I had a great discussion with a group of leaders today, about how to unleash the hidden potential within their organization. Here’s the basic idea.
Right now a lot of people are scared for their jobs. As a result, I’ve observed that many are “hunkering down” in fear. They’re not taking risks, they’re not being more creative, they’re just trying to work harder and wait out the storm.
But what we need in tough times is more creativity, not less. This is where the role of leaders is critical: They must support people in making changes. And change is always risky.
But we don’t want everybody running off in random directions changing things at whim. The net result of that is chaos. Instead, a leader will set a narrow, powerful, and emotionally compelling strategic direction within which people are encouraged to innovate.
Why a narrow direction? Because you want to increase the intensity of the result. The narrower it is, the less energy you’ll waste on less-aligned alternatives.
Why powerful? Because people need to see a reason to change. Increasing a metric by 10% isn’t that powerful. Saving the company, or becoming the industry leader, is incredibly powerful.
Why emotionally compelling? Because we have to help our people to get over the hurdles which result from any change. The potential future has to look SO much better than the current situation that it’s worth investing your personal energy and taking a risk.
THAT’s the way that the organization’s potential is unleashed: By creating the context in which each individual wants to contribute their best, rather than just hunkering down and trying to be safe.