“If you want to impress me, go get something done with a group of volunteers who have no reason to follow you at all.” –Seth Godin
It’s one thing to “lead” others when the company you all work for anoints you as the leader and manager. That kind of leadership is easy to do. You can do it on auto-pilot. I know; years ago I did it. There was a period, many years ago, in my professional life when I was just going through the motions. I had become so cynical and so de-motivated that I just showed up to work and “led” my team by rote. I was like a ghost of the leader and manager that I could have been. I was paid to carry out tasks x, y, and z; my team was paid to carry out tasks a, b, and c; and we were all paid to pretend that I was in charge. We all carried out our tasks.
The prior year, I had fought hard and worked harder to bring everything I had to the workplace. I strove to be innovative. I strove to connect with my team. I strove to be involved and understand the business of my team. I was rewarded at the end of that year with an average review, an average salary increase, and absolutely no mention of the fact that I had done more to develop the business of my team than my direct manager. Somehow, though, they got the credit.
That’s when I gave up. I vowed that I would do nothing but the minimum requirement for my job from that point forward. I dotted every “i” and every “t” that my manager asked me to. I jumped through all the hoops they wanted me to jump through. I was a good little boy, sat at my desk, raised my hand, and did all the assignments precisely as requested. I did no more and no less.
The next year, I got an exceptional review, an above-average compensation increase, and lots of thanks for a job well done and for responding to feedback.
Something inside me snapped. That’s when I realized that I had wasted a year in the professional lives of the people on my team. I was ashamed. I had done them a disservice. I punished them, nobody else. The company wanted a cog, I played along, and I had started to turn my team into a team of little, corporate cogs. I vowed at that point to never do that to anyone again.
So, yes, leading others when you’ve been organizationally anointed to lead them is easy.
What’s hard is true, spiritual leadership. I’m talking about the kind of leadership that comes from your soul. It’s the kind of leadership that focuses on the spiritual work that each individual is longing to undertake that is hidden behind the guise of the tasks they have to get done. Manage the tasks; lead the people.
This is the first step to impressing Seth Godin. It’s also the first step in collective facilitation.
Anyone can follow the rules for effective meetings. Anyone can learn essential facilitation skills. Anyone can take notes, assign tasks, follow up with the people assigned to those tasks, track progress in a project plan… There are so-called “boot camps” to teach project management skills. There are classes to teach organizational skills. There are even apps you can get for your PC, smartphone, and tablet that can aid in the management of your task lists. There are plenty of tools at your disposal.
That’s all easy.
The hard part is the connecting part. You know when a meeting has no soul, when the person attempting to lead is going through the motions. If everyone is paid to get work done…let’s face it, work will get done. So, to open yourself up to spiritual leadership and the connecting art of collective facilitation, lead a group of volunteers on a difficult, challenging journey. Forget the Fortune 100 company; you know how to dance their pre-choreographed dance. That will hold for now. Instead, identify a void, find out where the volunteers congregate, and try to move them to action. THAT is a challenge.
I know; I’ve done it.
You’ll have no choice but to be yourself. You’ll have no choice but to be sincere. You’ll have no choice but to be genuine in your approach. You’ll have no choice but to listen. You’ll have no choice but to inspire. You’ll have no choice but to innovate. You’ll have no choice but to influence. What worked for you at your place of employment might not work for you in this space. Chances are, you’ll be faced with far greater hurdles than you’ve ever faced before. More challenges. More roadblocks. More resistance. More failure.
And do you know what? Chances are you won’t even notice, as long as your spirit is engaged.
That, my friends, is the essence of collective facilitation.
I am privileged to call him Friend.
Read more from Ric at woowooleadership.com