Leadership is creating the conditions for the right people to step up, contribute and make progress on our toughest challenges. It’s finding ways for people who see the world from different perspectives to navigate those differences and discover new ways forward together.
Identify who needs to do the work is a diagnostic move and a bridge to the leadership competency Energize Others. We identify who needs to do the work so we can plan ways to work across factions and engage new voices. When you thoughtfully identify who needs to do the work you’ve taken the first step to engage the people you’ll need to make progress on your complex, adaptive challenge.
Think about identifying who needs to do the work at two levels: First, identify all the different factions who have something to contribute to a challenge. Second, take your identifying efforts one level deeper by getting curious about what each faction cares about. Consider, too, what might keep members of that faction from contributing to change on the issue you care about.
(BTW, at KLC we use the work faction intentionally to signal the need to work with people who think differently than you do and to engage groups of people who, together, stand a better chance of solving a tough challenge than any one group would on its own. A faction is a group of people who share common values, are loyal to the same things and share a common orientation to the work. When a challenge is adaptive, we need multiple factions engaged and heading in the same direction.)
It can be hard, bias-confronting work to identify all the people who are impacted by your issue or have a stake in how a tough problem should be addressed and solved. As you identify who needs to do the work, don’t forget to include those whose perspectives on the problem run counter to your own. Yes, they may be difficult for you to deal with, but you need them at the table if you hope to be successful long-term.
Remember, too, you are an integral part of any problem you seek to address. Yours is not the right or the only perspective. You are part of a faction! As part of your diagnosis, consider your own values, loyalties and what you could stand to lose if you engage and collaborate with people who think differently about the challenge than you and your faction. Consider your own blind spots even as you seek to understand the values and loyalties that drive other factions.
We won’t make progress on our most important challenges if we only involve people we like, feel comfortable with, or typically bring to the table. Get real with yourself: Are there factions whose voices you’d rather not hear? Relevant opinions you’d rather not consider? A person or group you’d rather not sit down with?
As you identify who needs to do the work on that challenge you care about, let yourself ponder: Who is being left behind, left out, kept out, ignored or marginalized? To find lasting solutions to tough problems, identify those people so you can look for ways bring them in.