As we get set to embrace the new financial year, I connect the dots between a webinar on culture building and my plans for the year ahead. A wonderful reminder about the power of deeper inquiry and asking myself what I want to achieve. This leads me to the doorstep of possibilities. “What is possible based on the environment and the opportunities that abound?” Instead of just setting targets based on past performance and others’ expectations.
The secret sauce to success comes from asking people what they can do or want to do instead of simply telling them what they have to do. When one grows up in a culture where you are told what to do, it teaches you to tell others what to do. This is how organisational culture is built. I was reminded of this by Akhil Saxena in a webinar while he was talking about creating a more inspiring and enabling culture.
Creating the space to allow people to unleash their full potential requires leaders to be deeply connected with the people they work with and their dreams. Finding an alignment between these worlds is what empathetic leadership and building a coaching culture are all about.
A pattern interrupt or breaking the chain of “the way things are done around here” is often what a coaching session provides a leader. Looking at this systemically from an organisation perspective is about creating a shift in behaviour. Enabling a company to become a learning organisation is important. It allows people to challenge each other. In a country where hierarchy is a way of life it takes a lot to create a culture where “questioning the boss” is not just allowed but encouraged is not easy. Focussing on the “frozen middle” the large chunk of middle management who often get into a pattern of not pushing boundaries of change is an area of opportunity. Bringing about change with this group of future leaders is something to think about.
Instead of telling them what and how to do, supporting them to “explore what could be”, could be a game changer. People need to get to a point where they feel the need to break barriers in their own minds first. When they want to change. When they want to break through then they are ready to break free. It has to come from deep within. Creating that pattern interrupt. Bringing that moment of silence or pause to allow people to explore the possibilities needs a space to be created for them to listen. Listeners make leaders. Listening to self. Listening to others. Mirrored behaviour comes from this space.
“It’s very hard to drive culture with a stick” is a line that stuck with me from Akhil’s talk. Leading from the heart and opening up with vulnerability is a powerful catalyst for culture change. Coaching a leader is like coaching their team. Through one person the reach and impact of shifts in that individual can carry far and wide. Challenging current paradigms and moving away from “defect focus” to potential and possibilities is about star gazing. This is what helps stars emerge in organisations. New ideas and new possibilities that are just the glint in the mind’s eye of a person, can become the next big breakthrough or innovation for the organisation.
Instead of incremental change, can I change the game completely? This shift in thinking will not come from a “telling” or directive leadership style. Helping others to go after their dreams is the best way to help ourselves and our companies grow. If you have not asked yourself or a team member this question already, then now is a good time to begin “What is that big bold goal that I can dream and pursue in FY 2023-24?”
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