May I ask you a personal question?
The tools are sound yet...what is the next step for you personally? What is the part you play in this scenario. Give the tools and step aside? I read something about you clients?
The form did not require us to talk much about ourselves.
The tools for clarity and connection are the first three charts that I ever created.
The Circle of Impact
Five Questions That Every Leader Must Ask
Since I first wrote this post, I've expanded the number and range of the diagrams that I've created. Their purpose is to provide a guide for group thought and interaction.
These diagrams grew out of conversations I was having with people. I'd have a notepad out, and I'd draw the situations they were describing on the page, and then make connections. At first, I didn't see the imagery that you find here. A pattern began to arise and that's when I decided to develop the diagrams as tools for helping make complex situations both more simple and dynamic.
By simple, the Three Dimensions of Leadership refer to three main areas that affect us in organizations: Ideas, Relationships and Organizational Structure. The difficulty is thinking about them all at the same time, hence the need to think dynamically.
By dynamically, take any one of the three dimensions, and try to understand the impact of the other two on it. For example, what's the impact of relationships and ideas on organizational structures. If very little, then you need to elevate the role of conversation between people about ideas in the organization as one step toward resolution.
The tools are for conversational purposes. I use them in my work to help clients move more quickly through a process of discovery to a point of decision followed by action.
I've found that the charts have a great power to identify problem areas, and their solutions. If the problems are simple, then the charts identify how to move into action. The charts are intended to accelerate decision-to-action processes.
For example, let's say that is some undefined problem that exists but lacks some clarity about what it is. Using the Circle of Impact guide, we begin by asking,
"Is this an Idea problem, a Relationship one or something about how we are Structured as an organization?"
If you cannot answer the question with any certainty, then you take the dimension that seems most likely, and begin there. Do this because ultimately, all three dimensions must come into alignment for most problems to be resolved.
These disagrams have helped me considerably to be able to see what the problem of the moment is without referring to the charts at all. This dynamic of interaction about ideas, relationships and structures give those who learn to use it an advantage over those who simply think in less dynamic ways.
The next step
Implied in the question, I'm assuming, is how do I use these in my work. If I'm giving these away for free, how does this come back to me as a benefit?
The more people use my charts, the more they will begin to see situations that need change that are highly complex. This is where I enter the picture. Whether it is with an individual or with an organization. I'm helping with these complex transitional processes.
The Transitions chart simplifies something that is not simple at all. The initial question is:
How do I take my organization through a process of change? How do we make these transitions?
This is where my client projects come from. Because the path from one stage to the next is not always easy to identify and even more difficult to accomplish. People hire me to mentor them through these processes.
Think of it in terms of a team of explorers who have only the most rudimentary information about what the future holds. I work with leaders who must make transitions without a clear or comprehensive understanding all the time. They need perspective and tools for making decisions.
Let give you three current examples of how this is happening.
1. A rural non-profit healthcare group after twenty five years is in trouble. A long range plan is adopted that includes a new marketing place and a total reconfiguration of the board and organizational by-laws.
Problem: Two months into the transition the board determines that by the end of the year, they will be broke.
Solution: develop a partnership with an organization that can bring needed financial resources into the relationship.
End result: The non-profit sells its State license - Certificate of Need to a for-profit regional healthcare business. Non-profit organization reorganizes a foundation for raising money for indigent care in their county. The transition means my client changes their perception of their mission. A dramatic change in their organizational structure from service provider to foundation follows. A collaborative relationship between now two healthy healthcare organizations develops, where before there was only one that was struggling to survive.
My role was to mentor the leadership through the process and be a catalyst for the board to believe that they could make this transition.
2. A mid-size corporation goes through a C-level and board leadership change. New CEO wants values to become an important part of the company's assets. Initial project develops values statement. Statement written by diverse team including both management and union leadership. HR develops program to inform employees about the rationale and meaning of values statement.
After the statement project is complete, my role shifts to two projects. One is working with the corporate leadership team to develop how to implement the company's new values statement as a leadership / management development tool. The other project is focused on assisting one of the business units to discover how the values statement can be utilized to improve policies, procedures and internal communication. These projects are ongoing. The optimum word is "operationalize values." In other words, what behaviors and business processes are required to live up to the values.
3. A 200 year old church with a strong history in its community recognizes that it must become more future focused. Utilizing the Five Questions Guide, we work for two years to shift the congregation's perception of its mission.
Churches are social environments that are either focused on the past or the future. If the past, they are like museums of memories, recalling the good days of the past, and finding security and comfort in theological perspectives developed in cultural contexts different than today. A focus on the future is a "missional" approach. This approach asks what is our impact or influence to be. The Five Questions help to identify that big picture, and the Three Dimensions help to organize how the church will act upon that insight.
Each of these client projects are dramatically different. The one constant in each is the need to find a pathway of transition from where they are now to where they want to be in the future. My primary role is as a mentor to the leadership through a discovery process so that they know what they need to do.
The Impact of Leadership
The last part of the question asks:
The form did not require us to talk much about ourselves.
When the charts are used in a conversational setting, we are talking about ourselves. We do so in a real world context, not in an abstract one. We are dealing with situations as they exist at the present moment. Brainstorming has its place, as a way to warm up the ideas dimension. But if the brainstorming is not done in a real context, then it will not lead to concrete action.
I brought to a stark awareness of this truth a decade ago. While on vacation with my family the mountains of Wyoming, while riding horseback one afternoon, I heard a voice speak to me:
It is time to stop talking about leadership, and lead.
I knew then that I had to change. I had to get out of my head into action.
If we are to lead, we need to take initiative.
Initiative is the first step in all leadership. There is no leadership without initiative.
Using these charts for just conversation purposes is insufficient. They should provide whomever uses them the confidence that they can take action.
Earlier this morning I came across a quote from Seth Godin that I used in a post a couple years ago. He wrote:
There is a fundamental shift in rules from manual-based work (where you follow instructions and an increase in productivity means doing the steps faster) to project-based work (where the instructions are unknown, and visualizing outcomes and then getting things done is what counts.)
And yet, we're still trying to hire people who have shown an ability to follow instructions.
Life and work can now be understood as a series of transitional projects. This requires not only personal initiative, but also creativity. We need a totally different mindset than before in order to make a successful transition.
In the post I wrote two years ago, I made the following comment:
Personal initiative is a quality of character that looks for ways to make a difference. This is what I find is at the heart of true leadership. When we take initiative, we are taking responsibility for the outcome of a situation. Step forward, fill the gap, do the right thing, don't wait to be asked, take the lead. ... Personal initiative is freedom. Freedom to excel in all aspects of your life.
These diagrammatic charts provide us tools for helping us to lead.
They enhance our ability to think conceptually.
They enhance our capacity for meaningful conversations with people that lead to making a difference.
They help to put the realities of organizational life in context.
If you have questions, ask them. Asking a question is the beginning of a conversation, and if you don't ask, you'll not discover what you need to know.