As a leader, the “buck” for certain decisions stops with you. You’re responsible for outcomes impacting your team, your organization, your career, your family and friends. Sometimes the choice is clear, but frequently, it’s not. Ambiguities are the norm, and while there is pressure to make fast decisions, you know that it’s more important to make timely decisions. Meanwhile, stakeholders press you because they have their own motivations and need to know how your decision impacts them.
Good decision-making isn’t based on the quantity of information you’re able to review, but on the quality of information you’re able to comprehend and process to the right conclusion. Good decision-making brings together intuition and systems understanding of the many networks impacted by the choices you make. It incorporates intellectual agility to draw conclusions from a broad array of facts and data to reach desired outcomes, with the political savvy to navigate varied perspectives and power dynamics. Thus, decision-making is not only a science but an art.
The ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and to recognize and influence others’ emotions, is a critical leadership skill. It can make the difference between marginal accomplishment of a goal, and engaging the hearts and minds of team members to uncover innovative and game changing solutions that exceed expectations.
Emotions represent the Heart in the Head + Hands + Heart equation of leadership. It’s where leaders demonstrate that they care about and can connect with others. The emotions of individuals can either activate and motivate the team, or move them to disassociate from the goal and passively comply. Leaders who engage the capabilities and skillsets (hands), and intellect (heads) of their team; but fail to engage their minds and emotions (hearts) will find that there’s a missing link to maximize performance.
Imagine that you’re leading an organization in transition. The current state is unworkable, and you have a plan and vision for the future, but it will require radical change. You know it is essential to communicate the need for and plan to change (head), the requirements for change (hands), and gain supportfor the change (heart). To effectively do this it’s helpful to understand employee emotions (fear, excitement, uncertainty, confusion, distrust?) and address each one to effectively encourage, motivate and inspire the team. Continue reading
I recently watched a video of David Copperfield, the famous illusionist, making the Statue of Liberty vanish in front of a group of spectators. It weighs 450,000 pounds and stands 305 feet tall, so moving it is not an easy task. To accomplish this trick, Copperfield set up a stage at night for the viewing audience to sit on. The stage was framed in front by pillars which held a curtain secured at ground level and lifted up to block their view of the statue. A circle of lights at ground level illuminated it, and its presence was tracked on a radar screen visible to all. He presented the statue to the audience, then raised the curtain for a few moments. When the curtain dropped again, search lights beamed through where the statue should have stood, showing that nothing was there. It had vanished, only leaving the ground level lights to show its footprint. After raising the curtain again for a few moments, Copperfield then dropped it to reveal the statue, back in place.
How did he do it? During the period of time that the curtain was raised, the audience viewing platform and pillars rotated slowly to the right, so that when the curtain dropped, the statue was behind a pillar. Blaring music throughout the entire show distracted the spectators, and the radar display was fake.
Copperfield’s spectacular show, performed in 1983, was full of entertainment and flair. The audience was amazed, even in the midst of the fact the sculpture couldn’t simply disappear. They couldn’t figure out how it was done, thus they bought into the reality of the illusion, that was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014 as the largest disappearance ever performed by a magician.
We’re often spectators to other illusions in our world, not necessarily executed by traditional magicians. Such illusions may be manifested in the form of major initiatives taken on by leaders and their teams to accomplish admirable goals. But they lose sight of the organizational realities. Continue reading
Several centuries ago, during the Revolutionary War, a group of soldiers were trying to move a heavy piece of lumber that was blocking the road. As hard as they tried, over and over again, they couldn’t seem to move it from the ground. Their corporal stood nearby giving them direction and probably graciously allowing them a brief period of rest. He may have even sought their input on “how” to best move the huge piece of wood. But after their repeated efforts, his patience was wearing thin.
Another more senior army officer came along on horseback and observed their efforts. After a moment, he suggested that the corporal help his men. The corporal responded with a tinge of offense in his voice, “Me? Why, I’m a corporal sir!”
The senior officer dismounted his horse and stepped over to the men. He positioned himself alongside them, and gave the order to “heave”. All of a sudden, the timber moved into the position where they needed it, no longer blocking the pathway.
He then turned to the corporal and told him, “The next time you have a piece of timber for your men to move, just call the commander-in-chief.” The officer was George Washington.
Washington’s behavior modeled servant leadership. He led by example. He didn’t merely direct others, or solicit their input. He demonstrated his willingness to serve and support them. And as a result the soldiers felt his tangible encouragement of their work; and he understood the challenges of their roles.
There’s a well-known parable about a wealthy CEO who took an extended business trip. He left his company in the hands of his three VPs, and gave each of them a portion of the net assets to manage in his absence. Based on what he knew of their capabilities, he gave the first one, we’ll call her Pat, $50 million. The next one, Chris, was given $20 million, and the last, Joe, was given $10 million. When the CEO returned, he asked for a report of their activities and earnings during his absence. Pat proudly showed him how she had doubled the assets entrusted to her, and now she had $100 million. Chris was pleased as well to show that she now had $40 million. Joe by now realized he had fallen far short of his CEO’s expectations. He was afraid to take a risk in losing his leader’s money, after all he couldn’t afford to pay it back, so he did absolutely nothing with it. Nothing. Joe didn’t even try to increase it, or put it in an interest bearing bank account. You can imagine what the CEO did with Joe after that. He likely didn’t have a job.
Now Pat and Chris could probably tell some interesting stories about their journey to doubling their assets; things they learned along the way both about themselves and their business strategies. They likely had some failures, but they were able to effectively manage through them.
Rut vs. Risk
Joe was afraid to take any type of risk with the valuable resources he had. He simply sat on them. Hopefully he had an idea of a business strategy he could try, something he wanted to do, but unfortunately he didn’t know how to do it or was afraid to take the risk. And by doing nothing, he effectively lost ground.