Monthly Archives: December 2010
It was only this year that I heard about, “The Elephant in the Room”.
That which is there present in a discussion that needs to be addressed but no one will acknowledge it.
I remember one meeting that I was at where the chairman was a top down, dogmatic kind of person. This was my first time at that meeting. The meeting was bogged down on an issue where no one seemed able to cut through to any kind of solution that would be satisfactory to all parties.
During a break I asked some of the others at the meeting what was going on for I had seen a possible solution. When I mentioned this, the comment that I received was that everyone knew the answer but they also knew that it was an answer which was unacceptable to the chairman.
No one was willing to point out that the problem was the chairman. At that moment he was the elephant in the room. So obviously the main issue in getting to a solution, yet seemingly so invisible!
The church attempting to work out a solution to the problem of priests and child abuse unwilling to face the issue of its attitude towards sex and then celibate priests.
The government attempting to work out how to better deal with health care unwilling to see the massive influence on policy that the major pharmaceutical companies wield.
The world attempting to work its way through the global Financial Crisis yet unwilling to see that the Federal Reserve Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Bank of England are there for their own ends, not for the good of the world.
To be a true leader requires that all facts need to be laid on the table. There is nothing that is not up for consideration.
Sometimes this needs someone from outside asking about what is so obvious to them but unaddressed by everyone else.
When I go into an organisation as coach, after having talked to the CEO/business owner, I sit quietly to one side observing what is going on, reading the energies of the staff and management to one another. It is amazing what is so obvious to an attentive newcomer that no one else seems to acknowledge.
Some of those things are possibly caused by work culture so that the new member of staff just fits into the status quo rather than asking questions. Especially if the influence is that, “This is the way that we have always done it”. Who when they are in their three month trial period is courageous enough to rock the boat.
A specific coaching service I provide is Onboarding, This guarantees that the new staff member, coming on board, can ask all the questions they need of an independent person who has the responsibility of assuring that the new member is able to settle in and also bring their new thoughts and energy to the work place as well as their “fresh eyes” approach to the new environment.
It is this kind of person who is most likely to spot the elephant, yet also be most fearful of drawing the awareness of its presence to the management.
there was a time when I believed that to be a good leader, I needed to do everything my self. The purpose of this seemed to be that I needed to show everyone that I was the only one who could do the job properly.
This was alright when I only had one or two others there but then we started to expand, up till now I had managed doing all the important work but as the work increased, there was no way I could continue to do everything.
Fortunately for me I had a mentor/coach type person who initially had challenged me whilst refereeing First division soccer in my home area. He pointed out that I had two line referees who were as qualified as I was and that they were there to share the load and as long as I instructed them as to what I specifically wanted them to observe then the next move was to trust them.
I was interested in what I would do if they got it wrong so I asked and was asked, “Had I ever got it wrong during the time I was doing it all?” Unfortunately I had to admit that I had but noted i observed my mistake, fixed it up and then moved on.
They asked me, “could I do that with my staff?” After I thought about it, I realised that it was not much different to refereeing. They challenged me to give it a go, baby steps first.
We worked out a system so the first person I chose would know firstly what was required of them and secondly would know that there would be no interference from me till a set time later, however they could come to me with questions at any time.
So off we went. They had the task explained and I asked if they were comfortable with it, they were happy with the task, I also mentioned that we would have a meeting in five days time to check progress.
The hardest part was leaving them alone without checking on them. There was this horrible feeling that I wanted them to fail so I would feel absolutely necessary. If this worked then I was on my way to being redundant.
Then it began to dawn. If other people could do, in a perfectly satisfactory way, all the things I thought that only I could do Then I was free to do the other stuff that I never seemed able to find the time to do.
I have actually delegated a task and the person to whom I delegated it has done the task as well as I would have.
The person I had delegated the task to caught up with me a few days later and thanked me very much. They were contemplating leaving to go elsewhere, where their skills would be better utilised but because of what I had done they were now going to stay.
I asked what made the difference. Their response was that up to this event they had felt completely dis-empowered. Unable to do anything, even though they knew what to do. Now they felt totally empowered, able to share in the forward progress of the business without feeling like a child, waiting to be told.
We now have regular meetings where all the tasks are laid out and staff are asked if they have any preferences, before we actually delegate them out to them. We also check on progress of the various tasks and others are asked if they have any input into the processes.
I now spend most of my time looking for new opportunities for work and following up ideas that are brought as a better way to go.
My stress levels are great and I am part of a very happy and highly productive team, who own their roles in a very committed way. Thanks to a fellow referee who helped me see things differently.
Do you really know what is going on in every part of your business?
If you do, congratulations. I would love to talk with you to glean all that you do to ensure that this happens. It’s a rare exception.
For the rest of us. What are the things that we can do to improve our leadership skills.
Do you really know what is going on in your business? How long is it since you asked one of the factory floor/front counter people if there was anything they could see being needed to change so they could do their job better?
Wait!! and you said thank you, no matter what they offered and took that information home and sat with it possibly even with your R & D (Research & Development) people.
Have you asked your secretary how she would like to restructure what is happening in your office to make it more efficient or user friendly.
I mean you can even extend this to asking your partner, kids if there was any way that you could do those relationships better. Again they need to know it is asked in the most non threatening way.
You won’t get the best information back if there is a perception that honesty will get them fired, divorced, incur your anger or frustration. This has to be asked in a spirit of true openness.
If they told you how they could see improvements being made, are you open to these suggestions? My observation is that we tend to turn a blind eye to that information which contradicts our present way of doing things.
I would suggest that even though this is only the beginning; it is a good place to start. Just doing this alone could be the beginning of a brand new relationship with the people who work for you, or are part of your family.
I found for me that when I actually listened and heard what the other person was actually attempting to say, and considered it rather than disagreeing with it; that I entered into a different level of relationship that up till then I had not experienced.
It was as though cataracts had been removed from my eyes for the first time and I could see things from a completely different perspective.
Have you programmed your operation yet to allow you to see things from a different perspective.
The moment you do you have taken the first step towards being a better leader. Congratulations!