Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The 4 Steps to Enthusiastic Agreement

I have noticed a pretty good misconception, especially from individuals on fast tracks to the leadership levels about power at the next level. The belief that making decisions and implementing new strategies is easier the higher you get. That at the next level... due to hierarchical empowerment and fear (of being fired), people simply follow your leadership and implement your plans, with enthusiasm.

From my own personal experience, I can tell you this is seldom true... and in at least the cases  where you want to be a well respected, motivating and long term leader, you tend to have less power the higher you go, not more.

I have seen when leaders have tried to wheedle these powers through dictator levels of authority, and while their plans might get implemented ultimately what happens is the creation of  a Stage 3 (or worse) organization. The amount of collateral damage from these types of decisions (despite how right the decision might be) does not only lead to a less effective implementation, but a negative trajectory, from which recovery takes massive amounts of time, energy and resources.

There is a better way! :D   The Policy of Joint Agreement!

The Policy of Joint Agreement was created by Willard Harley a Ph. D. in clinical psychology whose work is mainly focused on building strong relationships. My version of the policy, simply stated, is:

"Never do anything major
without an enthusiastic agreement
between all parties involved"

OK... some definitions are needed here. In this case, "major" means changes to the organization. I have defined this as anything that would affect 5 or more people, an organizational change or lead to a cultural impact. The other thing that needs defining is "enthusiastic". All parties should feel enthusiastic, at least in a forward direction about the decision.

Set a meeting with the affected team and follow these guidelines... they are pretty simple: 

Set Ground Rules and Context - Give everyone an opportunity to simple state the facts as they know them without interpretation and commentary. Stay as light hearted as possible, no demands, disrespect or anger.

 Identify the Problem to Solve - Often it's hard to actually understand the true problem you are solving. Agree on the exact problem and stay focused on only that problem.

Brainstorm - This can be long and hard and is where the dictator might try to come out. Hang in there and keep brainstorming. Many of the best ideas come right at the point of breaking... this is absolutely worth your time and energy! :D Search for mutually acceptable solutions, win-wins, quantity and keep brainstorming until you find a mutually acceptable solution.    

Choose a Mutually Acceptable Solution - Acceptable solutions are ones everyone can live with, good solutions are ones everyone feels are desirable and the best solution is the one everyone feels enthusiastic about... and this can't just be lip service, it has to be authentic and sincere.

I have seen, heard and even been a part of the many reasons that leaders (self included) have NOT taken this approach. "I'm the boss here", "I know better than you", "we just need to get this done", and my all time favorite "I'm too busy". In many of the cases, all of these things have been true. They were the boss, knew better and were extremely busy, but the method they chose never actually leads to time savings, better decisions, respect or even a better implementation from the team responsible for making things happen.

I have gone through a couple of these at my current company... we call them pow-wows and while they are not easy (they can be very hard and frustrating) they are extremely beneficial to all parties involved... especially at creating a Stage 4 or great organization.

So I ask you...  are you wheedling your captor only to create a less effective kingdom or are you dancing your way to a culture and better business?