KARIN ZASTROW

blogging about DIRECT LEADERSHIP

A kick-ass leadership opportunity

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Where I live in Scandinavia, this is one of the two times each year, when it feels like we are all making a fresh start. The other occasion is New Year’s. Right now, the summer season is coming to an end. Not only did the children start school this morning. We, their parents and colleagues of their parents are resigning ourselves to putting the sunny days out of our minds and getting our heads wrapped more intensely around whatever work it is that we do for a living.

If you are a leader somewhere in the world, and the conditions are similar to the above, it is a perfect time to make some changes to your interaction with your staff. In fact, what better time can you conceive of?

You are not the only person who has had time to clear your head by a break from the daily routines. So has your staff.

In the past, I was inclined to think that this feeling of ”making a fresh start” was just that, i.e. a feeling. A kind of transient illusion, but not a reality.

However, this summer a friend inspired me to take a look at Carl Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, and from doing so I realised that by taking a break from the hamster wheel, we actually create conditions for better, more centred listening, thinking and sensing. We move in the direction of what he calls “presencing”. Presencing means to put ourselves as individuals or collectively as groups in a state of mind from where we are capable of relating to the now and to the emerging future instead of taking our action cues from the past.

I call that a kick-ass leadership opportunity, which calls for immediate action!

• Call a staff meeting as early as this week.
• Don’t worry if a few people can’t be there as long as the large majority is there.
• Start by welcoming everybody.
• Go round the table and let everyone say very briefly how their summer has been. (Be sensitive to the fact that lots of things may have happened, so if someone has experienced some hardship, ask if this is something he or she wants to say more about. If so, give it some space). Maybe you also want to thank them all or certain individuals for holding the fort while resources were scarce.
• Then tell them that the reason for this meeting is to look ahead from now and until New Year’s (or Thanksgiving, or next summer – you decide) with fresh eyes.
• Ask for people’s thoughts on where you as a company/division/department/team are heading and what you may want to do, create or change in order to get there. (If the group is large, you may want to start the discussion in small groups and then hear from each group).
• Take notes or have someone do so.
• See what happens.
• Gently challenge them if they suggest habitual measures, make sure that the focus stays on what needs to be done in relation to the emerging future.
• Wrap up the meeting with the relevant decisions.
o Anything, the parties involved should simply go ahead and implement?
o Something that needs to be discussed or further analysed?
o Something you yourself want to look more into?
• Close the meeting with agreeing one the decisions and when to follow-up.
• Say thank you for their enthusiasm/attention/openness?

And now – especially if you are a Direct Leadership student – count your blessings! Look at your notes, compare them to the seven roles, and notice how you have actively put yourself in a position to catch a collection of leadership opportunities. At the same time as you have started to teach your organisation that tomorrow’s solutions are not found by blindly “extending the past”.

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Written by Karin Zastrow

August 15, 2011 at 16:39

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