How do leaders make meaning and illuminate possibility when they are in the same experience as their teams? Are you a leader in a company where the culture is to avoid complex situations or become frozen in accelerated change? Most of us seek liberation when we experience the chaos in change – not really getting the company vision or wanting to the follow the new leader’s directions and often we resist the new mandates. We make it personal. We’ve been compensated for knowledge and now we are all crashing into how much we really don’t know. We seem to get caught up in the tension between complexity and simplicity, instead of becoming inquisitive. Yet, when we are accessing our genius, it often comes out of our complete exhaustion of trying to do things the way we always have. Inquiring minds want to make sense out of the senseless. That’s what happened with senior manager, Bill.
Bill recently inherited a team that survived five company mergers in less than two years, resulting in his pharma company becoming one of the top five in the world. Once a small company, Bill knew everyone personally and loved getting to the office. As the company grew, younger people from biotech and research companies began merging into more than just the company letterhead. No one seemed happy. No one smiled. There was a sense of competition for how the jobs would be vetted, so everyone put their heads down, focusing on mobile devices. Bill inherited new and different people every few months. He became disheartened, just like those he was responsible for leading.
When it seemed most challenging, Bill was invited to participate in a team coaching process for himself and his team. He worked with one of our team’s experienced coaches who had personally survived many company mergers. The coach helped Bill focus on three things:
- View the chaos swirling around him as an opportunity
- Set an extraordinary goal with his team – focused on what he and the team could control
- Agree to team coaching to harness the team’s energy and activity in ways that gave them a sense of control and winning
The end of this story is simple. Bill and his team worked with their coach for 16 weeks focusing all activity around a stretch goal, one they created that was bigger than the company expected. The coach supported Bill in partnership to embrace daily challenges and view them as a place of creation. This allowed Bill to see his role in a new light, removing obstacles and providing clarity and focus. At the end of the four months of team coaching, there was a new hum of activity. Team members were energized and felt like their contributions really mattered. The quarterly revenue numbers were published and Bill’s team had delivered almost double the sales of what the next team was delivering.
If you are leading teams, consider the four things Bill learned:
- Change your mindset: View the chaos as a sign to become wholeheartedly curious.
- Gather the team and create a team charter for how to work together.
- Focus on one single outcome: One thing that will give everyone a sense of control, and line up your activities around that single focus.
- Integrate work and play. Find ways to reward even small victories.
This could actually be the most magnificent time to lead teams. Simplifying leadership in a coach approach provides a one-word answer in this quest for cutting through the swirl in accelerated change. That word is “curiosity.”
Instead of being paid for knowledge, wouldn’t it be interesting if we compensated leaders for their curiosity and the ability to coach their teams to see chaos and change as a starting point for innovation and genius contribution? Each leader would have clarity of focus and in turn energize others by raising the most obvious and pressing questions as the first step.
Try exploring this question with your team, “What if we are the ones to lead the company out of this chaos and into the place we all desire to work?”
Stay curious my friends!