This spring, we’ve had the privilege of facilitating leadership discussions in partner retreats, firm training days and different conference and association meetings. Many of the topics that are requested are often “oldies but goodies,” like deepening client relationships, enhancing leadership and communication skills and exploring marketing and business development strategies. These topics are being requested because there is always more everyone can do in these areas. However, sometimes participants participate in the meeting or the session with their arms crossed, looking down their noses and listening through a filter of “I already know this.” Our challenge to these participants during the set up for our time together is this: It doesn’t really matter what you know, but what does matter is what you’re doing with it. And often, what we’re all doing or practicing is far from what we know we should be.
Of the different types of facilitation I engage in, staff and managers are the most open to, even hungry for, new ideas. And they are more willing to look at and implement changes in their behavior. That’s not surprising. However, the one factor that causes them to resist or question whether they should change is their fear of what their leaders (aka partner group) may do or say when they practice a new idea or behavior. It’s not that they are afraid of failing; although that is usually a consideration for most of us whenever we take on anything new. Instead, it’s a fear of not being supported or being undermined by their own leadership in implementing the ideas they receive at a training course they were sent to by those same leaders. For example, one leadership attribute that we explore a lot when assessing how we can improve as leaders is integrity. Instead of defining integrity as “honesty” or “doing the right thing,” we define integrity as honoring or keeping your word and your commitments and resetting expectations when we don’t or can’t. That way, we don’t get into an argument about what’s “right” and instead focus on what we say we’re going to do and how we’re committed to behave and then ensuring our behaviors are aligned with our verbal commitments.
The challenge is that when we apply this definition of integrity to real life examples, like a partner reviewing and returning a tax return by Thursday and the manager not receiving it, or getting a clear status on when to truly expect it, the manager gets discouraged about whether having integrity at work is expected or valued, because the leaders aren’t exhibiting its practice consistently. I am always confronted when I facilitate these discussions because I am reminded of places where I need to restore my integrity with someone and reset expectations or how I could be more specific when delegating and assigning ownership to someone (a constant battle of mine!) or other ways I could grow as a leader. And I know the impact of integrity to others but still am challenged to “do” it consistently myself.
We all have our “reasons” for not doing the things “we already know” that we should do. For example our reasons for not keeping our word and resetting expectations include not having enough time, being afraid of disappointing someone or even that others don’t do it regularly, so why should we. However, as my partner, Jennifer, said in her blog, Be Unreasonable!, “I have many barriers that can block my progress and you do, too. The question is how powerful is your will to achieve despite the reasons that pile up on you? How unreasonable are you willing to be?” As we attend and participate in the various events and send our people to training and other learning opportunities, we could miss hearing the very thing we should be doing to help us achieve our goals because we were listening through our filter of “I already know” and listing all the “reasons” why that new idea or behavior won’t work for us or why we’re justifying not doing what we know we should.
This summer, as you attend conferences or association meetings or participate in your firm retreats or training days, I encourage you to listen through the filter of “What am I not doing in these areas that will make a difference if I take them on?” And when others come back sparkling with conference, training or retreat “pixie dust”– full of ideas and new actions that they’re committed to take, ask yourself, “Am I doing that, and if not, what would be possible if I committed to do that, too?” and see what you might be able to learn and apply – or at a minimum encourage and support them as they venture out in new territory.
What do you already know that you’re not doing that you really need to commit to do? What action or new behavior is there for you to undertake? We’d love to hear from you and support you in that new commitment!