Almost every CEO I know eventually asks, “How do I get my people to act like an owner? To commit to making contributions that are in the best interest of the whole organization and take full responsibility for their choices and outcomes?
My answer is, “Tell me how you lead your organization.”
The leader responds, “I make sure the roles and responsibilities are clear. I establish a clear vision, so everyone knows where we are going and why. Then I am careful to establish clear goals so that everyone knows what they need to do to ensure we get there. After all my people are the most important part of our organization and I want them to be successful.”
I ask, “And when there are difficult situations that come up or a conflict between two of your departments, how does that got resolved?”
“Well, that is what I am here for: to help remove obstacles and sort things out.”
I reply, “Can you begin to see why your people are not acting like owners as you would like them to? If you treat them like young children, they will respond like one. And unconsciously that is what you are doing.”
To be fair, this is not totally the leader’s fault. It’s the way the game of business is set up; it’s embedded deep in our culture. The expectation of a leader is to do exactly what this leader described, which in turn causes people to respond exactly like they do. Most organizations are “like a family”, which implies that the parents (leaders) make all the decisions, and the rest of the organization (the children) aren’t mature enough to be given authority or handle the responsibility of decision-making.
Let me be clear, as a leader it is your responsibility to ensure the organization creates the results required for success. This will never change. And this responsibility naturally leads you to feel the pressure to make sure others do what is required.
What if there was another way? What if we changed the rules of the game and set up a different relationship?
Imagine the leader interacting with their team as if each team member was “CEO” of their own company “contracting” with the parent organization about the contribution “their company” will make to the success of the organization.
Imagine that this group of “companies” understands they are part of an ecosystem, no longer independent entities, and each one depends on the others, and they know their contribution matters only if the whole organization is successful.
This will shift the focus from making people get the results to having them want to achieve those same results – making their contribution something they choose. Since they choose it, they will be committed to it and naturally drive to be successful.
Instead of using your people to get the results, you use the journey of getting results to develop, grow, and mature your people. Encouraging them to resolve the challenges and conflicts themselves will develop their level of maturity and the sense of being the “CEO” of their lives. You coach and guide them to self-reflect and self-improve.
This shifts the role of leader from overseer to coach helping each “CEO” become successful in running “their business,” freeing the leader to focus on more strategic concerns, because they know the ship is in good hands.
Personal experience: When I was a consulting manager at KMPG Peat Marwick, my partner-in-charge challenged me to think of myself as my own consulting company, in a network of other consulting companies. How would I act? What would I do? My mindset shifted; how I interacted with clients and prospects and my fellow consultants shifted. I became an entrepreneur instead of an employee, all because of that one question.
This is based on a blog that was originally published by Vitaly Geyman of Quantum Leaders May 17, 2023. Their website is https://quantumleaders.com/
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