We are working on Big Things this year with all my clients. The energy of stepping up and leaning in is rife and dazzling.
Big Things need Big Ideas to bring them to life. Here’s what’s on the table for captains of industry, mavens of business, wizards of enterprise. These are the folks who are going Boundless – achieving more with less struggle. They are busting blocks, bridging gaps, and sailing past the headland to wild seas beyond. These are the Big Ideas they are using to keep them steady through turbulence.
Now more than ever businesses need a solid Team Compass to guide their focus and their effort. We need a solid and resonant purpose that moves beyond punching time sheets and word processing. We need to feel useful and part of something bigger and better and useful for the planet. Make work mean something.
A Team Compass has four points:
• North: values – what we care about
• East: purpose – who we serve
• South: qualities – how we behave
• West: results – what we do for the people we serve
Boundless teams use their compass to get them through the toughest of days, the darkest of challenges. They refer to it in their team meetings. They use it to formulate strategy. They print it on their coffee mugs.
Boundless teams and leaders are ferocious in their scrutiny of what gets in their way. They scrub the decks cleaning away clunky systems, duplication, and wastage of all sorts. They flatten hierarchies and streamline process. They are vigilant about the perils of the status quo leading them blindly in to the doldrums. They are ruthless with sacred cows that do nothing but lumber along and take up space.
They look for his or her own internal blocks similarly. They scrutinies beliefs and assumptions that keep them lazy and contented . they’re conscious of mutiny and also the lessons that escort it – of leadership gone wide, of selections created while not enough rigour.
They are nimble sailors, adjusting sails quickly to prevailing conditions.
Boundless teams know where they are heading and see the gap ahead. They are rigorous in their self-assessment and are honest about the skills they lack and the capacities they need to hone. They eat humility pancakes for breakfast and knuckle down to do the work that matters. They ask questions. They seek help. They explore perspectives. They read extensively. They embrace feedback. They journal to capture lessons. They journal to interrogate thinking.
They are not alone. They know that more heads give more value. They distill wisdom from the experience of others and invite contradiction to help sharpen their thinking. They are committed to excuse free living. They practice open hearted presence. They look after themselves extremely well so there is more of themselves to give.
Avoid Nasty Mutiny As the New Boss
Let’s face it, when we finally get that role we’ve been seeking as leader in an amazing organisation, we can’t wait to get our hands dirty and put our stamp on the place. After all, that’s why they hired us, right? To bring new perspective from different experience. We’re meant to improve things. They expect change.
Here’s what happens:
The existing staff wait anxiously for our changes. Most of the time they expect change for change’s sake. They know that while we mean well, we are going to want to do it our way. And not theirs. It can feel adversarial from the start.
The new boss can also be seen as a saviour. Huge expectations to right all wrongs can be placed at our feet. This too can set us up for failure. High expectations precipitate big disappointment if we don’t deliver.
If there has been a rapid succession of predecessors, each leaving in rushed circumstances, this can leave teams exhausted, change weary. Cynicism oozes through the day.
Conversely, if we are replacing a well-loved, well-known, and long-serving boss, we can run headlong in to nostalgia born of familiarity. It can feel like fighting a ghost.
Regardless of which scenario we find ourselves walking in to, here is what we can do to build bridges and not burn them with our new teams:
Give yourself 100 days.
It takes that long to look, listen, and learn. Take advantage of your fresh eyes, of seeing things from an untainted perspective. Ask ‘why’ for what you observe. Be curious about the development of practices and traditions rather than judgmental. Pay attention to culture flags, the symbols that mean something to the team. Listen to the language people use. What is the tone and key themes? Map the social dynamics. Where are the alliances, the power groups, the real influencers?
Find out what matters.
Undertake a culture survey and find out your employer net promoter score. How much will staff promote the workplace as a good place to work? What words do they use to describe the culture? What is most important to them to keep in place? What are the things they want changed?
Invite them to play.
We might be the new boss, but they’ve been the ones keeping the place ticking over. Invite them to be part of building on what has gone before.
Do intention and language hygiene.
Pay attention to how you describe the new team and staff. Are your words full of criticism? Do you find yourself judging them? It’s natural to see areas for improvement when we first come on board. We need to be careful that this does not turn in to evaluation without enough context. It may be that some team members are not performing at the level we wish them to. They might not have the attitude and ability we feel we need to build the new plan. Be careful that this assessment does not turn to disdain. This attitude can seep through our pores and people will smell our scorn. This is a surefire way to breed anxiety and cripple the culture.