Thursday, November 17, 2016

On the Inside

If you are a leader, whether in a business, an organization, or even a sports team, you are always looking for high capacity people.  You need talent, you need proven experience and you need passionate, committed people to join your team.  

Yet, most talented, experienced and passionate people can be difficult to lead.  They are opinionated.  They want to go their own direction and do their own thing.  They don’t always follow well.  As a leader, you struggle with attracting high capacity people to your team and even if you get a few of them, you struggle to get them on the same page with where you know you are taking the team.

What is the secret to getting high capacity to join your team? And, once they are on your team, how do you get them on board with your program? Your strategy?

The secret is to make them feel like they are on the inside.

The key is to make them feel that they are a part of the process.  

Highly gifted people know they have a lot to offer.  Experienced people have much they have learned that they want to share.  Passionate, committed people want to jump in with both feet only to something that has real meaning and purpose to THEM.  While we, as leaders appreciate these high capacity people and tell them we desperately need them to work with us, many times we inadvertently deflate them by making them feel marginalized, like they are on the outside.  

Here’s an example:

As leaders, we will gather our team together to present an idea or strategy.  We work hard to prepare the room and will have the table set with pages of information.  We even have a presentation ready on the screen so that our communication is compelling and clear.  At the end we ask if there are any questions, and when nobody speaks up, we feel great and dismiss.  But after a week goes by and nobody is working toward the goal, we are confused and frustrated.  We ask “why is nobody working as hard on the strategy as I am? I thought I was clear in my presentation?"

The problem is not that our presentation was bad; the problem is that we missed the step of first creating buy in.  When we brought the idea finished and presented to the group, they felt like they were on the outside of the conversation.  They were being told what they were going to do rather than be asked what should be done.  Now, some on our team who are workers will love the presentation, as they just want to be told what to do and what to think.  But high capacity leaders, thinkers, creatives will be disengaged.  They will do the minimal work and will be finding ways to create something that intrigues them.  You will always be trying to get them to STOP doing what they want to do and will try to FORCE them to do what you want them to do.  All this does is discourage them and drain you.

3 ways to help your high capacity people feel on the inside:

Meet outside the meeting
Create casual moments with your gifted, your creative and your experienced.  As John Maxwell teaches, have the meeting BEFORE the meeting.  He is teaching us that you need to seek to build influence and gain understanding with your high capacity people BEFORE you present the idea to the team officially.  And the environment of when and where you create these connecting moments matters.  Sometimes, you need to get away from the board room or the office.  Get in a car and drive to coffee together.  Take a walk outside.  Have them over your house.  High level Business leaders make some of their best business deals on the golf course.  Be less formal; have more conversations than meetings.  Conversations are best when they go two ways: listening first and then sharing.  

Share the Secret
Everybody likes to feel like they know the secret.  Everybody likes to have a “heads up” of what is coming soon within the organization.  And while you cannot share everything with everyone, you make your people feel like they are on the inside of the conversation when you share information and ideas early with them.  It’s alright to let some know more information than others.  If some of your people are higher capacity than others, then they have earned the right to be brought on the inside.

Treat Volunteers Like Leaders
A common mistake that we leaders make with volunteers who serve with us is that we call them “volunteers.” When we say and when we show a clear separation between staff and volunteers, we communicate that there are levels.  Consequently, volunteers act like, well…volunteers.  Volunteers will only do the minimal because they don’t feel permission to touch anything, decide anything.  Volunteers don’t feel empowered to create, or to problem solve, or to add any value.  They simply…volunteer.  And the leader has to do all of the thinking, creating, recruiting, building and problem solving.  

I like to refer to people as “our team.” When I invite someone to serve with me, I will say “I need you to lead along with me.” Then, I start getting them involved by OJT: On the Job Training.  I lead them by asking them questions.  Asking people questions activates their minds.  They start creating solutions, they start drawing from their experiences.  I don’t solve the problem for them; rather, I share the vision with them and then attach their gifting and their calling to the vision.  It’s amazing how high capacity people will work more passionately, more committed when they see how their gifts and experience and calling have a direct impact to the shared vision.

The more your people feel like they are on the outside, the more the responsibility falls on you.

The more your people sense that they are on the inside, the greater the impact you AND your high capacity people will make TOGETHER.