We have all learned to become comfortable and to some extent, complacent, in a given circumstance. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the workplace. Unintentionally, leaders often fall into a status quo form of managing and the sad part is that many of them are unaware that this has happened. It is comfortable to be sure, but it is not a great way to lead, particularly in these hyper-competitive times. Leaders need to learn to identify problems, discover the best way to implement solutions, and drive change in your company.
It has always fascinated me that looking at something from a different perspective unearths new questions, possibilities, and choices. I love to take pictures which provides a simple example to explain this. Without the camera, you look at a scene and see a subject, foreground and background. But when you see the same thing through the viewfinder, the image changes. When you change lenses, say from a telephoto lens to a wide-angle lens, you see entirely different images, even though you are looking at the same thing.
How can you apply this in the office? How do you allow yourself to see a new perspective?
Think about the emergency box we always see that says, "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass." This is the metaphor you should think about as you start to think about your role and how you can effectively drive change in your business.
Leaders can apply this to their everyday leadership strategy. As an advisor, I coach leaders to become more engaged so that they can see things inside their company from a new and different perspective. Here are 3 tips I recommend for quickly learning how to do this.
1. Take a tour of your business
Let's say you are the person running the company and pride yourself on how well you manage day-to-day operations of your business. Are you too close to the situation to see things that do not make sense? Sometimes, people who have done the same job for a few years miss things that are hiding in plain sight. The status quo sets in, which is the nemesis of driving change.
How can you become more aware that this behavior is happening to you?
I suggest stepping out of the office and speaking to as many employees as you can. Entry-level workers, marketing specialists, shop foremen -- as many as you can. Find out from them what they like, don't like, what is working, what's not, and any suggestions they have for improvements. You will be amazed at the number and nature of points they make, and if you are like me, you will find this to be a very energizing activity to participate in.
2. Develop Your List
You have accumulated an extensive set of observations, facts, issues, opportunities and other important information. And if you have done this first step well, it is a lot of information to process. You need to organize this information into some logical buckets so that you can eliminate duplications and fine tune the messages.
Share this list with your team so that they understand that you are both serious and committed to this process and that you have chosen to involve them in it. Spend time with them explaining how you acquired this information and engage them to see whether these findings resonate with them.
Now it is time to prioritize the list, particularly in a world of constraints where time is by far the scarcest resource. An effective way to accomplish this is to use these three criteria:
- What produces the biggest bang for the buck
- How long will it take to implement
- What resources are required
Working together with your team on this process should produce a strong action plan.
3. Implement the plan
This is the part that matters and you really need to get this right. Communicate to your employees in the company that you have listened to them, taken their feedback seriously and are committed to acting upon it. Make sure that the leaders who are responsible for the three initiatives report out weekly on their progress and address whatever issues that may arise. As you continue to be more visible in the company, ask people if they are aware of these changes and whether they think it's working.
A big element of this process is for you to begin to realize that your employees are an enormous asset, not simply a cost operations. You will quickly see that this will become a virtuous process with increasingly larger numbers of your employees offering ideas, volunteering for projects, and becoming more engaged.
While you are not likely facing an emergency, breaking the glass is a sure-fire way to create engagement, generate enthusiasm, motivate involvement and drive better results.