How Are You Selling Possibility?
“I tend to get bogged down in the process of writing and editing these blog articles. It’s kind of a feeling like I’m turning them in for a grade so they need to be perfect up front. What I really want to do is just write and see what works and what doesn’t.”
Create Possibility, Create Potential
It may have been somewhat foretelling that I said this to Greg (Executive Coach and Transformational Leadership Instructor) the morning before our third Transformational Leadership class. His answer was along the lines of, “Yes, just write and we’ll produce good stuff.” That night we watched a video, ‘Leadership, the Art of Possibility’ – a short piece featuring Benjamin & Rosamund Zander. Rosamund is a Psychotherapist who wrote the book upon which the documentary is based. Together, the Zanders present twelve practices, based on Benjamin’s experience as conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, to bring more creativity into our endeavors. One of their tenets is to give everyone in the class an A on the first day. As Zander says, “The A is a possibility to live into, not a standard to live up to.”
Create Confidence, Create Leaders
Being a mentor is the aspect of leadership that inspires me most. It also scares me a little, and this drives me to learn to be the best mentor possible. In The Leadership Handbook, John C. Maxwell writes, “Good leaders inspire their followers to have confidence in them; great leaders inspire their followers to have confidence in themselves.”
Maybe that’s one of the reasons my transition into a leadership role has felt so time–consuming. I want the people who work for me to be confident and feel successful. Achieving this with different personalities and viewpoints can be difficult. As the Zanders point out in their book The Art of Possibility, if we draw a different frame around the same circumstances in our lives, we will see new possibilities and options.
This reminded me of a story:
A scout from a European shoe manufacturer travels to Africa, looking for potential business expansion. After several weeks, he writes to his manager that there is no potential because the people don’t even wear shoes. The manager immediately responds that this is the greatest opportunity he has come across in years—millions of people who don’t have shoes! Nothing was created or lost, but a different point of view changed the entire perspective.
Become a Better Leader, Become a Better Team, Become a Better Leader
Creating confidence in employees (and in ourselves) takes work because it is so individualized. In our fast paced world, I think there is a strong tendency to think in terms of right and wrong. Simple procedures may be needed to complete a task, but in reality, these procedures may not achieve the same results with a different person. Creating confidence requires that we step out of this limited way of thinking and realize that the more difficult method (tailoring to the individual) is the better way to achieve greater success. We are unlocking possibility by saying you can do this and there is no set way to go about it.
Let your team know (and keep in mind for yourself) that the best way for you to be successful in your current position of leadership is for them to be successful. Spread the credit and great things will happen. Great leaders realize that they are only as strong as the team. As Zander comments in the movie, at one point he finally realized that he (as the conductor) was the only person in the orchestra who doesn’t make music. His job is to bring all of the individual musicians together to create the symphony. Good leaders realize that they can create a symphony with confident players, but they alone can’t make the music.
Think about these twelve tips from the Zanders to see how many opportunities you are offering your employees.
It’s all Invented.
There is some comfort to me in believing that there is a correct answer or solution to any given problem. As the Zanders remind us, the frames our mind creates define—and confine—what we perceive to be possible. Everything in life is our own invention conceived inside the frame we create. Expand or change the frame and the invention changes.
Step into a Universe of Possibility.
I find myself in a mental state of limitations sometimes. For quite some time in my career, I tended to feel a need to hoard credit for projects. I’ve tried to open myself up more to the possibility that there is more than enough credit to go around to everyone, and it should be given out freely. As the team moves up, we all move up.The Zanders comment, in the measurement world you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold. While I don’t see our annual goals disappearing from part of the evaluation process, I plan to think of ways to reframe them so people are less focused on that limit and more on the possibility.
Give an A.
This is where we began. Doing away with the measurement. Starting out successful allows you to forge past the expectations required for a grade. Instead, break through to something new and unknown altogether. A perfectly written paper might get the A. Still, having the A already might create a unique and completely innovative piece of writing. This achievement may not have been possible with the measurement of a grade.
Be a Contribution.
This involves two practices: First, declare yourself to be a gift to others, and second, throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. As I’ve become busier, with work and a family, I’ve drifted away from organized volunteerism. It was much easier to see myself as a contribution when I signed in each week as a volunteer at the hospital or developed outings with my volunteer little brother. Those are activities that people can write a letter about, giving exact measure as to how much time I did contribute.Like the grade on a paper, the measure is a limited mindset that I need to shift. After all, I regularly contribute to the world around me by taking my daughter on multiple daily outings, guiding peers through projects at work, or simply saying hello to the grocery store clerk. Every small act is a contribution if you have the right frame of mind.
Lead from any Chair.
You don’t have to be in a leadership position to lead. This goes back to my feelings in point two. In order to spread the credit, I need to understand and remember that I can still be in a lead position from the chair at the side of the table. Being in charge doesn’t mean sitting at the head of the table. Give others credit and responsibility, as well.
Remember Rule #6: “Don’t take Yourself so Damned Seriously!
Need I say more?
The way Things Are.
Be present to the way things are. Acknowledge your feelings and let them be just that: feelings. To do these two things allows us to open possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t be available. Remove the word ‘should’ from these thoughts and feelings as well. If things should be a certain way, then possibility is limited because they can’t be another way.
Give way to Passion.
Notice where you are holding back and release control. Find your passion and let the vital energy flow through you and go with it.
Light a Spark.
This is referring to the art of enrollment. Catching a spark and lighting it in others will in turn allow you to catch their spark back. Share the human experience and create a team.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, he calls people who naturally have this skill the connectors. Don’t think you have to be a Paul Revere to be a connector in your world. With practice, you can infect others with your spark. You may never be a trendsetter (see Hushpuppys example in Tipping Point), but you can be one of the people who creates a sustainable fire in spirit within your circle of influence.
Be the Board.
The game board that is. When nothing seems to be working and the spark isn’t catching, you may not be seeing the possibility. It’s time to recreate the game. Realize that all the situations in your life are there because you have created the game and allowed them to be there. Need a new game? Then start one.
Create Frameworks for Possibility.
Let the buoyant force of possibility overcome the downward spiral. This can be tough to do. Many of us insist that we are in touch with ourselves, that we get along with everyone, and then suddenly things aren’t going our way. We start looking at others to understand why they said what they said and . . . oh, now begins the downward spiral!
It’s much easier to allow the downward spiral to continue than it is to stop it. Look at the situation and try to find the possibility that exists, then realize there is possibility within those situations. Take a listen to this TED Talk: Want to be Happy? Be grateful by the monk, David Steindl–Rast, for a little more perspective. As he states, “We’ll never get this moment again, but it is truly a gift that we have received it now.”
Tell the WE story.
The department director from my first job told me once that my job was to make my supervisor look good. This is my personal relation to the we story. It came down to ensuring the company looked good as a whole.
If you look good, I look good, and if I look good, we look good, and if we look good, where can we go from here and who else can we involve in this team of looking good. We’re going to need a bigger mirror!
Living Into Our “A”
In moving out of an individual contributor role, I’ve had to shift my thinking. Reflecting on some of these lessons has helped me. It is sometimes hard to sit in a meeting listening to people who work for me, or who work for someone else for that matter, talk about ideas that originated with me as if they are their own. This is part of building confident individuals. By helping them get the ideas, then learn how to talk about them and finally allow myself to let the ideas go, I am able to see what can become of these ideas together.
In this case, I reflect on the we story and the fact that letting the team take the ideas and create something bigger is creating a framework for and opening our minds to possibility. What more can we achieve by my letting go than by my holding on? I think we can live into our “A” in life!