Leadership Hack - Encouraging Our People to Think Big
Updated: Mar 29
I am excited for 2021. For several obvious reasons. The vaccine roll-out and the enthusiasm with which I kicked 2020 to the curb! But I am also excited to embrace the new virtual reality in both my leadership and coaching practices. The work to get ready for 2021 involved a lot of thinking, taking stalk, and remembering some key lessons from the past that define a leader.
More than 10 years ago, as part of a personal development plan at the organization where I was a Director, I was provided with the opportunity to work with an executive coach. The first time we met we went through the typical introductions and expectation settings, and as the hour ended, he asked me to go away and think about where I wanted to be in 5 years, and where I wanted my organization to be – that was almost15 years ago!
I spent the next 10 days thinking those things through and came back to our next session with what I believed to be a well thought out series of goals for my professional career, and how those would inform the betterment of my organization.
He looked at me thoughtfully for several minutes, and just when the silence was beginning to be awkward, he said to me “I was afraid you were going to come back with something like you did – you need a different coach – we can’t work together!” I was stunned and asked him why he thought that – his answer made me mad and challenged my pride, but looking back these 15 years, his answer changed the way I looked at work, life, and my aspirations. He said, “you think too small – way too small!”
As I sit at this keyboard, I can admit he was bang on. He was insisting I define a leader in bigger terms. When I met for the first time with my new coach, and she asked me what I wanted to achieve through our sessions together, and I answered without hesitation – “I want to think BIG” I still want the same thing – I want to think BIG, I don’t want to be afraid of the art of the possible, and I want those who work with me to be willing to stretch and think big as well.
Without question 2021 is going to demand different leadership skills, but the question, some 15 years later remains the same - how do we encourage our people to think big?
Consider the following:
1. Make every effort to expose your teams to the Big Picture
The Big Picture has changed so much since 2019 – leading virtual teams – Engaging for performance – Managing Morale to name but a few. Changes aside, too often our interactions are focused on the tactical near-term priorities we have on our plate. Try at your team meetings, or should we say zoom meetings, to discuss the big picture of the organization, and how the efforts at the individual level, fit into that big picture.
Expose your teams, regardless of their levels or seniority, to the big policy drivers, the big vision, and corporate commitments. And what you will see happen, is that a good number of your people will start to take those big drivers as their own and begin to articulate what they do as enablers of the Big picture.
2. Engage Horizontally not just Vertically
Those with the most effective leadership skills are those who see the importance of engaging horizontally as well as vertically. Hierarchy kills big thinking! Engage across your teams at the bottom, middle and top, and not just through your direct reports.
Let your team tell you how they are doing, especially now with the stress and pressures of our current reality.
"Take those opportunities to not only listen and learn, but also to position what you are hearing inside the bigger picture. Let them hear the vision, and your vision, not from their managers but from you, and they will begin to become part of the bigger picture, and maybe, just maybe, think big."
So, engage and expose, and we will begin not only to think big - but really BIG!
And James, if you are reading this, thanks – you were right – back then I thought way too small.