More Than Just “Action”
Intervention is not the issue. Human beings are wired to instantly make sense of a situation and then act. When the work is technical, we can rely on our own expertise or the expertise of others to fix what is broken. But, when our biggest challenges require us to be innovative, generative, or creative the work looks different. The activity of leadership requires us to intervene in new ways, often without the guarantee of success. In this case, it’s skillful, people-focused interventions that are required. We’re not searching for the one perfect plan. We’re engaging others to work toward multiple experiments that we believe will get us further down the path toward progress.
At KLC, we encourage those trying to make meaningful progress on big challenges to do the following behaviors more often:
- Make purposeful choices
- Raise the heat
- Speak from the heart to the heart
- Give the work back
- Act experimentally
- Hold to purpose
In skillful intervention, efficiency is not the goal. Instead, our purpose is learning. Learning that might lead to trying things we’d never consider had we not engaged others in a different type of work. When the focus is learning, we might start to leave behind a success or failure mindset and redefine progress. Indicators that we’re narrowing the gap or solving our biggest challenges might be increased engagement, clarity of purpose or even people beginning to imagine progress is possible.
If more people know and talk about an organization’s toughest challenge in a similar way, that’s progress.
If more people are clear on why a city is embarking on difficult work (we call that clarity of purpose), that’s progress.
If more people share their biggest aspirations for what’s possible if everyone in the company embraces an initiative to increase creativity, that’s progress.
The world tells us unless we find the perfect quick fix to every challenge, we’re not great leaders. That’s an unrealistic expectation, and more importantly, tremendously unhelpful when it comes to solving our toughest challenges. Instead, ditch the worry about whether you’re a good leader or not. Lean into consciously choosing behaviors that lead to smart experimentation for you and other stakeholders. Change starts with someone who cares enough to work hard and take inevitable, necessary risks.