Lindsay’s In Business: PART 29: It’s going on

Stephen Covey

What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds…

 Since the success of Mirror Mirror’s first case study, I’ve created a pretty neat slide pack (if I say so myself) to tell the story. I’m waiting on client approvals before circulating it. Skype calls are lined up with some good contacts (mainly with ‘intermediaries’ – freelancers / agencies who could add Mirror Mirror to their list of client offerings), and I’m building the network and improving the process / materials as I go on. My goal is to GET FOUR FIRST CLIENTS for Mirror Mirror.

The messages I use are fast evolving. Now, I say that I spot alignment gaps and opportunities, and work with teams to address those. So much simpler than the previous long-winded explanation.

One of my recent meetings, was a conversation with an OD practitioner in an Anglo-Dutch oil and gas company. She loves the idea of helping teams align but had one concern:

“So, we would uncover lots of alignment gaps – because there are a lot – but what then?”

She agreed that more alignment on the common ground and differences between people in teams can bring them closer to success. However, she doubted the skills and maturity of the managers she was working with to be able to handle the alignment gaps.

Good point. We know that in general, it’s only the enabling managers would be interested in Mirror Mirror (as opposed to the more old-fashioned ‘command and control’ managers) – but maybe any manager might need guidance on HOW to handle misalignment insights because they can be so confronting.

Here’s another reaction. The Team Lead involved in our case study last month, based in the Netherlands, said:

“I want to know what my people are thinking and feeling – whatever it is.”

And it wasn’t all about him.

“If my team can grasp the fact that there are some great opportunities out there, then we are half way there. We need to get our ideas on the table, lose the baggage, and find some tangible ways forward. That’s only going to happen if we can find a way to open up and really have that dialogue.”

Strikes me, this is about cultural maturity. As a leader, the question is this. Are you really open to knowing what your team members think and feel – and the differences between those views as compared with yours?

What if the alignment identification process showed that the team were aligned on purpose but not on goals? Or that the team members had different ideas about what effects a significant industry development would have on their work? More confronting – what if it showed that many of the quality of the connections in the team were not as high as the team members themselves would like them to be? And then, what if all of that was shared back to the team (in a way that protects individual confidentiality)?

  • Answer 1: These disconnects would show that the team has a poor leader. It would be embarrassing and create tension and ill-feeling. It would reduce motivation. It’s better to focus on the positive and leave these things alone.
  • Answer 2: It would help the team understand exactly where to have the conversations that are needed. It would enable the leader to see what barriers are preventing the success of his team. It would allow people in the team to be heard and take ownership for finding solutions.

No offense to the Brits or anyone else who prefers option 1, but option 2 looks like the more mature view to me because:

  1. teams naturally become misaligned
  2. the enabling leader cares about what his team thinks and feels
  3. the more people’s perceptions overlap, the more they have a shared current reality (alignment)
  4. accepting different views (not necessarily agreeing with them) is a part of accepting diversity
  5. progress is made when people use positive enquiry to find new bridges between differing perspectives
  6. when people are able to express themselves and contribute to finding ways forward, their commitment increases.

When I talk to my contacts in communications, HR and OD, and ask them what proportion of leaders are still in the command and control zone (evading the views of others), and what proportion are more into enabling their staff (embracing the views of others), they shrug. If I suggest the split is 50 / 50, they wince and say that’s optimistic.

I wonder what they’ll say in 5 years’ time.

Mirror Mirror identifies misalignment gaps and opportunities and works with teams to address those, for clarity, alignment and momentum:

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