Q: Can control and stability be identified as one of the challenges facing leadership? If yes, in what way?
A: It was time to depart from the known and venture into the uncertainty associated with launching a new firm. To make this transition successful, I turned to the most practical source for creating the extraordinary I know: The Leadership Challenge. The Five Practices model provided a clear and reassuring road map for navigating through the many thorny control and stability issues of this significant professional transition.
Model the Way: Selling my firm forced me to engage the first commitment of this practice—to find my voice by clarifying my personal values—and to deal with beliefs, perceptions, and values I hadn't given voice to. As to the second one—to set an example for others by aligning actions with shared values—I've learned that there are only three healthy options leaders have for making this commitment real. I call them the three Rs:
- Resolve to take meaningful and intentional steps to produce a positive outcome
- Resign yourself to the situation remaining the same and do so without being a victim
- Remove yourself from the situation
Choosing option three is a courageous act for any leader and requires clarity and commitment about one's core values. When I work with other leaders now, I ask them to show me how their values show up on a weekly basis. If they don't show up, the values espoused aren't really core values or a tremendous amount of energy is being expended to behave in ways misaligned with core values. In either case, there is a deeper conversation to be had.
Inspire a Shared Vision: Having a bigger yes to guide me was essential. I found myself no longer able to squelch the small inner voice saying; "you know this is not what you want." I needed a compelling and larger yes to say yes to. Otherwise, I would continue to say no to the changes I knew were awaiting me. This practice, for me, also is about having a compelling and inspiring yes that pulls me forward. Without this, I say yes to projects and people that require too much energy and leave me drained. To help me get clear about my bigger yes I asked three fundamental questions about my work:
- Who do I want to be at work? How do I want to show up?
- What is my purpose for being here at ABC Corporation? (Hint: No, it's not my title!)
- What am I doing on a daily basis to create number two? (Here's where the second commitment of Model the Way shows up yet again.)
Answering these questions gave me the resolve to take the next step on my journey.
Challenge the Process: This practice reminded me that searching for new opportunities, for experimenting, and taking risks is essential for leaders and would be essential in my transition. Reframing the challenges of non-compete agreements and client lists could be seen as limiting my success, or as a catalyst for me to become my best. I chose the latter.
It also reminded me of the importance of creating a next personal best. Without the framework of striving for a personal best it is far too easy to fall back on old patterns and simply replicate what had been done in the past.
Enabling Others to Act: Although this practice is focused on enabling employees or associates, it is equally powerful when directed to us as leaders. My next personal best required that I ask what needed to be done to launch an extraordinarily successful consulting practice. In order for me to do my best work I needed to hire the most successful coach and mentor I knew. Someone whose insight and expertise I trusted, who would help me overcome the inevitable obstacles.
Enabling leaders to act requires that leaders have a coach and/or mentor. Leadership is a lonely business and leaders need someone that is fully committed to helping them achieve something noteworthy and remarkable.
Encourage the Heart: I recently had the pleasure of sharing a podium with Roger Staubach, renowned quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys—a big day for me and a milestone in promoting my practice. But without missing a beat, when the event was over I was back in my office reviewing the speech, looking for what had gone well and what hadn't. I created an extensive list of what to "fix" and set out to do just that. And then I spoke with my mentor who admonished me for not taking time to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishment. Without my mentor's support, I wouldn't have celebrated my success. With my Scottish Catholic upbringing, I'd learned to place more emphasis on working hard and fulfilling obligations—the type of thinking that doesn't serve me well when striving for the extraordinary.
Leaders must find a way to celebrate accomplishments. Whether watching a matinee with the kids, enjoying a favorite bottle of wine or dinner with a significant other—a meaningful reward after accomplishing something noteworthy is essential. Without this recognition we become human doings versus human beings.
As leaders we understand the benefits of The Five Practices, but oftentimes neglect having them actively engaged day-to-day. If change is certain and growth is optional, having them alive in our work lives is guaranteed to enhance the growth of any leader.
Hugh Blane is President of Seattle-based Claris Consulting and a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop. A former Senior Consultant with The Tom Peters Group, his 27+ years of experience includes work inside such leading organizations as Spacelabs Medical, KPMG, Costco, Starbucks and Microsoft. He can be reached at Hugh@clarisconsulting.net.