A brief chat about conscious business…
“The old leadership models increasingly no longer apply. A new type of conscious leader is emerging whose style is fit for 21st century purpose.” Jamie Pyper
There’s been a lot written on leadership in recent years. We’ve heard of visionary leaders, charismatic leaders, strategic leaders, and even servant-leaders. Less has been written about conscious leaders. Conscious Leaders lead conscious businesses.
A conscious business is a business that is able to sense internally and externally in real time. It is awake and aware, a bit like a person, not just in its “head” but also in its ability to sense emotions and act on intuitions. A conscious business is led, not only by one or more leaders but also by leadership as an inherent process. Leadership can arise in different people, at different times in a conscious business, even though there may be people designated with the more permanent role or title of “leader”. In a conscious business, leadership never becomes stuck in habits. It is flexible and emergent. Leadership is a conscious activity inasmuch as it forms itself appropriately around organisational needs.
The leader in a conscious business will tend to exhibit some identifiable behaviours that reflect the notion of being “conscious”. Here we present some of the major elements of conscious leadership that we have identified so far in working with conscious businesses largely in an European context.
Nine Characteristics of a Conscious Business Leaders
Conscious Business Leaders…
…are reflective, and invest in lifetime learning
…act as enablers not dictators
… distribute power where it is needed
… share credit
… share knowledge
… are collaborative
… are future focused
… invest in relationships with all stakeholders
… are awake and responsive to real need rather than a filter for their own ego
Conscious Business Leaders are reflective, and invested in lifetime learning
Too many businesses are almost compulsively in ‘action mode’ for too much of the time. Too many leaders tend to equate “busyness” with productive business. Yet silence is vital in so many areas of performance. The silence of a pause in a play, and the silence of resting after a long day. Silence and pausing are the essential spaces between activity. They are opportunities to pause to reflect. When we reflect on our experience we can turn that reflection in learning; we can develop wisdom from experience. That wisdom can be put to good use, but only if we take time to reflect. Reflection is an essential part of the ‘cycle of learning’. Reflection helps us to harvest wisdom from experience.
A conscious leader experiences reflection as being as essential as being active. Reflection is the means of making action more productive and effective, via the process of learning that arises: Learning from mistakes, learning from success, identifying knowledge and skills gaps, developing new insights for innovation.
Reflection is a life time process, necessary as long as we are in action. A conscious leader practices reflection and ongoing learning and embeds this as a critically importantbehaviour in the rest of the organisation.
Conscious Business Leaders act as enablers not dictators
In a conscious business it is a sign of strong leadership that the leader enables work to get done. This isn’t about ordering people but, instead, encouraging “order” around the realisation of work in action. The leader directs, not the work, but the narrative, holding the role of providing overview when needed, guidance and direction when situations rise into such complexity that a “helicopter view” is needed. The leader inspires others (literally “breathing in”) by acting on behalf of the organisation and sensing externally and internally needs to be done , then becoming the assertive and motivating mouthpiece for it The leader articulates direction through dialogue. The leader holds authority as a role not a rule. Authority is given by the organisation. Leadership is always a response to the organisational and community need. That response will often be proactive, anticipatory. Sometimes it will be reactive, arising from a direct response to urgent, real time signals.
Conscious business leaders, when needed, articulate the conscience of the organisation, encourage its conscientiousness, and raise the quality of its consciousness. A conscious leader waves the flag for the need for the business to act consciously and consistently.
Conscious Business Leaders distribute power where it’s needed
Conscious business leaders are never power-mongers. Power in organisations to the more or less bounded permission and resources to get things done. When power is linked to formal consequences and threat, people are “forced” to comply. When power is born of dialogue and freely given mandate, it becomes “empowerment”. A conscious business leader, with an often unique helicopter view, senses the power needs of the organisation ensuring resources, and mandate to act is located where and when it is needed, with whom and for how long. The culture of the business is one of respecting power to act; power is temporary and moves in different places. In a company making computer games, project leaders may become very powerful at different times. Power is given to enable work to get done, not to boost egos or allow power games. A conscious business leader removes power when it is misused.
A conscious business needs leaders who understand power as resources mandate to act in the best interests of the organisation. It is a skill and draws on negotiation, diplomacy, assertiveness and dialogue. It requires humility and sensitivity, an ability to be flexible and to hold a clear overview. Literally, with this kind of power role, comes great responsibility (Response-ability!).
Conscious Business Leaders share credit
Egoism can be what gets a dream realised. It can also atrophy and become a barrier to consciousness. Conscious Businesses do not set their employees up against each other. Motivation tends towards being intrinsic. Self-motivation is linked overtly, not to bonuses and “prizes” but to organisational need. Employees are committed citizens, freely committing to the organisation’s evolving purposes, exiting when that commitment wanes. Self-esteem arises from personal and collective victories and successes. Naming and celebrating success energises and this is recognised fairly and consistently by conscious business leaders. Conscious business leaders are “tuned into” the local challenges of individuals and teams, as well as the overall business goals. When success is realised, celebration is specific and aimed at authentic recognition and motivation. Conscious leaders do not take the credit for the hard locally based work. Credit is also shared openly so that local learning from success can take place fully and usefully.
Conscious Business Leaders share knowledge
Knowledge is a vital part of internal and external “sensing” in a conscious business. Conscious business leaders ensure that knowledge is located where and when it is needed, in the right form and with as much clarity, accessibility and accuracy as possible. Knowledge is never couched in bullshit and unnecessary acronyms. Knowledge is never “tossed over the wall” nor is there information obfuscation or overload. Knowledge sharing is focused on learning, proactivity, needed reaction and innovation. Often a conscious business leader ensures that the right “inquiry” is taking place – targeting research and the asking of questions to elicit further knowledge. Conscious business leaders foster a climate of openness to enable knowledge sharing. Staff are trained to knowledge share effectively, and the conscious business leader leads by example.
Conscious Business Leaders are collaborative
A conscious business does not respect departmental or functional boundaries that inhibit openness, learning and flexibility. Roles and job descriptions are designed to capture the needs of the moment, and are never fixed forever. A collaborative culture pervades, through skilled overlap between systems, shared access to knowledge as needed. Collaboration involves developing trusting group behaviours, internally and externally. Trust is a core value and forms part of the leadership’s strategic agenda. Conscious Business Leaders do not lock themselves away on office, are accessible and treat others as colleagues, bot subordinates, trusting that their “strategic leadership role” will be honoured and respected. When don’t mind being told what to do because they trust the role of the leader and “suspend disbelief” in favour of longer term trust. Equally, there is no collusion of niceness, and feedback is welcomed in ALL directions.
The business uses collaborative platforms (including digital platforms) that foster collaboration, seeking synergy where collaboration creates a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.
Conscious Business Leaders are future focused
Through a culture of continuous learning, the conscious business leader harvests learning from the past, clearly senses emerging business needs in the present, and then ensures a realistic and inspiring vision is created, shared, agreed, and regularly reviewed. This vision is based on a pathway into the future that the organisation is awake to and committed to. Consensus has been reach where, even if there is disagreement, all have authentically committed to the plan of action.
The future begins to reveal itself and the conscious leader articulates this, adapting to it, and ensuring the vision is never unhinged from emerging “reality”. This is always openly shared and also open to correction from real time feedback from internal and external “viewpoints”
The future is never framed in unrealistic dreams and, though the leader may offer a “vision” for the organisation, sometimes this vision will be offered by other people inside or outside the organisation. Not all conscious business leaders are personally “visionary”; some will articulate and realise the vision created by other connected to the enterprise. In all cases, the vision is drawn from a clear picture of the “future”.
Conscious Business Leaders invest in relationships with all stakeholders
A conscious business is only “conscious” in terms of the relationships that help it to sense effectively internally and externally. Conscious Business Leaders are an overview “hub” for that dialogue, ensuring that relationship nurture the quality of its consciousness as an organisation. A conscious business leader ensures that all of its stakeholders are able to give useful and often vital input into the organisation’s strategy and activities. Suppliers feel safe to be open and honest, and share in the schedules of the business, able to plan and innovative in harmonious ways. Customer feedback becomes part of the lifeblood of innovation.
The conscious business leader invests time and resources into the development of partnerships that enable learning, knowledge sharing, innovation, and the lean and effective use of resources.
Conscious Business Leaders are awake and responsive to real need rather than a filter for their own ego
Being a leader of a conscious business requires that leader to work on themselves – to remain awake and self-aware, in tandem with the organisation they lead. A conscious business leader will regularly “check in” with others, may have a mentor, and will seek out feedback on their own biases.
Conscious business leaders are humble. Their humility ensures that their own ego doesn’t become a distorting filter for truth.This humility doesn’t mean they are weak or lacking in assertiveness; quite the opposite, conscious business leaders need to be highly responsive, prepared to challenge and to keep challenging, prepared to be formal and directive if needed. But this comes from organisational, not personal need. Conscious business leaders regularly check in with their own behaviour, attitudes and ensure their personal and professional development harmonises with unfolding change in the organisations they lead./
Some other elements of Conscious Business Leadership
In our own research into, reflections on, and conversations with conscious business leaders, we’ve identified a range of other characteristics and attitudes that conscious business leaders often exhibit.
Conscious Business Leaders…
show a willingness to take mindful risks (they do not habitually flee fro risk-taking, nor do they rashly court danger)
are eager listeners
demonstrate a passion for the cause (the core values and reason for the organisation’s existence)
are optimistic about the future (though this never clouds realism, they focus on the energising nature of consciously derived optimism)
find ways of simplifying complex situations for staff (because confusion born of over-complexity inhibits consciousness)
prepare for how they are going to handle conflict and difficulty well in advance (they are not fire-fighters)
Recognize that there are some people or organisations aren’t easy to partner with (so mavericks and introverts are employed openly and for known and agreed reasons with reasonable adjustments made)
Have the courage to act for the long term
Actively manage the tension between focusing on delivery and on building relationships
Invest in strong personal relationships at all levels (recognising uniqueness and the nuances of people)
Inject energy, passion and drive into their leadership style (as they hold a unique, strategic “whole picture” and are often first readers of “urgency” and priority)Have the confidence to share the credit generously
- Continually develop your interpersonal skills, in particular: empathy, patience, tenacity, holding difficult conversations, and coalition building.
There are, undoubtedly, many other characteristics of conscious business leaders. Our nine-item check list above offers an attempt at a holistic view of conscious business leadership. We are continually adding to the list and developing it.
Contact Jamie Pyper at Conscious Business UK for a further conversation to develop conscious leadership in your business. See this for courses around Conscious Business.Visit the Conscious Business Realm
This is a great piece of research from CASS Business School. It shows that employee owned companies are at least as resilient as non-EOB’s in good times but have a huge advantage in hard times such as recession, outperforming non-EOB’s in growth, turnover, profits, productivity, etc.
It’s short, to the point and there are graphs and picture to make it easier to digest. So why not have a read…
Cross-posted from Paul Levy’s Rational Madness blog here.
According to Jamie, a regular café converser with CATS3000’s Paul Levy, conscious business uses “Common Sense to change the way business is done.” Here Paul has elaborated Jamie’s powerful eleven point checklist and the call is now out for your input!
Comment: You’ll notice a certain take on what common sense means in the set of behaviours Jamie outlines below. These behaviours embody a useful checklist for being a conscious business. Jamie and his colleagues at Conscious Business People work with organisations to help bring this consciousness about.
Pyper’s Eleven Elements of a Conscious Business
A conscious business behaves in the following ways:
- Uses plain speaking
- Is more profitable
- Is always applying common sense
- Is a place where everyone wins
- Is always grounded in evidence based stuff that works and is proven
- Tolerates no bullshit
- Lives a philosophy that is easy to grasp and apply
- Believes that Anyone can do it
- Is designed around simple idiot-proof concepts
- Is a popular place to work: People love it
- Continues to learn and develop
Let’s dive further into these…
1. Uses plain speaking
The language of a conscious business supports that consciousness. This is a jargon and bullshit free organisation. The language of the business is aimed at clarity, understanding and reflects as true a picture of what is going on internally and externally as possible. People speak plainly, say what they think and how they feel in a culture that encourages and values openness and honesty
2. Is more profitable
A conscious business has a real time clear picture of its processes. It knows what things costs and is mindful of resources. It uses only the resources that are needed to get work done and to deliver products and services to customers. It is lean, though never mean. It is more profitable because it minimises costs and all of its processes are energy efficient. Things are not minimised for their own sake, but rather optimised leading to processes that deliver excellence.Being conscious of costs, processes and the dynamics of value creation all feed into the profitability of a conscious business.
3. Is always applying common sense
Common sense is a core ethic in the business. Common sense is the shared language and practice that makes sense to all employees and those with a stake in the organisation. Common sense is the common ground on which everyone meets in practice. People understand the logic of the business – why we do things the way we do. There is a regularly updating dialogue within the business and with its community about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and how it could be done better.
4. Is a place where everyone wins
Organisations exist for the benefit of all their stakeholders. A conscious business does not play the game of win and lose. It seeks to create authentic value in ways that allow it to sustain itself, thrive, and ensure that those who depend on it thrive in ways that allow them to further feed their energy, feedback and commitment into it
5. Is always grounded in evidence based stuff that works and is proven
A conscious business doesn’t guess. It measures what needs to be measured, collects and shares information as necessary that is relevant and useful. It collects and shares stories in order to learn from experience. It builds information into evidence to inform further decisions and actions.
6. Tolerates no bullshit
A conscious business is grounded in truthfulness. It makes a virtue of accurate data, and rewards directly accessible truth. People tell the truth, never fudge nor engage in spin. Language doesn’t only have to be technical The conversation can be humorous, motivating but is always motivated by a sense of honesty and truth. People trust what they hear in a conscious business, wherever and whoever it comes from.
7. Lives a philosophy that is easy to grasp and apply
The mission of the business is clear to all. We know why we do what we do. Motives aren’t hidden but out in the open. Products and services have a clear and well-articulated underlying philosophy. The people in the business are aware of, and committed to the values of the business and this is reflected in their consistent, freely applied daily behaviour. Each person lives the philosophy, because they want to, not because they have to.
8. Believes that anyone can do it
A conscious business does not shroud its approach in jargon and mystique. Grounded in common sense it believes that everyone from the product designer to the managing director, to the security guard can practice conscious business. Consciousness is accessible to all of us, regardless of income or qualifications. We can all reflect on what we do, speak openly, honestly, observe and learn, share information, and apply what we know mindfully and carefully, as well as consistently and truthfully. We can all be open to feedback, responsive and keen to question and input.
9. Is designed around simple idiot proof concepts
The core ideas and processes in a conscious business are articulated clearly, never too dependent on one personality, can be learned from simple documentation regularly updated and innovated as needed. There is a culture of prevention – preventing things going wrong and learning from mistakes in a fear-free culture. Ideas need not be over-complex and the business puts value on simplicity and clarity. Processes tend to be mapped in pictures rather than over-wordy text. Media are used skilfully and processes are designed in smart ways that help task completion in problem-free ways.
10. Is a popular place to work: People love it
A conscious business is a motivated, energising place of respect. There are no hidden agendas. Irritations are brought out in the open. The working environment is light, vibrant and reflects people being open and up for change when it is needed. Work space is flexible, creative and there are times and spaces for refreshment and reflection. The business feels honest and a trusting place to work. People love what they do because it reflects their own authentic sense of self. And yes, the “L” word! People love the business and love working in it.
11. Continues to learn and develop
There’s a culture that values curiosity. We learn from mistakes and are open to the new. Ideas can come from anyone or anywhere and at any time but tend to be timed and focused on emerging business challenges and questions. Feedback and dialogue inform steady state and consistency over time. New skills, new knowledge evolve as needed. We know what we don’t know quickly and this becomes our learning agenda. The business feels as if it is always updating, changing when needed, and staying “in touch”.
There are probably more. We welcome your input to these. A conscious business is also conscious that there is no such thing as a checklist cast in stone in a dynamic world!
The checklist can form the beginning of a real and potentially ground-breaking conversation for an organisation that would like to call itself a conscious business. It can create some challenging debate on a leadership team and can also mark start of a turnaround for an organisation in crisis.
An Activity – How Do You Measure Up?
1. Score yourself above out of 10 on where you feel you are on each of the elements of the Conscious Business Wheel. Shade each segment from the centre, outwards, where the centre is zero and the circle perimeter is 10. Be honest.
2. Pick one that you would like to improve:
3. Reflect on what you are going to do to improve that score. (Plenty of resources on this site to help you!)
- What will get in your way?
- What support will you need to overcome it?
Contact Jamie for a further conversation or leave a comment below.
In its short history, the human race has achieved some magnificent things. But together we’ve also created a host of complex, and very serious, social and environmental problems.
Of the three powerful forces in society – business, the public/charitable sector, and politics/religion/media – I believe it is only business which has the power and the flexibility to address these problems.
Power because of its reach – the ability to touch many lives, even from a small base.
Flexibility because only business seems to be currently capable of transforming itself – reinventing itself. Away from greed and personal profit and towards really addressing those broader, much more important problems. Above all, business listens, and people are crying out for change.
But change alone isn’t enough. Too often change just means small improvements to delivering the status quo. We need ‘step-change’ – real transformation. Transformation is beyond change – it means adopting a new purpose, and a completely new way of operating, with new energy.
I am reminded of the story of one visitor to Ray Anderson’s visionary company Interface. A fork-lift truck driver, working for a company that makes office carpets, after helping her all he can, tells the visitor he must get on, because he’s “busy saving the planet”.
That is the new kind of energy we need in business people. Energy released by belief in a new kind of purpose.
How do we get there? As the author Jeanette Winterson said in her New Year resolution: “It is important to work out what is important. Living consciously has never mattered more.”
Individually and collectively we need to raise our consciousness. To become part of the group who are trying to transform things, systemically, radically – at the root.
We need to become more aware of what matters, why it matters, and what we can do, and are doing, about it.
And often are not doing. We need to become aware of our habits and the other things that hold us back. Conscious of our failings, as well as our successes. That means internal, personal work. As much as putting our heads above the parapet.
There are many, many people on this journey. It is not my place to tell you what you should do. But I can tell you what we are doing.
We are building a business – Conscious Business People – that helps leaders discover a more important purpose, a transformational purpose for themselves and their businesses.
Then we help those leaders develop transformational strategy, structure and culture – to create businesses that are part of the solution. Businesses with positive purpose, and radically better behaviours. Businesses with a new, more positive, more sustainable energy.
We help businesses and the people in them become more conscious, and stay that way.
Many will say this is foolhardy, it will never succeed. That mixing business with purpose is simply wrong and doomed to failure. But I think it’s the only game in town. The only game worth playing.
I’d love to know what you think, what you’re doing to “save the planet”.
Happy New Year.
If you’d like to get a handle on some of the deeper thinking around Conscious Business, you might find it useful to buy and download a copy of the latest issue of eO&P.
We think this is probably a world first – an issue of an academic journal dedicated entirely to Conscious Business.
e Organisations and People is the quarterly journal of AMED – the Association for Management Education and Development. If you download a copy you’ll be supporting its work:
“AMED is a long-established membership organisation and educational charity devoted to developing people and organisations. Its purpose is to be a forum for people who want to share, learn and experiment, and find support, encouragement, and innovative ways of communicating. Our conversations are open, constructive, and facilitated.”
What I really like about AMED is its focus on research and practice.
Remember Everett Rogers’ bell curve – the diffusion of innovation? If you’re at all interested in Conscious Business you’re probably an innovator or an early adopter. Conscious business is still very early in the adoption life-cycle – indeed the term only really emerged a few years back.
Now research is really useful, but I believe that research combined with testing, practice, experimentation is the way to really get to the heart of a new innovation.
To find out what it is good for. It’s strengths and weaknesses. How to mitigate those weaknesses. How to refine it – and pivot if necessary.
I believe it is only through real immersion in the practice of something that we can properly get to know it.
eO&P is not a peer-reviewed journal. I like that too.
Peer-review has its strengths. But Kuhn’s famous work on paradigm change has shown us that there are dangers too – that elites can, for example, suppress the emergence of new ideas. And that this can slow innovation and hence paradigm change.
And boy do we need a new paradigm for business
Most of the academic publishing houses seem to be very conventional businesses. Where will the energy to overturn the existing paradigms come from, if not from us?
And the authors did a fantastic job too. Some had written for journals before but for others it was a totally new experience. All brought their practical, hands-on experience as well as critical thought to the project. We’re really proud of every piece, and of the overall outcome.
I’d also really like to thank the publisher of eO&P, Bob MacKenzie and everybody at AMED (especially David McAra) for their massive help and support during the publishing process. We’re currently starting work on the next edition and we’re looking forward to that collaboration too.
So please take the trouble to download a copy, or better still if you are really interested in supporting the development of management and leadership education please consider joining AMED. There’s an annual subscription option at their website.
Laziness is my primary motivator when empowering others. If a thing is worth doing, I believe it’s worth getting someone else to do it.
This, however, is not as self indulgent as it might seem. I know that as a leader one of the first things I need to learn is to let go and trust others to get on with it.
I have not always been very good at this. However, over the years I have learnt why my old, more controlling ‘I’ll do it for you’ ways don’t really work and why empowering others is essential.
First off, lets look at confidence. My mother’s “Let me do that for you darling” – while I’m performing some simple task like making a cup of tea – is probably meant as an act of kindness. How I actually feel it is: “I am an idiot that can’t be trusted to make tea, despite the years of apparent evidence to the contrary.”
This not only irritates me but it also kicks my confidence, as it’s a tacit implication that I’m incompetent. There’s a subtlety to it though because cognitively I know I’m not, however I still irrationally feel it at some level and feelings tend to beat thoughts.
Learning is another key benefit of empowerment. In today’s fast moving, customer-centric world it is essential that everybody learns, and learns fast. Best of all is when they are so confident and engaged they take responsibility and drive their own learning.
When it comes to learning new things Mum is very much of the school of “probably shouldn’t try as it’s likely to be too difficult”. For me this is less than ideal. When I’m learning, what I really want is lots of encouragement and belief, as this helps me push through the self doubt.
Challenge is also very important to us. Solving something like a crossword puzzle or winning a video game is all the evidence we really need for this. Overcoming challenges helps us grow our self belief (or confidence) and it usually gives us a little frisson of excitement, and a sense of deeper resilience.
So why is empowerment so important? In my quest for a work free life, it is fairly obvious that once I let someone do something little – like a task I have handed them – then I can give them more and more responsibility – until ultimately they are acting more like a leader themselves.
Effective leaders actively offer responsibility by distributing leadership power among the people that need it, allowing leadership to occur where it is needed most, often in the front line of business. Most importantly this helps get a lot more done. It’s also likely to help teams be happier, more engaged and show more initiative.
It’s also probably helpful to think of leadership more as how you enable others to do what they need to do and then get the hell out of the way.
Although this is obvious in theory it can be quite hard to get right in practice. If you’re a control freak, for example, not only are you likely to be killing off your team’s motivation and innovation but you are likely to need more than a little help overcoming this urge.
A good and challenging place to start is delegation, and to get good at that. The more you are able to do this the more you are getting closer to allowing others around you to lead.
Inexperienced or untrained managers are most at risk of sabotaging themselves and their attempts to delegate.
The problem is, even if you are a ninja level engineer with technical insight gifted seemingly from the gods, management requires a totally and utterly different skill set and will exercise very different personality traits and emotional muscles, including some you might not have developed yet.
Many organisations miss this obvious fact and expect people to just figure it out, without proper investment in management training or personal development.
Not knowing how to be effective as a manager (common in those newly promoted to management) and without any help from those around them, before long the freshly challenged become frustrated and revert to what they do know – in this case “engineering”. They then start interfering with the “engineering” people in their teams are trying to do – showing them how they are doing it wrong and how the new boss can do it better.
As I said above, the thing most likely to undermine my confidence, motivation and general goodwill is poorly veiled criticism over my shoulder. Every “suggestion”, implies that I’m doing something wrong and thus can’t be trusted to perform the simple thing in front of me. And so I disengage.
Psychologically, I’m in a “double bind”: I’m feeling things are wrong even though I can see my way is working or valid. So I stop trying – because I’m wrong either way. I’ll go and look at what my friends on Facebook are doing instead.
Challenge is also removed – if my manager does take over and do my work for me. I lose the opportunity to learn. And, of course, I now believe he thinks I’m an idiot, so trust between us is destroyed.
It is worst of all when this exists at the top of hierarchies. Perhaps we are genetically predisposed to look up the hierarchy for tips on how to behave. So if someone senior is guilty of micromanagement, this crime can infuse the organisation below them like an unwanted inheritance.
An antidote follows. Let’s imagine the team player we’re delegating to is called Bob and he reports to me. Here is a way to set up delegation, broadly in line with the approach espoused by the late Stephen Covey. This is a mechanism that should catch any possible derailment and put the task back on track.
Bigger picture: I help Bob understand where he and what he’s doing fits into the bigger picture. What the organisation he is part of is trying to achieve. This taps into Bob’s sense of purpose and connects the task he’s achieving with that broader purpose. The context also helps him understand the implications if he does not get it done.
Ownership: I give Bob total ownership of the task. It’s up to him to get it done. This is so he is clear that no one else is responsible for achieving the desired outcome. No one is going to pick up his toys or tie his shoelaces for him. The buck stops with him. Essentially this is an invitation for him to “step up to the plate” of responsibility.
Expectations and Results: I also make sure Bob is very clear about what kind of results are expected. This will be helped if Bob already understands the bigger picture. It’s even better to ask Bob to consider the position of the other stakeholders and figure out what a good outcome for all might be.
For example, Bob might decide he needs to finish the project on time with a high quality, technically robust solution, and on, or under, budget.
Booby Traps: If there are some big obvious pitfalls in front of Bob then it’s only fair to warn him of these in advance so he can try to avoid them.
Support: If Bob is experiencing any problems, is unclear or struggling with the task, or if the delivery of the project is in jeopardy, I make it clear I am available to support to him to get through it, or to re-agree expectations. But I definitely am not going to do it for him.
Mistakes: Bob will undoubtedly make plenty of mistakes, we all do. This will help him learn and become more resourceful and do his job better, especially if all “mistakes” as are treated as learning opportunities. Not with punishment or disapproval, but with encouragement and support.
Feedback: Feedback should be a gift not a weapon. If given as a gift your teams will grow, develop and make you look good. If used as a weapon then your groups will regress, be generally unhappy and perform badly – they will be fearful of taking risks or “getting it wrong”. This kills innovation, creativity and energy.
Finally, having set all this up, you now need to live by the rules you’ve created. Again this is basically because “monkey see, monkey do”. Other people will do as you do, not as you say. Any ambiguity also creates “wriggle room” – space to allow people to wriggle out of their responsibility. However, if you are consistently well boundaried and do what you’ve said you will do, the opportunity for others to wriggle will be minimised.