Sunday, 22 March 2009

The “secret” to leadership in uncertain times (1)

There’s a lot of talk these days about customer experience such as airline crews who sing to their passengers; thoughtfulness in interpersonal relationships; and business success that stems from an inside advantage (Robert Bloom ) where everyone in the organisation is fully engaged (Markus Buckingham).

It’s all very interesting, sensible and even exciting but actually getting it to happen in your organisation is another story: a leadership story (Steve Denning). Leadership isn’t so much about planning and control as it is about communication: what you communicate, who you communicate it to and, most importantly, how you communicate it.

We don't see much in popular Management about that. Maybe because communication is complex and variable and difficult to learn and change by conventional analytical process. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t figure in most business education aside maybe from a bit of 1960s theory applied to a case study or two and stuff on meetings.

One important reason why Bob Bloom’s process for developing the inside advantage is so effective is that its done by brainstorming. Brainstorming requires and generates a relationship and leadership climate that’s ideal in uncertain times.

The spirit of that leadership climate is captured for me by writer Bob Gass: “Have you ever watched someone walking a dog on a leash when the dog doesn't want to go where its owner is going? The owner is constantly tugging on the leash, pulling the dog from here and there, telling it to "stop that" and "come back here". . . . That's the way a lot of us live.

Our lives consist of "Stop that; come back here; don't do that". . . . . . What a difference when you see a dog and its owner that have a strong relationship. The dog doesn't need a leash to go for a walk. Its owner can just speak a word and the dog responds.

We're not comparing ourselves to dogs and dog owners. We're comparing performance-based living to relationship-based living. Big, big difference!”

Genuine Bob-Bloom-style brainstorming to generate shared purpose is an excellent way to grow a relationship-based climate that’s exciting, satisfying and profitable. (More on this next blog)

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