I spend the majority of my work time with clients who are tasked with not only meeting key organizational targets, but to do so with limited resources. In order for them to achieve success with their targets they need people. Not just bodies, but people who show up willing to give their best. These clients of mine must be able to successfully inspire their people to share in the vision, as well as enable them to act in ways that will help in achieving targets while at the same time bring them great satisfaction and a sense of purpose. This is a tall order but the nature of the beast many of my clients face in their workplaces.
It is not surprising then that for some of the leaders with whom I work as well as their direct reports, there is a tendency to be gun-shy when we are in sessions designed to generate solutions to what they see as impossible to solve challenges. Just recently I was in one such session and it was an interesting exchange within the group. I must say they had no difficulty letting me know what the problems were. Nor did they struggle to share the negative ramifications of these problems on themselves, their team members and of course the customers.
They struggled significantly to move from talking about the issues and their impact to identifying possible solutions for the issues. When tasked with coming up with some choices to address the issues or better yet tell a story in which the organization achieves its goals I was met with silence. This way of thinking is not encouraged or taught anywhere close to how it ought to be in organizations.
The main reason many expensive strategic plans end up in a pretty binder on either a virtual or physical shelf is the tendency to spend too much time on an organization’s weaknesses rather than use valuable time to build and re-enforce that which they are strong in and really good at.
So back to my session. Once I got the clients away from the negatives of the issues and now putting forward possible choices, the natural tendency from others toward each possible choice presented was to start critically analyze why they won’t work. Again, it is easier to see the bad aspect of the choices versus the good inherent.
The power behind the approach of truly supporting teams and organizations in general to focus on what they are really good at and to look for choices or strategic possibilities to address current challenges is built on two premises:
- The group is smarter than the smartest individual in the group. A lot of great choices and possible solutions will be generated when the collective minds are paired as one mastermind.
- The focus on identifying choices and possible solutions to the challenges an organization faces gives a greater sense of hope. Having hope that things can be turned around is far more motivating than listing the collective weaknesses of the a group.
Back to the session. With a bit of prodding and gentle reminder of why they were meeting, which was to generate solutions for a particular issue in customer service they started to ease into the process. In fact, the solutions that were generated by the group as a whole proved to be so valuable to the director it was a process to behold.
To date, the director has already implemented two of the solutions put forward by the group and is very eagerly looking forward to evaluating the results. So why if a process that focuses on looking for the possibilities is so rewarding do people tend to focus on the opposite? Simple answer, habit. Not knowing that the W in SWOT could also be interpreted to mean what’s possible and the T take a chance and try a solution – is a case of doing the same thing over and over without asking why don’t we take a different approach?
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