We’ve all been there. You’re at the end of a well-planned and successful meeting where you are applauded for your vision and ability to see the bigger picture. You are on a euphoric cloud as you realize all the time, energy, and resources it took to turn this idea into a reality were worth it. You are ready to launch into action, confident you have the backing of the attendees in the room; you are all aligned with the direction of the organization. A definite win all around.
It’s in the hours, minutes, and weeks after the meeting when reality sets in. You begin to see the push-back as people realize they need to be accountable and do things differently. They suddenly realize that success for the organization isn’t about other people changing, it’s about them changing. Now it’s personal and it’s scary and uncomfortable.
Anyone can be a part of a meeting, believe it’s a great idea, and then go back to the routine of email and conference calls. In order for sustainable action and change to occur, there must be a compelling reason for people to want to do it, even if it’s the right thing to do.
Why don’t people buy in? Richard Branton, owner of Advanced Strategies, once shared with me a perspective I have always remembered. “People are fearful of their own short comings. They are worried they won’t have a place and have a fear of irrelevance.” Assisting people in overcoming these concerns and becoming a willing participant is as much about accountability as it is purpose.
1. How do you create willing participation?
Have a higher perspective. When we put a man on the moon in 1969, we did it with less technology than we have in our smart phone today. We were charged by a higher purpose and vision for greatness that went well beyond the need and desire for personal accolades.
Your latest project may not be as ambitious as putting someone on the moon, yet the motivations likely have similarities. It is not easy to create a vision, set a path, and expect everyone to voluntarily follow you. You must consistently keep focused on the desired outcome and connect why it is important to the organization and each individual on the team. A personal connectedness to a deliverable and its purpose will bring people to the table because they are a part of something bigger that makes a difference. Whether you are setting a new strategy for patient satisfaction or delivering a framework for population health, the players at the table need to know how it changes the organization and them, for the better.
When you take the time to make the personal connection, you begin to remove the barrier of fear. I’m astounded by how many people are surprised by this approach. It is not the norm for leaders to spend quality time with team members, understanding their motivations, working to overcome their fears, and helping them realize their value contribution to the organization. If you are managed by someone who isn’t familiar with this model, you may find yourself as the teacher. Letting your boss know what you need will help in their growth and development too.
2. Creating a bigger perspective keeps us alive and engaged
Raise their limitations. When embarking upon a new deliverable, create a broader perspective and bring people along so they expand their comfort zones. Set an agenda that is achievable yet aggressive, one that requires people to think about their roles differently. People want to be a part of something meaningful, exciting, and new. Yet too often, we are stymied by fear of not being a subject matter expert, or are afraid to admit we may not know the answer. That is the best time to jump in and expand your learning opportunities.
Choose people who bring the enthusiasm and desire to learn, take chances, and raise the bar. Organizations typically choose the same people over and over again for projects because of the roles they are in, regardless of their ability to deliver. We accept this for reasons ranging from tenure and reporting structures to the allowance of bad behavior. You can reverse the trend by setting clear expectations, building a diverse team, and assisting them in seeing a different perspective.
Find people whose passions resonate with the project’s goals. On paper, they may not be an obvious choice, but by showing them that their interests are in alignment with a larger goal for the organization, you not only empower these people by including them, but you also raise their awareness to the larger picture. You’ll create powerful cheerleaders and champions for your project, which will help counter the resistance that arises when others realize that they need to alter their outlook.
Which brings us to:
3. Are you doing what you are meant to do?
You have one life to live. Live it for yourself and not others’ expectations. So often we allow ourselves to be shaped by the thoughts and opinions of others. We seek to please our coworkers, managers, and clients, often without regard for also finding what pleases ourselves. Your most important customer is you. Too often, we back ourselves into a situation due to the desire, or perceived need, to please other people. We limit ourselves to do only what we are told we can or cannot achieve. Do what you love to do and carve a path for yourself that meets your own expectations.
I have long shared the belief that just because you can do something does not mean you should. Ask yourself, ‘Do I love what I do?’ If not, it’s time for a change and time to set new expectations.
Last year I met a gentleman who had left his job as a partner of a highly successful law firm in California to become a deep sea fishing captain in Florida. The work of a boat captain is not without hazard, expense, and hard work. In fact, it is wrought with risk and outright danger. I asked him about his journey, to which he shared the following:
“I found myself working high-profile cases, with media exposure, making a ton of money, with a beautiful house, car, artwork, and a boat. I was 20 pounds overweight, on blood pressure medication, and I spent 22 days a year stuck in traffic… On a rare weekend day, when I was able to be on my boat, I realized it was the only time I was experiencing true joy in my life. I returned to shore and made a plan to sell it all and move to Florida.”
Today, he is the owner of a successful deep sea charter out of Key West. He lost 25 pounds, no longer needs to take heart medication, and does not even own a car. He has happy clients, lives on his boat, and will gladly share beverages and stories with you from his favorite perch at the marina pub while watching the sunset.
While I am not suggesting you close up shop to go fishing, I am suggesting you ruminate about how much you really need. Are you setting the appropriate expectations for yourself and are you living your life to its fullest potential? Ask yourself, “Am I creating the example by which I wish to lead?”
In your quest to be an impactful leader who delivers results, sets clear expectations, and raises the bar, ensure you also remain true to yourself and others around you. When you are in the right role and you are making a difference, it is evident. People want to be on your team, they want to be a part of your projects, and they want to grow with you.
There will consistently be others who look to push accountability, use their fear and leverage politics to create barriers so that they may avoid the appropriate discomfort you bring to the table.
Don’t apologize for it.