Friday, April 15, 2011

Captain May I?

One of the blogs I follow is called Leadership Freak.  Heck, I think the name is enough to warrent a connection, but as it turns out the content is consistently of interest, well said, and thought provoking.

A recent post by Dan Rockwell (the blogger behind Freak) was on a subject which, judging by how fast the comments were coming through the ether was of far more than just passing interest.  The title was How To Go Over The Boss.  Always a great subject for thrill seekers when the nearest bungy jumping site just isn't close enough.

You can check out the post and the interesting comments yourself by clicking here.

Aside from the topic which stuck me as an automatic contender for "Good Luck With That" award for the week if not the year, was one of the comments that was posted by a reader named Debbie who shared a "learning" that she got from a former boss and which she said was one that she has never forgotten and something that reminds her of this boss every time she thinks about the relationship between boss and subordinate.

The statement was " “Question me about anything but my integrity”.

I have no idea who this boss was who said this to Debbie or under what circumstances but my guess is that it was when he was trying to deliver a message on how he hoped (and expected) they could work together.

He was doing somethinig enormously critical when it comes to establishing a working relationship and it has to do with openess, collaboration and permission to disagree when searching for solutions. It is also something that I am sure many in leadership positions feel and want their teams to feel, but what makes this so powerful, I thought, was that he didn't just think it, he said it!

The elegant simplicity of being able to capture so much of his value system in just a seven (7) word statement I found remarkable.  The fact that he chose to say it out loud was equally important and powerful because, if he "walked the talk" as they say, it gave life to what for many leaders unfortunately only remains a thought.

Leaders frequently forgot that unless and until they actually demonstrate to their teams that things really are open to debate and disagreement the implicit intimidation factor remains, and to the degree that it does, the loss of creativity (not to mention productivity) is staggering.

I don't know what your experience has been, but for me, every company I have ever worked for wrote and talked a good deal about encouraging people to take risks, to not fear failure, to challenge the norm, and of course, one of our all-time favorites: think outside the box. 

I have no data whatever to support my hypothosis as to why organizations continue to fall short when it comes to the kind of involement they espose but nonetheles, my theory is that this happens because leaders express things like Debbie's boss did, but then fail to reinforce it early and often. 

When someone holds the power of economic life and death over someone else, it is only human nature for risk taking in almost any form but certainly in terms of challenging the boss to be something very few would entertain unless they were self-destructive by nature or just had been off their meds for an extended period of time.

If the actions of leadership is such that the seven words can and are translated into only one by the team, then the future of that team and that organizaiton portends very well indeed.

Oh, and in case you're interested, I think that word is TRUST, and that, I beleive, was the message Debbie's boss was sending.

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