One of the big themes I heard in this year’s Global Leadership Summit was change.
Bill Hybels talked about changing leaders in succession planning.
Cheryl Sandberg talked about unexpected change in the form of grief and how to help yourself and others through those times.
Fredrik Hansen talked about the accelerating speed of innovation and the importance of creativity. Bryan Stevenson talked about changing the narratives that sustain the problems we are trying to solve. Andy Stanley talked about creating an open culture that recognizes, not resists, “uniquely better” ideas. Juliet Funt talked about changing our calendars to create the whitespace we need. Marcus Buckingham talked about changing the way we evaluate our employees. Gary Haugen challenged us to change from playing defense to offense.
The list goes on… but the point is clear. Change is an unavoidable part of our lives and leadership, and progress is always preceded by change. At its core, leadership is about moving people towards some change that they may be reluctant to make, but you have to help them see a better future. I will be thrilled if I can change the following three practices in my leadership based on all the amazing content.
1. Create a culture that recognizes and embraces “uniquely better” ideas.
Andy Stanley taught us that discovering “uniquely better” is nearly impossible, especially in successful organizations. Those organizations don’t usually have the problems that produce uniquely better solutions. I am a very pragmatic person, and I know my tendency to critique ideas too harshly or too quickly will not create the kind of culture Andy described. He gave us four ideas.
- Be a student, not a critic. “Never criticize something I don’t understand.”
- Keep your eyes and mind wide open. He asked us the uncomfortable question, “When was the last time your organization embraced a big idea that wasn’t yours (the leader)?”
- Replace “How?” with “Wow!” “’Wow ideas to life,’ don’t ‘how’ them to death.” Try to meet every new idea with the statement, “Wow, tell me more.” He challenged us to take this to heart as parents too.
- Ask uniquely better questions.
2. Use more stretch assignments to grow my team and myself.
This practice could genuinely develop my leadership more than my team’s. As a recovering control freak, I was challenged by Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google, who said, “Give people more freedom than you are comfortable with.”
Angela Duckworth, the author of the book Grit, unpacked “deliberate practice,” which involves: 1) setting a stretch goal, 2) focusing 100% on that goal, 3) getting feedback, and 4) reflect, refine, and repeat.
I need to give my team the opportunity to grow more through difficult assignments, I know they will rise to the occasion, and I will create margin to focus on my highest value contributions. Speaking of margin…
3. Beware of the thieves stealing my whitespace.
Although I am relentless about blocking key priorities on my calendar, any space that is left unfilled is consumed with email. The “pause” or what Juliet Funt calls “whitespace” is, in her words, “our source of professional power.” The four “thieves” that steal most of our whitespace are 1) Drive, 2) Excellence, 3) Information, and 4) Activity. All four seem harmless on the surface but can become destructive in mass quantities. While I’ve been guilty of all four, “excellence” is my biggest thief, and Juliet challenged us to defeat it with the question, “Where is ‘good enough,’ good enough?”
The GLS set a new personal best this year with an amazing lineup. I think it would be a great investment for you to buy the videos for your team. You will not regret it.