An easy road less travelled




How do you want to lead your next project – in an easy way or a difficult way?

You have a new  project, a nice team or partner to work with you and there you are, time to begin. What do you do? Do you create an action plan to start doing things that will lead you to your goal? Or maybe you take some time to go through the project with your team, inviting them to explain how they see the purpose, the goals and the road forward?

When you start with the action plan and immediately move into the actions – you have chosen the difficult path. Will you learn something? Yes, if you need to learn about chaos, confusion and conflict, you will certainly learn many things. If you already know about that you might want to choose another road towards your goals and start with gathering your team.

So you tell me that you have already talked about your goals when you wrote the proposal to get the project funded! You even talked about what actions to take and maybe the whole project is about doing something practical, so why do it again? You could have had the impression that everyone agreed to your ideas, but did you really take time to find out or did you have a tight deadline? They might have agreed to your ideas based on their assumptions on those ideas. When you then start the project going straight to actions, their work will be based on their assumptions, not yours. You will find out when some actions never happen and others that lead you in a very different direction are carried out quickly and get confusing and chaotic results. If you still carry on without doing anything about it, you might find out that you hold a conflict in your lap. This is the difficult way.

The easy way is a way that will take you to your goal on time. You might still get some chaos, confusion and conflict but you have a foundation from which you can handle those situations. This road starts with inviting all project members to a meeting to find out about everyone´s assumptions about the purpose, leadership, vision and goals, community and stakeholders and management, tools and actions. It takes some time, maybe 4 hours, maybe 6, and it will be worthwhile because many different opinions will be on the table and there is a chance to find actions that are even better than those you were planning for. This meeting is also a place for common understanding of rules and principles you need to observe.

When you want to take the easy road it is at the same time a road less travelled because it requires awareness of many different dimensions and not all want to go there. It requires you to consciously consider the whole person that is invited, the impact of the environment where the meeting is held and your impact as the leader of the meeting. Do you still want to go there and save yourself many moments of chaos, confusion and conflict? Click here to find out how to!



Leading with high impact

1555When I met people in leadership positions in a Norwegian community, they all wanted to use more time leading and less time managing. They instantly saw the difference between leadership and management, which not all people do according to John Kotter, professor of leadership at Harvard University. His definition of management is ”a set of processes that keep an organization functioning. The processes are about planning, budgeting, staffing, clarifying jobs, measuring performance and problem solving when results did not go to plan.” Leadership on the other hand is about aligning people to the vision, which means communication, motivation and inspiration.  Kotter continues that ”if the world is not changing and you are on top, then management is essential but leadership is not”. The reality is that the world is constantly changing so leadership is much needed, but as in the Norwegian community, management tends to take most of our time.

When I started to lead the association where I am the chair of the board, I used methods from the Genuine Contact program, which I knew would help us create a culture for leadership, making it possible for the board members and other engaged people to take initiatives and leadership for what they felt was important. This was the only way I was sure could help us to realize the goals we had set for ourselves. I knew this required clarity about vision, goals and givens, so people´s efforts were contributing to the whole and not wasted and so we worked that out. I conducted all our meetings using Whole Person Process Facilitation (WPPF) because this process supports learning and collaboration. It all worked out just fine and everyone took leadership and self organized around what we needed to do. It all worked out just fine for everyone except for me.

My big challenge was to find out what my role as a chair meant. My mind told me that leaders are the hardest working, they are always doing and they have control of everything. This is what the old leadership paradigm told me and I am not alone to unconsciously believe in this. Maybe it was when they invented the assembly lines that management and leadership got mixed up, when they started to treat people as things to be managed. Anyway, to feel that I was still useful I started to take on administrative work and occupied my time with a lot of to-dos. I actually went straigth into the management syndrome, where many leaders are stuck and which the leaders in Norway wanted to leave.

While the different world views were fighting each other inside of me, I continued to support our work in a new paradigm leadership style, using Whole Person Process Facilitation and tools from the Genuine Contact Program. I had long experience from these processes and knew I could rely on them to create the culture of leadership needed to get things done. The processes helped me to stay out of the way and allow people to work, even when I really wanted to start micromanage things. So my leadership approach worked well for everyone else, while I was trying to figure out my own dilemma.

One of my friends helped me by referring to the work of a leader as that of being a firekeeper. The firekeeper ignites the spark, keeps the fire alive and well, not too big and within its boarders. Being the leader is to keep the vision alive, keep the energy high and at times redirect the group when it is going astray. It is to remind everyone about the good work already achieved and look after the culture of leadership that was created at start with the help of the Genuine Contact Program. Being a leader in this sense is more of being than of doing, which is a big challenge for a doer like myself.

Later I read an interesting comparison of leadership versus management that confirmed the thinking about the firekeeper. It was on the Clemmer group website and said that leadership is a way of being while management is a way of doing. Leading is about commitment and it is for people, context and culture while management is about control and it is for systems, processes and technology. So being a leader is really a way of being and being committed to follow the spark that lights the way forward.

I believe every leader has been in a situation where their own mind or emotions has been playing with them. My experience is that you can still function and lead well in such situations if you have a reliable process to hold on to. I have chosen to stick to Whole Person Process Facilitation. It gives me and my fellow leaders in the group the opportunity to be all that we are and learn together, which in time leads to successful results.

Do you want to know more about the processes and tools I rely on? Read more about our upcoming workshop.


Nourish a Culture of Leadership

”You can not separate personal and professional leadership development. It is time for people to awaken their leadership potential”. Birgitt Williamsbirgitt-williams-horizontal

Leadership or management

What is in charge in your organization – leadership or management? Do you use most of your time on documentation, administration or emergency calls to solve acute problems, that people don´t have the authority to solve themselves? Do you want time to think before you act, to see where the path leads before you try to catch up and to get some kind of order out of the chaos?

Meeting the challenges of today requires new ways of thinking and leading. Changes occur faster and faster and unfortunately many older organizations try to solve their problems by adding new control systems and more structure. This is what they are used to do but it is not a good recipe. It takes a lot of energy to have the brakes on and keep one leg in what has been (documenting what has already passed) when the other leg is on its way to solve the next unexpected situation.

Another kind of thinking

We need a culture of leadership, where everyone has enough space to take leadership, find solutions to urgent problems and take opportunities when they emerge. We need less of control systems and more of trusting that everyone has the ability and capacity to create success. We need methods and tools that quickly taps into the collective knowledge, the potential in the organization, to catch arriving opportunities. And we will find new energy when we follow the flow instead of going upstream.

Cour-age to change from within

Creating space for yourself requires courage. You have to choose another path than the usual one. Sometimes you even need some rage. The word courage comes from cour (heart) and rage. This means that it is in the heart of rage and anger that we can find the power to act in a way that agrees with who we are as humans, not with how we have built our administrative systems.

As always, sustainable change has to start from within. First from within you as a leader, then from within the organization. The first step is to find out from which values and norms you wish to act. The values and assumptions that have founded many of the organizations we have today, was born in the early days of industrialism. At that time change was slower, leaders were educated which the staff was not and society at large was more divided in different classes and more unequal. Today knowledge and competence are distributed more evenly, not least because we value both practical and intellectual knowledge. Therefore it is a big waste of resources when the people don´t have enough space to use their entire knowledge.

Join me in a Learning opportunity with Birgitt Williams to find the courage to lead differently. The workshops are in April so it is time to register here.