they can thrive in an environment of participatory leadership and engagement.