Servant Leadership: A Diamond in Theory and Practice

It occurred to me recently that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on leadership; and, considering I spend a large portion of my week, nay, my life, conducting leadership activities, conversations, and collaborations, it seemed like just the time to create a new conversation.

In lieu of a diary entry this week, I’m going back to a previous post about servant leadership, and picking up from there, with new eyes, as it were. Meaning, it’s been almost a year since the last post on servant leadership, and I’ve learned a lot about, well, everything in the last year. Update needed.

Ready? Good. Here we go.

What is servant leadership? Good question. Here is the definition.

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.” 

Robert E Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

I like to think about servant leadership as a leadership style that upends traditional notions of what leadership looks, sounds, and feels like. It is, thus, quite different. It is also harder.

Harder because servant leadership incorporates subtle elements of leadership. For instance, the emotional well-being of the self, and each person in the organization, business, and or team are of utmost importance. These more subtle elements of leadership are not always captured in other, more traditional leadership styles.

In order to fully grasp the distinction between traditional leadership, and servant leadership, let’s first take a quick look at organizational hierarchies.

Organizational Hierarchies

In traditional conversations and discussions about servant leadership, it is common to see, read, and hear about the concept of flipping the traditional leadership hierarchy.

Traditional Leadership Hierarchy

Distribution Property Solutions, Inc.

Servant Leadership Hierarchy

Distribution Property Solutions, Inc.

The concept of the inverted triangle, seen above, is common, and while I agree with this concept, in practice, servant leadership actually plays out a little differently.

It plays out in practice differently, because the flow of information happens between everyone all the time, and does not occur in a one-way directionality, as the above example illustrates.

Let’s take a look at what I am pointing to here.

Servant Leadership and Traditional Leadership

In my previous article on servant leadership, I elaborated on the distinction between a traditional approach to leadership, and a servant leadership approach to leadership.

Simply, in many traditional leadership theories, the leader is charged with distilling information, sending it out, and then holding people accountable.

In servant leadership, however, there is a dynamic context created through leadership of the self, of which all members of the team are responsible, creating a synergy of relationships and communication.

And, yet, even in the inverted servant leadership triangle, we see that the flow of information is distinguished with arrows, which still have a one-way directionality. As we will see in the next section, this concept is inadequate to fully describe how servant leadership is practiced.

Servant Leadership in Practice: A Diamond in Theory and Practice

In a context where servant leadership is practiced, information and communication is free flowing, collaborative, authentic, vulnerable, safe, and accountable. All of these things are true.

Information and Communication

Information does not flow from the top alone, as in a traditional leadership hierarchical model, nor does it only flow from the bottom, as in a servant leadership hierarchical model. 

Rather, information and communication flow all throughout the organization, business, and or team, in such a way that at all times, each person is leading their portions of work, and is in continual communication about their progress and barriers.

It is then up to the CEO or Director to ensure that the flow of information and communication is continually moving throughout the entire organization, business, and or team.

Here is a simple diagram of how I see and experience servant leadership actually being practiced.

As you can see from the three-dimensional pyramid diagram, both traditional leadership and servant leadership hierarchies are disrupted, and replaced by a nonhierarchical model.

The implementation of a nonhierarchical model ensures that each person in the organization, business, and or on the team has a voice in all matters, including the vision, mission, values, and the future direction of the organization, business, and or team.

Though the servant leadership diamond diagram is not inclusive of all of the possible communication flows, many are outlined, which gives us the basis of the conceptual framework.

The servant leadership diamond diagram, and associated conceptual framework are also practical. Meaning, it is entirely possible to implement the servant leadership diamond conceptual framework into any organization, business, and or team.

In fact, it has been done, and is done every day by the team I work on and with; and, though harder at times, it is a beautiful experience.

In the next post on the Servant Leadership Diamond Framework, we will explore several concepts that leaders will need to understand to create the appropriate context for the successful implementation of a leadership framework that disrupts all hierarchies in favor of a nonhierarchical model; creating more voice and empowerment for everyone in the organization, business, and or team.

Have a wonderfully beautiful week, everyone.


#collaboration, #communication, #information, #leadership, #organizationaldevelopment, #professionaldevelopment, #servantleadership, #servantleadershipdiamond, #teamdevelopment, #theoryandpractice, #traditionalleadership

The Leadership Series Part 3.5: Developing High-Performing Teams

Getting into Action and the Resulting Traction

Photo by Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve written an installment in this series. Busy, just like you. I am also continuing to work on a new leadership series, Leading from Within, the first post of which will be out in the next month.

Alright, where we left off in the last installment of the leadership series, was discussing relationships, process, and systems. All necessary and needed to prepare yourself and the team for being in action and gaining traction.

In this post we will look at roles and responsibilities, getting into action, and the resulting traction. Ready? Good. Here we go.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Roles and Responsibilities

In a team environment, defining each team member’s work and areas of expertise is important. If you don’t know, you won’t know who to hand the “ball” to, who to go to when you need help, and you will not understand what your team members do at work.

Being on a team means defining roles and responsibilities. The first time the team and I completed this task, it was hard. Hard because I came from outside of the department, and most of the people in the burgeoning department knew of each other, yet didn’t really know each other. Meaning, there were acquaintances, yet for what this team would eventually begin to create and build, acquaintances wouldn’t be enough.

We needed to really know each other, to really get each other; and, to do that, you need to dig into the individual work.

I’m sure there are many ways to define roles and responsibilities, yet I only really know how we did it, so here we go.

  • Defining roles and responsibilities – it is important on a new team to use the same language. In fact, I’ve not written a post about this concept, and it is an important one. When you are building a team and a culture around a team, you are creating an overarching system for how people communicate; and, using the same language consistently is key, which is why defining roles and responsibilities is an important first step.
  • Individual staff time – once you’ve defined roles and responsibilities, and have talked with each staff member about their individual roles and responsibilities, each staff member will need time to actually write their roles and responsibilities out. Know that they may have never been asked to do something like this, so will need some time. I think we took about 2 or 3 weeks to write ours out.
  • All staff meetings – once all of the roles and responsibilities are submitted, create an all staff meeting to go through them together; and, have each staff member talk through their roles and responsibilities. Important. This will give their teammates the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Document and file – after all staff members have sight on each other’s work, and have had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their work, make sure to document and file the roles and responsibilities. Documentation can be done many ways. If you use a project management system, that would work, as would a Google shared drive folder.
  • Keep them handy – how you document the roles and responsibilities matter less than that they are accessible to all staff, and are referenced often. After we completed our roles and responsibilities, I used these data to formulate portions of our very first 1W1 conversations. Helpful.
Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

Results

As we created our roles and responsibilities, we also worked through the results we intended to achieve in our respective positions.

Here is an example of what that looked like.

Albany, Oregon 2021

Yep, that picture is a little askew, yet you get the idea.

Setting your intention early on in a team’s formation can really assist everyone, especially if you are in a leadership position. It tells you what people are passionate about, and how they plan to achieve their goals, and results.

Once everyone’s roles and responsibilities are declared and results are clearly articulated, it’s time to create a system for getting into action.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Getting into Action

The past two weeks I’ve been reflecting more upon the system we’ve created over the past three years, which I’m going to walk you through momentarily. One thing you will notice is that within the system, there is a focus on both people and performance.

As I wrote about in the post, Causal Loop 101, a focus on people only results in a lack of action and traction, whereas a focus on performance only will result in declining morale and burnout.

Here is a very simple system anyone in a leadership position can use to move from inaction to action to traction. Ready? Good. Here we go.

  1. Door’s always open – as I’ve written about in other posts, creating safety on your team is paramount. And, one way to do that is to ensure you are available. Being open and available for people let’s everyone know that they are the priority.
  2. 1W1’s – I’ve been conducting 1W1’s with the team for almost 4 years now. These 1W1 conversations have iterated over time. For almost 2 years they were weekly, and now? Only as needed. 1W1’s are instrumental when creating a new team. Creating relationships takes time, intention, and thoughtfulness. There really isn’t anything more important than these relationships.
  3. Program Meetings – these smaller interdepartmental meetings have also iterated over time. Today, there is really only one program that still meets weekly. It is the most complex program, with the most staff, so that’s what feels right today.
  4. Area-specific meetings – the registration staff also meets weekly right now. Super helpful during a time when we are not all together in our office, and can easily have ad hoc conversations. At some point these meetings will probably go by the wayside, yet not right now.
  5. Quarterly team building – an important aspect of building teams is making sure that each person on the team has access to high quality developmental opportunities. We began quarterly team building in year 2, and though we are on a hiatus from team building right now, they will be back once we are back on campus.
  6. Weekly messaging – as many of you know, I send the team a message each Monday morning. It is a way for me to stay connected, and give them a reflection from the week before. Something for them to ponder and reflect upon as they work through their week.
  7. Monthly Updates – I usually send out a small monthly progress report, which lets the team know how we are performing across each program in the department. They are to keep the connection going, to give them data, and to celebrate our many victories.
  8. Quarterly reports – these more detailed reports relay important data on how we performed against our metrics, and testimonials from students and clients. They serve two distinct purposes – give the team my sight and thinking on the current reality and landscape, and to celebrate our accomplishments.
Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash

Resulting Traction

When people on a team feel safe, know what each other do, understand their goals and priorities, and fully support the vision, you will get traction. One way to ensure that happens is to install systems into the team to ensure that there is predictability and stability.

Though our systems are mostly home-grown, they work; and, though the type of education we work in changes rapidly, just like businesses in the private sector, there is always a sense of predictability and stability amidst the chaos. Important.

You might be thinking, what does traction look like?

Well, it can look lots of different ways. One thing it is not? Just hitting a metric. That’s not it.

Meeting your goals, objectives, priorities, and metrics is only one part of the equation. Just one. The other? Developing high-quality relationships with each other that can withstand changes and chaos that will come your way. It is inevitable.

If you have the former without the latter, the team will eventually falter. If you have the latter without the former, you will achieve the former in time, and the resulting traction. Guaranteed.

Alright, that’s the last entry in The Leadership Series. It was fun. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am currently working on a new Leadership Series, the first post of which should be out sometime in April. That will also be fun. Until then, lead well.

#action, #beinginaction, #creatingtractiononteams, #leadership-development, #peopledevelopment, #personaldevelopment, #professionaldevelopment, #results, #rolesandresponsibilities, #teambuilding, #teamdevelopment, #traction

A Developmental Moment #6: Why Learning to Ask for Help is Necessary and Needed

Why Asking for Help is a Strength not a Weakness

The past two weeks I’ve been reflecting more upon patience and asking for help. The more people I meet, the more I realize just how important developing patience is, as is the ability to recognize when we need help.

Often people mistakenly believe that asking for help is, in some way, a demerit, or means they are in some way deficient. I would like to dispel this notion now.

When we ask for help, we are recognizing a limit, for the moment, to either what we know, or are capable of doing. It does not mean that we are deficient. In fact, it means the opposite.

Meaning that when we recognize a limit within ourselves, we immediately get to grow that limit to a new level. And, in that moment we are courageous. Many of the greatest leaders of all time recognize and celebrate this fact.

Here is a great quote from Barack Obama about asking for help.

Asking for Help 101

As I reflect upon times when asking for help was more difficult for me, I considered a few strategies that may be helpful for those that, like me, continue to see the action of asking for help as a developmental opportunity.

  • Start small – when asking for help, you can start small. Start by thinking about the areas in your work or life that you would either like to learn more about, or could use assistance with. For instance, when I first started to open up to the idea of asking for help, I would ask people to assist me with pieces of projects that fit their skill set. When you can ask someone for help, and give them a piece of work that excites or inspires them, it makes the process of asking for help a little easier.
  • Begin with people you already trust – one of the reasons I shied away from asking for help was because I was concerned about looking incompetent, which is a simple thinking error. When we don’t ask for help, and we try to do everything on our own is, in fact, when incompetence will be seen and felt. However, one way to allay the fear of looking incompetent by asking for help, is to ask someone you already know and trust.
  • Make it a healthy habit – the only way to really make asking for help stick in your life, is to do it regularly. Simply meaning, that creating a healthy habit of asking for help when needed, will continue to push you outside of your comfort zone. However, the more you ask for help, the less uncomfortable it will feel.

There are three simple strategies you can use to begin to ask people for help. Remember, we are always getting help from people around us, always. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all connected and interdependent. Yep, true.

As we have discussed, asking for help is a courageous act. Yet, people continue to see asking for help as something that is a weakness. Let’s continue to bust this myth, shall we? Good. Here we go.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

A Strength Not A Weakness

Here are a few more reasons why asking for help is needed and necessary, and should be considered a strength not a weakness.

  • Relationships – when we ask someone for help, we are acknowledging that relationships matter to us. That, in fact, we are vulnerable enough to say, “you know, I don’t know.” Important. When we are vulnerable in our relationships, and that vulnerability is reciprocated, our relationships become deeper and more meaningful.
  • Connection – when we learn to ask for help, we become more open. More open to asking people we don’t know for help. As we pursue asking people we don’t know for help, we create the opportunity to meet new people; and, to deepen our connection with our own humanity, and the humanity of others.
  • Collaboration – as we practice asking for help, we learn that this practice becomes a strength. We learn that asking for help is essential in order to really collaborate with other people. No true collaboration exists without asking for help. Simple.
  • Synergy – as we begin to collaborate more, we realize that inside of true collaboration exists a very powerful concept, called synergy. Synergy occurs when people are aligned, work together, and help each other. When you work on a team that has synergy, you are able to innovate and execute inside of any situation. Why? Because you’ve learned to ask for help. You’ve learned that asking questions, and asking for help is an essential part of being a human being.

Alright, there are a few more reasons why asking for help is needed and necessary, and why asking for help is a real strength.

If you’re not used to asking for help. Don’t worry. Try some of the strategies listed above in asking for help 101; and remember, when we ask for help, we are admitting, yes, we don’t know something, or need assistance in completing something. And, guess what?

We all don’t know many things; and, we all need assistance getting things done. We do. It’s not a demerit. It’s the opposite.

Asking for help is a sign of courage and a sign of your inner strength.

#asking-for-help, #collaboration, #connection, #courageous, #humandevelopment, #leadershipdevelopment, #organizationalculture, #relationships, #self-development, #strategy, #strength, #synergy, #teamdevelopment

The Reflection Series #8: Causal Loop 101

People, Performance, and Progress

Have you ever heard of the concept, the causal loop? Well, though I am familiar with the concepts that make up the causal loop, in regard to people and performance, I had never really conceptualized them like I am about to present them here.

It is important in any leadership, nay, any team environment to understand a very basic principle. Ready? Good. Here it is.

People and performance both matter. Seems like common sense, yes? Well, often only one side of the causal loop is focused on, which creates an imbalance in a very functional system. How does it work? Good question. Let’s take a look, shall we.

The Causal Loop Albany, Oregon 2021 Photo taken by Author

The Causal Loop

People

In any system, symmetry, or balance, is created when all the system pieces work together. With both symmetry and balance, you can move forward, or produce an output, if you like. And, like any system, when one part is dysfunctional, or is not being paid attention to, the whole system suffers. It may, for instance, still produce an output, yet there will be long-term sacrifices.

It is common for leaders to get caught up in metrics. Meaning, at some point in their tenure, and sometimes this can last the entirety of their tenure, they become obsessed with “the numbers.” It matters less what those numbers, or metrics are, what matters, is that when, as a leader, we become obsessed with results, we forget about the people that make the results happen.

Without people, results are an impossibility. Therefore, if you find yourself stuck on metrics, remember, that focusing solely on outcomes may work for a time. Really, it may. Yet, a performance only approach is not sustainable. Period.

In time, what will occur is that people will burn out, quit, and overall morale will decline. Why? Because their needs are not being prioritized. Simple.

And, like any system, if the parts of the system are not being prioritized and taken care of, the system will, in time, fail. It will always occur this way. Always.

Performance

Now, conversely if as a leader you are always focused on the people, and never focus on the performance, the system will also become dysfunctional, yet will do so in a completely different way.

When the culture of a workplace is the single focus on a team, or in a department, or in an organization or business, then leadership is missing a very important part of the balance of creating and maintaining an effective system. Performance.

Simply, there must be a focus on both people and performance for movement, and eventual traction to occur. A balance, if you like.

Maintaining Balance

It is very normal on a team, any team, for the focus to shift back and forth between the workplace culture and the people, to performance. Shifting of this kind is especially normal on new teams.

I’ve written extensively about the team I work on, and have more forthcoming, and about how the entire first year was spent developing relationships. That was necessary. As it was necessary in year 2 to develop metrics, and in year 2.5 and 3 to focus on performance and people. Both.

There is a balance that can be found, and I imagine it is different on each team, and within each organizational or business culture. Yet, a leader can find it by paying attention. Paying attention to the people and the performance.

Movement and Traction

When you have achieved balance, know that the balance will never really truly be 50% people, 50% performance. Meaning, that sometimes there will be more of a focus on people, and at times on performance. It’s really most important to develop an awareness about how the causal loop functions as a system.

If you sway one way too far, you can move back to center, and vice versa.

Now, when you’ve increased your awareness about the causal loop, and pay attention to both people and performance, guess what?

Things will begin to move, and in some cases, like ours, move so quickly and beautifully, it is quite magical. And, once things start to move, traction will occur.

With traction, you are more than moving as a team. You are moving as a team while being pointed in the exact same direction all focused on the exact same goals and outcomes. Therefore, your performance and results show this truth.

Remember, it takes time to get to a balance between a focus on people and performance; and, that it is the awareness about the importance of both that matters. And, that? Well, that’s progress. Beautiful.

#people, #balance, #causal-loop, #leadershipdevelopment, #movement, #performance, #progress, #relationships, #selfdevelopment, #teamdevelopment, #traction

Leading From Within

An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College

Linn-Benton Community College - Home | Facebook
Linn-Benton Community College, Albany, Oregon

As I continue to reflect upon the last 4 years in the position I hold at the College, I learn more about myself, and about being a human being on this planet.

It is funny to think that leading a team at a small community college in Albany, Oregon, would provide insights of this kind, and yet, they do. Why?

Because no matter where you lead, it’s you doing the leading, for one, and two, all contexts to some extent are the same. Yes, the challenges, people, systems, and structures, are different, yet you are there, and you are always getting to know, and developing yourself and other people. Same.

After spending time in leadership in the private sector, and now having done so in the public sector, there are several things that we will discuss in this new series that are similar; and, in some ways, mirror each other.

In this first installment in this new series, I will lay out a brief outline, if you will, of the posts to come. It will be a way to set the stage for the concepts we will discuss, unpack, and walk through together.

I’m going to frame this first entry, and the following entries, by year, which will provide us a base from which to work through the narrative to follow. Ready? Alright, here we go.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

2016-17

I remember well when the job description for the position I currently hold, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, landed on my desk. I was working in a program at the college, which was struggling, and in threat of being eliminated. In fact, the program has been eliminated.

I looked over the position description, talked to my wife, friends, and family, and took a walk with a colleague, who asked me this question. Are you an operations man, Jeff? Whoa. Was I?

I was very unsure, and needed to think about it. Here are some of the considerations I made previous to applying to the position, which, I think, are quite generalizable.

  • Reflecting upon my work and academic career.
  • Reflecting upon what I would bring to the position.
  • Doing research about the position.
  • Having conversations with the hiring supervisor.
  • Having conversations with staff in the department.

There were more, bet you get the idea. It is important when making a life change to make all of the considerations and reflections we feel necessary. What happened? Well, I ended up saying this to my then wife.

If it was meant to be, we will know by getting the offer; and, if not, then not.

Of course, you know that I got the offer, and have been in the position for almost 4 years. And, what was the first year like? Hell and heaven all rolled into one. Kinda like life.

2017-18

The first year, especially the first six months, was extremely painful. One of the most painful experiences of my life. Why? Because all day every day, I was outside of my comfort zone. I was also, at this time, not treating my mind and body very kindly.

Here is what the first year looked like.

  • Breakdown central.
  • Remembering who I am.
  • Development outside of the college.
  • Life coach.
  • Breakdown to breakthrough becomes a reality.
  • Relationship development, with myself, and the team.

I say often when talking about that first year, that that was the year of relationships. Yes, we did other things, which I’ve written about in other posts, yet the basis for almost every action that year was developing deeper relationships with ourselves and each other. Painful in many ways, yes, and beautiful in many more.

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

2018-19

In the second year, things started to move. Meaning, we began to move, well, almost like a team. We were getting closer, and yet, had a lot more work to do.

Here is what the second year looked like.

  • Process and system improvement.
  • People in the right positions.
  • Vision, mission, goals.
  • Developing priorities.
  • Metrics and measurement.
  • Internal advocacy.
  • External relationships.

As we then moved into year 3, the team became more aligned, and we began to get traction in all areas of our business. As a matter of fact, in the fall of 2019 we were on pace to grow our service to the local communities by another 10%. Amazingly fun.

2019-20

Then, as we moved from fall to winter, we continued our alignment trajectory, and, of course, you all know what happened in early 2020. Yep. A pandemic.

Here is what that looked like.

  • Team alignment.
  • Gaining traction.
  • Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
  • Pandemic?
  • Reprioritizing.
  • Creating 5 new business models.
  • Community response.

Initially, we were wrestling with questions, such as could we deliver completely remote classes. At that time, we did not have remote offerings, so there were no processes or systems to draw upon. Yet, we ended up taking all 5 business models completely remote, and the community response was stellar.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

2020-21

As we entered year 4, all 5 programs were either creating and delivering remote classes and training, or would be by the fall of 2020. And, there was a lot of work to do to continue the momentum we created earlier that year.

Here is what that looked, and well, is like.

  • Creating all new processes and systems.
  • From disruption to sustainability.
  • Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
  • Engagement, relationships, conversion, process and priorities.
  • Planning for the future.
  • 10 business models?

And for next year? Well, I’ve actually been reflecting upon this question quite a bit. Someone asked me recently, what do you see for our work as we, at some point, begin to offer in-person classes again. First, I think offering in-person classes again is still in the distant future, yet I do have some thoughts.

What’s Next?

As we move into the second-half of the 2020-21 school year, we are offering new classes and training, and filling them up with local community members.

I see a 2 to 3 year slow progression from completely remote classes and training, to what I think will be a hybrid-model of both remote and in-person classes and training in the future.

What will the percent mix be of remote and in-person classes in the future? I don’t know. I do think, however, that, unlike when the pandemic started here locally, it will not be sudden. It will take time.

And, that’s okay. There is no rush. We will meet the community needs as they change. That’s part of what we do, and what we do well.

Alright, that completes the overview of the Leading From Within series. I look forward to future posts, where I can share, in more detail, how each of these years has impacted me as a leader, and, even more importantly, as a human being.

#alignment, #business, #coaching, #development, #engagement, #grwoth, #humandevelopment, #leadership, #leadingfromwithin, #ledaershipdevelopment, #metrics, #pandemic, #relationships, #strategicthinking, #systems, #teamdevelopment

The Leadership Series Part 3: Developing High Performing Teams

Developing Relationships, Processes and Systems

Photo by javier trueba on Unsplash

How often have you thought about a recipe, if you will, that will lead to developing high performing teams? Well, it’s not something that I thought about often until about three years ago.

Though I spent time in leadership in my late twenties, and early thirties, I always worked within a very defined system. And, when you work within set parameters, such as a defined system, there is room for some creativity, for sure, yet not as much as when you work within an organization that has fewer systems and structure.

It is a paradox.

With systems, you get a level of comfort and reliability. With a non system, you get the opportunity to develop systems and be innovative. While the former can feel constricting, the latter unwieldy.

They both have their strengths and weaknesses.

In this installment in the leadership series, we will discuss developing and creating high performing teams in an organization with few systems and very little structure.

Are you ready? Good. Let’s go.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Relationships

As I’ve written many times, and did so extensively in the second installments of this series, it is my perspective that everything in life starts with our relationships. First, with the relationship we have with ourselves, and then with everyone around us.

And, these relationships form the basis of all that happens within the contexts we create. When people on a team are in relationship with each other, they are able to transcend difficult times with more ease. The team members, and the team, are more resilient.

There are several strategies that leaders can employ to develop high-quality relationships with their teams.

Here are a few of those strategies.

  1. Safe – one of the first things I did in my first year on our team was create one-with-one conversations with every staff member. Literally, creating a safe space where you can get to know everyone, and they can get to know you, is an important first step in any relationship. If you assume you know them, for instance, you will miss out on the subtleties of their personality and their drive as a human being. Further, as you create the one-with-one context, the safety, trust, and reciprocity that blossoms will carry over into other aspects of the team, and will become a standard way you do business. Meaning, people first.
  2. Learn – another strategy I found beneficial in my first year was to learn each person’s job function. Learning from the staff member about their job is the best way to understand, yes, the varying aspects of their work, and also how they perform their work each day. Furthermore, learning from them, and with them, provides you with information about how the team functions. Each person on a team is one piece of a whole, so understanding how each piece functions is important to the overall health and sustainability of the team.
  3. Listen – when you are in conversation with someone, especially in a burgeoning relationship, listening and actively taking in their story is important. In effect, it is more than listening. As a leader, there is information about people, process, and systems, that you need to hold onto. Some of this information you’ll be able to store within you, and some you’ll need to store in other ways. For instance, I have employee files where I can hold pertinent information. Holding and storing information is how we get to know people, and keep the conversations we create with them continuous.
  4. Value – relationships are grounded in reciprocity. Simply meaning there is some kind of value for each person in the relationship. Which, of course, means that when you are interacting with people on your team, the conversations you create with them need to be valuable to them. Sometimes these conversations will be personal, sometimes they will be about business. Likely, the conversations will be a mixture of both. Regardless, the conversations need to provide value.

Alright, there are a few strategies you can use to begin creating relationships with your team. Though I have much more to write about this topic, know that if you create safe spaces where you can learn about the people you work with, listen well to them while holding and storing information about how they are doing as human beings, and always ensure there is value in the conversations you create with them, you are off to a wonderful start.

As your relationships develop, you will naturally begin to look at how the team functions. What are their processes? What are the systems?

Well, as was aforementioned, when you work in an organization with few processes and structures, you get to create them all. Well, maybe not all, yet you do get to create many, and for surely recreate all of them.

Photo by Clayton Robbins on Unsplash

Processes and Systems

What is a process? A process is simply a step-by-step rubric, or guide, of how something gets done. And, a system? A system is like the glue that holds all of the different processes together. Make sense? Good.

Now, in my first year on this job, I said something like, everything we do needs to have a process. At that time, there were large chunks of work that did not have a process. Whether you are on a team with lots of processes and systems or not, there are simple steps you can take to ensure your processes and systems are working well.

  • Ask questions – human beings love consistency and patterns, or habits. Meaning, that if, when, we don’t question the processes we use, we just keep using them. Not necessarily because they work, but because they are there, and have “worked” for so long. Ask questions. Ask, why we use the processes we do, and you will find out which processes need to either be upgraded, recreated, or created anew. We’ve either upgraded, recreated, or newly created every process in this entire department in the past 3.5 years. And, done it twice! The pandemic brought with it the need to upgrade, recreate and newly create processes again.
  • Upgrade – sometimes process upgrades will suffice. If the process is sound, and people know their roles and responsibilities inside the process, yet, there are still ways the process can be improved, a simple upgrade may be needed. When working in teams it is extremely important to have everyone that “touches” the process in the conversation when upgrading the process. It is likely that your team members will hold their work inside the process tightly. Meaning, changing the process they’ve been doing for years will be difficult, which is why asking questions is an important first step. Once you gain an understanding of what needs to change, based on collective feedback, you can set out, with the team, to make the necessary upgrades.
  • Recreate – sometimes a process will be so old that it will need to be recreated. Meaning, that though the process is old, there are still parts of the process that make sense for how the team functions and the goals they have, yet modifications are needed to bring the process into the current reality. On the team I work on, we did a lot of process upgrade and recreation in the first two years. Very normal.
  • Newly Create – when, however, a process no longer serves the current business or program model, it is time to create new processes. How do you know? One clear way to know is that the work is not moving forward. Another way to know is there is confusion on the team about the outputs and outcomes of the process. Simply meaning, that the outputs and outcomes of the process have probably changed, which will require creating a new process to satisfy the new outputs and outcomes. This past year, the team and I have created completely brand new processes for everything we do. Really. Everything. Why? Because every output and outcome has changed inside of the pandemic. Truth.
  • Document – one thing we did not do as a team until the second year was document all of our upgraded, recreated, and newly created processes. Super important. Documenting your processes ensures that you have held how the process functioned at a single point in time. And? It will likely change in the future. However, if you don’t have the process documented, you will not have a history to look back upon to understand the how, when, why, and where, for instance, of that process change. Further, people need a rubric of sorts to help them hold all of their work. Helpful.

Here is a quick example of a process map.

Albany, Oregon 2021

Alright, there are a few steps you can take to assess and begin to upgrade, recreate, and or create new processes on your team. Let’s discuss systems for a brief moment.

Systems are also needed and necessary on teams. Though, I will say, especially on teams that are highly innovative, maintaining one system can be challenging. The team and I are currently working on creating this system, which includes several parts.

  1. Google Documents
  2. CRM
  3. Project Management System

Today, we use two of the three tools listed above. Yet, when they are organized in such a way, they can, and will for us in the next year, create a unified system of communication and connection. It looks like this.

Corvallis, Oregon 2021

In this oversimplified vision board, we can see how people, process, and systems are interconnected and correlated. When you are communicating with each other through your processes, and your processes are embedded in a system, each part of the whole is in communication and is connected. Fun.

Well, that wraps up this first installment of Part 3 of the Leadership Series. What’s next? Good question.

I have one more installment on developing teams to discuss with you, which will come in the next week or two. In that installment of Part 3 of the Leadership Series we will discuss getting into action and the resulting traction that occurs on teams when everyone is moving in the same direction.

For now?

Remember, leading teams is just like leading yourself, though, yes, more complex. However, when you create safety, learn, listen, and value each other, which starts with the leader, teams can become high functioning, creating amazing outputs and outcomes for the communities they serve. It is beautiful to see and be a part of.

#developingprocesses, #developingrelationships, #developingsystems, #leadershipdevelopment, #leadershipseriespart3, #selfdevelopment, #selfimprovement, #strategicthinking, #teamdevelopment

Creating Developmental Opportunities for Ourselves and Our Teams

6 Questions All Leaders Should Be Asking Themselves Right Now

Photo by Joshua Hibbert on Unsplash

As I continue to write the, well, second-and-a-half, installment of the Leadership Series: Why Developing The Self is Always The First Step in Leadership, another idea occurred to me. What occurred to me? Good question.

In fact, the idea lives inside of the first few installments of the Leadership Series, yet overviewing it in this article makes sense to me today, so here it is.

As we develop, there are six questions to ask ourselves, which can lead inward toward more awareness about who we are as a human being. And?

Well, as I’ve written about in other articles, the more we understand our own humanity, the more we can understand all humanity. Super helpful from a leadership perspective, and, well, a whole life perspective.

Without further ado, here are those six questions

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1. What Do I Think?

Understanding yourself begins with getting a handle on how you think. What are your thoughts about the current reality, the state of your team, and the state of your life; a better question, maybe.

In order to lead teams effectively, we must first inquire into ourselves. When thoughts arise, it’s about letting go of the judgment we have about these thoughts, so we can understand them. When we can understand our thoughts, we are more effectively present to ourselves, and all of those around us.

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2. How Do I Feel?

Emotions come and go. They are here, and then they are gone. However, human beings have a tendency to hold onto emotions, like thoughts, and carry them around throughout the day. This need not be the case.

We can learn to effectively have emotions, feel them, understand them, talk about them even, and then let them go, which is a large part of my own internal work today. And?

Just like our thinking, when we understand our emotions, we are better equipped to understand our own emotional states, and what led us to those states, and ultimately we are better able to understand the emotional states of the people around us. Important.

Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash

3. How Do I Speak?

Several months ago I wrote the article, 4 Reasons Why Language is Power. And, it is true that language is very powerful. Therefore it is important to understand how we are speaking and what we are saying. This may sound simple, and, for some of you, this may be the case.

However, human beings have a tendency to use language as a currency without considering the replenishment of that currency, as if it is in a never-ending supply. And, whereas we can continue to create language as we like, we should question the necessity of the language and the communication that follows.

As I’ve written about many times, communication is key, as is the importance of making sure we are clear about our communication. It is far more important to communicate clearly than it is to communicate often.

Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

4. What Do I Hear?

As we get clearer on how we think, feel, and speak, we will begin to hear things that we may not have been previously present to.

For instance, someone on your team, or close to you, may say they feel great and that all is well. Yet, you may hear things in their tone of voice that tells a different story. It first takes being clear on yourself, and then you can begin to pick up on inconsistencies in behavior, speech, and emotion. And, guess what?

It may be your own inconsistency that you pick up on first. Actually, this is very likely. And? It’s not a demerit when this happens. It’s okay.

It does mean that investigating, or inquiring, into the inconsistency between our behavior, speech, and emotion is needed. Understanding why there is ant inconsistency, to begin with. Important.

Photo by Bruno Martins on Un,splash

5. What Do I See?

One of my favorites. As I continue my own development, which includes my own personal inquiry, a life coach, and a super dynamic and inquisitive team, I see so much more. More about my own humanity, and that of the teams. It works that way.

And, when you can see more facets of the human being you are, you are in a position to effect more change. More change for yourself, for your team, and for your organization, institution, or business.

Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash

6. How Do I Act?

Being in action is so important. And, how we act tells us, and everyone around us, a lot about who we are as a human being. How we act will, in fact, tell people how we see, hear, speak, feel, and think. For, ultimately, it’s the actions we take that say the most about who we are as human beings.

For instance, we can create language about creating and effecting change, however, without action, the language is just language. Action is where concepts in language become reality. Simple.

And, when we are clear on our own actions, we are able to discern differences in how people talk about their work, and actually do their work. An important distinction and discovery.

Alright, that was a brief overview of 6 questions all leaders should be asking themselves right now. And, in fact, these are questions that anyone interested in personal or professional development can ask themselves.

It’s inside the questions we first ask ourselves, and the work we do on ourselves, where we develop as a person and a leader.

And, as we develop, we create the possibility of development for everyone around us.

#development, #howdoyouact, #howdoyoufeel, #howdoyouhear, #howdoyousee, #howdoyouspeak, #howdoyouthink, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #personaldevelopment, #professionaldevelopment, #self-development, #self-awareness, #sixquestionsallleadersshouldask, #teamdevelopment

The Reflection Series Part 6: Why is Creating Safety Important?

A 3-minute Reflection on 4 Things Every Leader Can Do to Create Safety on Teams

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Well, we are 9-months into a pandemic, actually much more than 9-months, yet, here locally, 9-months ago was when the restrictions started. And?

I’ve been thinking about and reflecting upon just how important creating safety on teams is all the time; and, now? Even more important.

Developing safety within a team creates a context where possibilities abound. Meaning, when people feel safe, there is trust, and where there is trust, well, anything is possible. Seriously. Anything. And, now?

Living inside the pandemic for the past 9-months has been unsettling in many ways. Though I’ve written about, and we’ve discussed many times before, how much more there is to know and learn, than is known.

It is equally true that when the foundation of someone’s belief system is shaken, it can be really hard, and can make people begin to question what they thought they knew about how the world works.

Meaning that for some people, they already know there is much more to know than they know, and now what they thought they knew has been up-ended. Hard.

Right, so what can we do? How can we make sure to continue to create safety on teams so people feel like they have solid ground to stand on? Good questions. Let’s take a look at 4 ways we can do just that.

Photo by Matthew Waring on Unsplash

Reality

Have you ever heard about managing the real and ideal? Yes, no? Either way, it simply means that when in a leadership role it is important to always strive for an ideal, think vision, while being very clear on the current reality.

Basically you are managing the tension between what is and what you are creating. Super important. Why?

Because even though the current reality might be hard to hear, people need confirmation that what they are seeing, thinking, and feeling is accurate. The very last thing they need is false hope. Nope. They need reality.

When you stand in the current reality, there is workability. Why? Because when you are clear and the team is clear, you can continue to create the ideal free from the distraction, what if.

You will get more focus, concentration, and organization when you are clear on the current reality while continuing to create the ideal future state. More focus, concentration, and organization from yourself and the team.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Listen

We all know how important it is to listen. Very important. There might not be a more important leadership skill. Seriously. This is especially true when times are stressful.

People need someone they can come to, someone they can depend upon. Someone that is going to be present, listen, and give honest feedback. They need that, their team members need that, and, as the leader, you need that. From? From each of them. Yep.

There is immense power in being present and being an active listener.

Active listening simply means being mindful in your conversations. Be present, pay attention, empathize, and use your conversational skills to really understand, take in, and respond in kind to the person you are talking to. Important.

You will get much more back when you practice and coach people to practice active listening. More for yourself, for your teammates, and the entire team. When people really listen, they know what’s going on with their teammates, which makes for a much more productive work environment.

Photo by Edvin Johansson on Unsplash

Collaborate

When the team understands the current reality and the ideal state you are creating, is practicing active listening, the likelihood for collaboration increases. Why?

Because when people feel comfortable, are able to focus, and know how their teammates feel and what they think, they are immediately more approachable. And, when we are more approachable, collaboration is just easier.

And, what do you get when your team is able to collaborate more effectively? Yep. Innovation.

When your team works together, there is a synergy that occurs, and inside of that synergy, you get ideas that take the team further. You don’t get these types of synergistic innovations from silos. Just doesn’t happen.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Action

Of course, you cannot create an ideal reality from a very clearly defined current reality without taking action. Nope. Not possible.

Actually, the coolest thing about creating an ideal, and generating all of the innovative ideas, is seeing them executed upon. Amazing. It is one of the things I love the most about working on teams.

Yep, it is so much fun to create, and, yes, I am very creative. Yet, it is equally beautiful and fun to watch the transformation of what can be months of innovative work into a new system, process, program, training, or class. Really.

Wow, that was fun.

Alright, remember, creating safety on teams is a powerful leadership skill. Truly.

As we discussed, creating safety ensures that people can feel comfortable in the current reality, even a very stressful one, while continuing to strive for the ideal reality.

Practicing and modeling active listening also fosters safety by creating a context of respect and mindfulness, while collaboration and taking action ensures that the bridge between innovation and execution is clearly articulated and navigated.

And, when the bridge between innovation and execution is clear and ideas are being executed upon, the team will feel a sense of accomplishment, which increases the team’s morale and feelings of security and safety.

Creating safety on teams may be one of the most important things a leader can do, especially during times that are more stressful and unknown. The ability for everyone to feel safe is that important.

#activelistening, #collaboration, #covid-19, #creatingsafety, #currentreality, #humandwevelopment, #idealreality, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #listen, #pandemic, #safeteams, #selfdevelopment, #takingaction, #teamdevelopment, #vision

The Paradox of Servant Leadership

Why Care, Compassion, and Accountability Are Engaging

Photo by Cam Bradford on Unsplash

I’m always reflecting upon service. It’s always been a big part of my life. I started out in the “service industry” at 16, and never, really, ever looked back.

What I’ve been reflecting upon even more recently, is just how important service is in, well, everything we do. It’s not just about the work we do, in the professional sense.

It’s more about all of the work we do. All of it. And, it starts with each of us, and how we take care of and, in effect, serve ourselves. Really.

I was telling a colleague of mine today, as they prepared to train a group of local leadership, that in order to hold other people accountable, we must first hold ourselves accountable. It’s how it works.

Something this colleague knows very well indeed.

And, as was aforementioned, service is no exception to this rule. In order to serve others, we must first learn to serve ourselves.

Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash

We are all looking for places to serve. Places where we can make a difference, where we can be a part of something larger than ourselves. A paradox? Yep.

Because in order to be a part of something larger than yourself, you must first be in touch with yourself, know yourself, treat yourself with love and kindness, and hold yourself accountable to a standard.

A standard that is engaged with and committed to creating and effecting change. Changing that which we know, the status quo, with something, well, quite different.

Within this possibility, there are innumerable opportunities to serve. Fun.

Alright, ready? Good. Here we go.

Servant Leadership

I’ve written a couple of articles about servant leadership, which includes, The Blog + Video Series #14: Servant Leadership: A Practical Leadership Style for Life and Work.

The basic tenant of servant leadership is that service is paramount to leadership as a philosophy and a practice. Both.

That to lead, we must lead from a perspective that fully understands that nothing happens without the entire team; and, that, it is because of each team members contribution to the team that movement and traction are even possible.

Servant leadership upends the traditional leadership hierarchy, putting the needs of front-line workers first. Important.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

And, as we’ve already discussed, servant leadership is, both conceptually and practically, a leadership style that works for all aspects of life.

When we take care of ourselves and lead from within, we can then take care of others and lead from without. If not, well, true leadership of any kind is impossible.

Sometimes there is confusion about servant leadership.

Meaning that people sometimes connect servant leadership to a laissez faire type context. And, servant leadership both conceptually and practically is far from that type of context.

In fact, a servant leadership context will often be full of standards and expectations that are higher than other leadership contexts. Yep. Common. Why?

Well, inside of serving, as was aforementioned, is the need to create change. Creating new possibilities, new ways of communicating, new ways of, well, doing most things.

When you create a context that is committed to changing the status quo, no matter how small or large that change is, there have to be higher standards and expectations.

And, in some cases, the highest standard must be demanded. Why?

Photo by john vicente on Unsplash

Because there is so much more to accomplish. That’s it really. More work, more movement, more traction, more change. Amazing.

And, where there is change and innovation of this magnitude, there must be great care, compassion, and accountability, both for the self, the team, and the organization. And, yep, for the nation, and the world too.

Care

What is engagement, really? When you think about that word, what do you see, or think about? Hm.

For me, I think about contexts that are brimming with challenges and difficulties, yep, and celebrations. Why?

Because when you are truly engaged with yourself, and the people around you, you will experience both. You have to.

Being engaged, is living a full life, and the giving out of that life to everyone around you. It is extremely fun and rewarding and, yep, also difficult.

All service, regardless of the context, professional or personal, requires determination, persistence, and resilience. Oh, and great care. Yep.

When you are engaged, you care. Simple. Oftentimes, people get confused and think that when things are difficult that there is a problem. A paradox? Yep.

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

When things are difficult, you are engaged, you are doing, and you are creating. No problem here.

When are there problems?

Well, if you subscribe to notions of problems, then the only time there are real problems is when there is disengagement. Where things are easy, moving simply, no speed bumps. Why?

Because, if there are no issues, nothing to overcome, then, nothing is really happening. Yep.

Now, that’s not really a problem either. Not really.

It’s only a problem if you are looking to be engaged. I always know when I am most engaged at work or in my life. How?

Because there is always, and I mean always, something to celebrate, and something to overcome. A challenge, always.

These engaging contexts also require, as was aforementioned, great care. Really. Why?

Because when you are fully engaged, and are working through issues that arise, care about all things and everyone, yourself, and all those around you, is always there.

And, that is because you are going through something.

You are developing, iterating, and, yep, in some cases, even transforming. Beautiful.

Photo by Gita Krishnamurti on Unsplash

Compassion

Because a servant leadership context is a highly engaging one, where people will bring their all every day, compassion is also required.

Compassion for yourself, for how very, very hard it is sometimes, and for those around you. Sometimes, people will decide it’s just too much, and that is okay.

There was a time when I desperately wanted everyone to stay. And, I would coach people endlessly to this end. No pun intended.

Yet, a servant leadership context is not what everyone is looking for, and that is also okay. Knowing this releases you and everyone else from an obligation that truly doesn’t exist.

And, practicing compassion is what that looks like. Understanding that people will leave. And, guess what?

It’s better for them to do so.

Better to find a context that suits them more, feels better to them, and will in the long run be much more beneficial for them. Important.

Accountability

One of the most paradoxical aspects of servant leadership is in the area of accountability. And, there was a time where accountability within a servant leadership paradigm also confused me.

The bottom line?

Accountability matters. People actually want to be held accountable to a higher standard. Knowing that their work and service, whatever it is, is making a change in the world.

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

Again, no matter how small or large that change is, matters much less, than that people get to participate in something that, yes, inspires them, and, even more importantly, actively creates change in the world. Fun.

It is a ton of work. Yep. Yet, who ever said that life was supposed to be easy?

I know. That is such a cliche, and yet it does work here.

Think about any change, nay, think about some of the largest institutional and cultural changes of all time. Now, answer this question.

Were they easy?

Nope, not a single one. They are not supposed to be. Therefore, having a high standard and instituting accountability is not only needed, it is also positively reinforcing the servant leadership context that has been created. How?

Because serving yourself, setting the highest standard for yourself that you can, means that you will also set that same standard for the people around you. And?

They will rise to meet it, just as you are.

For more on Servant Leadership check out these resources.

#accountabilityandleadership, #careandleadership, #compassionandleadership, #creatingchange, #humandevelopment, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #selfdevelopment, #selfimprovement, #servantleadership, #teamdevelopment

The Big 5: Developing An Innovative Culture

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Photo by javier trueba on Unsplash

When I worked as a District Sales Leader at Frito-Lay, the company had an operating system for their sales teams, known as the Big 3, which consisted of the following.

  1. 1W1’s
  2. Monthly Team Meetings
  3. Ride-Alongs

I have no idea if the Big 3 is still in place, however, I do know that the system worked well. Why? There are 5 reasons. Ready? Let’s go.

  1. Establish Trust
  2. Create Alignment
  3. Develop Balance
  4. Build Collaboration
  5. Institute Accountability

Little did I know then, that these five outputs would actually show up in a different way 20 years later. Yep. How?

They showed up as important to developing and building an innovative culture. A culture grounded in trust, alignment, balance, collaboration, and, yep, accountability. The outcome? Innovation.

Alright, let’s now call these, just for fun, the Big 5. What, then, do we get when we instill the Big 5 into our teams, businesses, and organizations? A culture where innovation can thrive.

Implementing the Big 5 into your team is about developing culture. As your culture develops, you can then wrap processes and systems around that culture.

You may be wondering about developing systems first, then culture. I would advise against it. Why? Culture matters more. Simple.

Alright, let’s take a look at the Big 5.

Photo by NONRESIDENT on Unsplash

1. Establish Trust

I’ve written about establishing trust a couple of times. In 3 Steps and 9 Keys to Creating Safety on a Team in 5 Minutes, I write about 9 keys to creating safety on teams. And, inside of creating safety is establishing trust. Very important.

Establishing trust must come before people will feel safe. If people do not feel safe, they will hold back. Makes perfect sense. However, when there is trust, people will give all that they have, and they will also be vulnerable, try new things, go out on limbs; and, that is where innovation lives.

When there is trust between you and the team, and between each team member, you have an opportunity to create outputs and outcomes that have never been seen before. Why?

Because trust + safety + vulnerability = innovation.

Once trust and safety are in place, creating alignment is next. Creating alignment can take time. It took the team I currently work on over 2 years to create alignment. Year 1 was creating trust and safety. Year 2, creating alignment.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

2. Create Alignment

Alignment takes time. Really. It is normal for teams to move in different directions at the beginning. If you are unsure about this truth, that’s okay.

You can implement systems and processes upfront to ensure creating alignment quickly. However, as was aforementioned, creating those systems and processes early will also create a barrier to innovation. Why?

Because innovation thrives in an open environment where all the answers are not figured out. Though this can be stressful, know inside of an innovative environment, where safety, trust and vulnerability thrive, systems and processes will come.

Alignment comes when a vision is cast and strategy is created to tie the day-day operations to that vision. Each person on a team has a role to play in the execution of a vision.

When you get clear on everyone’s role and responsibilities, you are ready to create alignment between the vision and the day-to-day operations.

Here is how it looks linearly.

  1. Create a 10-year vision
  2. Create a 5-year vision
  3. Create a 3-year plan
  4. Create this year’s objectives
  5. Create 90-day priorities
  6. Create work of the month
  7. Create work of the week
  8. Create work of the day

Though that list looks long, it really isn’t that much, though it does take time. There is a very good resource for creating this kind of vision system, it is called Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman. I highly recommend it to all leaders in all organizations.

Alright, now that you’ve established trust and created alignment, the next step is to develop balance. Sounds simple. Yet, developing balance takes practice. Let’s take a look.

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

3. Develop Balance

As a leader, should you focus more on culture, or more on performance? Hm. Both are important. I like to think about culture and performance, like a see saw. Focus going back and forth. Sometimes, culture takes precedent, and sometimes, performance.

However, you must have both.

If you have a strong culture, and performance issues, you are not moving forward. If you have excellent performance metrics, and no culture, people will burn out and leave.

Developing a balanced approach to culture and performance takes practice, and an open mind. Meaning that when people bring you intelligence that a shift towards culture, or towards performance is needed, be open to shifting focus. Important.

In an open environment where trust and alignment have been created, the team will let you know. Really, they will. However, you still need to pay close attention to the team, and each individual on the team.

Like anything, developing balance takes time, and practice. You will know when you stray too far into one realm or the other. You can feel it when a team is not moving, or is moving too much. Watch, listen, and feel.

Collaboration is another important component to build in the journey towards creating an innovative culture. Some might say it is one of the most important.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

4. Build Collaboration

Why is collaboration so important? Well, to develop an innovative culture, building collaboration is a must. On teams where trust, alignment, and balance have been instituted, vulnerability will also typically be present.

And, being vulnerable with each other in an environment where collaboration is high is a natural breeding ground for innovation. Why?

Because where vulnerability meets collaboration is an open space ready for innovation to occur.

Actually, where vulnerability meets collaboration is where innovation is already happening. Really, it is.

Innovation needs spaces that are open, collaborative, and safe. Further, alignment and balance also help create innovative spaces. Though we’ve already discussed these two, there are two more reasons that showcase just how true the last sentence is.

  1. Because when your team is aligned, you are all on the same page, moving in the same direction. You are one.
  2. Because when there is balance, you also have balance with innovation. For instance, if all you do is innovate, then nothing will move forward. Similarly if all you do is execute, then innovation will founder. You need both. Both innovation and execution. A must.

Alright, now, let’s talk about accountability.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

5. Institute Accountability

You may be asking yourself right now, what in the world does accountability have to do with innovation? Well, a lot actually. Let’s go.

Fostering an innovative culture, which also executes is imperative to actually creating newness in the world. You have to develop both sides of the equation. Similar to developing balance. And, how do you instill accountability into your culture? It starts with you.

You must practice accountability. Holding yourself accountable, first. You must also be open to the team holding you accountable. Accountable for what, you ask? For what you say and do. Integrity.

Developing an innovative culture means that each individual, starting with the leader, holds themselves accountable for the actions they take, and sometimes, don’t take.

The same goes with the team. When each individual holds themselves to the culture of innovation that you are developing, the team is also simultaneously held accountable. And, when people don’t perform?

Well, you must understand why. If it is a skill issue, offer them the opportunity to develop, to grow. If they are interested, great. If not, well, that is their choice.

If it is will. Then they also have a choice.

Bottom line. Developing an innovative culture means that accountability is taken seriously. As seriously as having fun, growing together, learning from each other, and innovating new products and services. Same.

Alright, that’s the Big 5 of developing an innovative culture. Fun. And, guess what? You can develop an innovative culture anytime. Really. How? Well, like all things, one step, or action at a time.

What will you develop next?