Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who's "in"?

"He won't share with me." Human nature. We see it in young kids all the time. And, we see it in adults all the time. It is impossible to create a cohesive team if members of that team are not willing to share. Some people might not share because they are unskilled at sharing. That is workable. But unwillingness is not tenable and will keep the leadership team bound in various uncomfortable, ineffective, and time-wasting ways. Unwillingness is nuclear waste: toxic, dangerous, and highly destructive.

Here is how the reasoning flows: Does any member of your team display an unwillingness to be open-minded and learning new ideas, habits, ways of thinking?

If yes, is this unwillingness overt or covert? If a team member's unwillingness is overt, you are lucky. Cause and effect reasoning is pretty easy to apply to overtly counter-productive behavioral and emotional ways. If a team member's unwillingness is covert, be careful because the covert, passive aggressive actions - inspiring and manipulating the back channel conversations, feeding the grapevine, talking a happy game in the meeting and not following through - are manifestations of power. Power is little Johnny who gives his younger brother the toy to play with, but decides to give him a punch along with it while Mom is not looking. Little Johnny's and Little Susie's who do not like to share grow up and come to work.

People create a community of shared leadership by being intentional about creating a community of sharing. They intend to share the responsibility of leadership, the process of leadership, the learning of leadership, the actions of leadership, the reach of leadership. The team has to mutually commit to figuring out what our team means by "shared" - what it looks like on a day to day basis, what we understand it to mean, how it defines our thoughts and actions, how we create systems to reinforce what we want to happen in our relationships.

The process to convert a patriarchal view of leadership that is grounded in position on the organizational chart has many stages. The best place to begin is to start with the realization and intention that a team that shares the responsibility for the future of the organization will be able to accomplish and maintain more than one single individual. The first step: intention.

The second step is a question: Who's "in"?

Who's "in" is important. The people that are "in" need to be courageous. They need to risk the discomfort of being vulnerable and intimate with their team members. They need to be curious and open-minded, willing to learn as they go, sometimes in a public way. They need be willing to be wrong and to fail because learning anything new includes replacing old ideas with new, more useful ones. They must learn to reflect because only through reflecting on our own thoughts, skills, and mistakes do we learn.

Being "in" requires a lot, mostly commitment, passion for the cause, faith in the journey, and trust in your team members because they will be your fellow travelers.

Are you "in"? Know what that means, what it entails. And, know that if you are not "in", you are in the way.

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