Dan Rockwell’s blog, Leadership Freak, is excellent. He offers up a very wide variety of actionable ideas on so many subjects. His blog today pushed me to share his key points and add a few of my own when it comes to leadership and interacting with teams. We can do so much more.

Read his blog for the expansion of his key points, but here they are as bullets:

  1. Offer solutions, but always begin with problems
  2. Forget perfection
  3. Learn while you take action
  4. Focus on getting people in the right roles
  5. Build energizing environments
  6. Embrace forward facing contrarians
  7. Results don’t define you

When reading through his explanation, my mind was operating within the framework of my actionable view of the world. Here is my view of the generality of how things really work in most organizations:

Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work in organizations

Take a second and think about this illustration…

It’s been my experience that things seldom work smoothly and that the people do not work exceptionally well with each other between the front and back of the wagon or from the viewpoint of there being multiple teams. In my view of things, leadership is often isolated from the hands-on reality of the people at the back of the wagon, thus it is critical that leadership do more asking and listening than offering suggestions or simply accepting that things are working okay. There is a great deal of research that suggests that many people are not involved or engaged and that their bosses are not asking for their ideas for workplace improvement.

Dan’s thoughts are right about perfection (#2) — I think about it this way:

  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • The Round Wheels of today are the Square Wheels of tomorrow.
  • What we need is Continuous Continuous Improvement!
    (from the Department of Redundancy Department)

Peter Senge long ago wrote about the idea of a Learning Organization. Heck, I even read that whole book. And I think that, for the most part, the world is still looking for one of them. Most organizations do not come close to being focused on learning and teamwork and learning. Most organizations do NOT take the time to step back and look at issues or for possibilities. That kind of problem-solving teamwork is often seen in various “team bonding” kinds of challenges but not often rolled into the workplace.

For me, workplace reality should occasionally look more like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Poster on team perspective

What we also need to encourage are those individuals who step up and challenge the conformity and stale thinking of the group. Sometimes, these people can play the role of Devil’s Advocate, which can be politically difficult unless it is seen as useful (and which is sometimes actually taught in leadership training programs since it enhances problem solving and optimal solutions). The key, as Dan states in #6, if that this is forward looking and not just critical of things.

I see it thusly:Square Wheels LEGO image of devil's advocate

Someone needs to step up and challenge ideas, otherwise the tendency is to keep doing the same thing while expecting improved results. Muscle building (also know as training) will improve efficiencies, but only by a percent or two. What is needed is innovation and new ideas. Plus, those ideas generate a sense of teamwork, peer pressure for success, and an increased likelihood of generating that continuous continuous improvement I mentioned earlier. This is that positive, energizing of the environment that Dan refers to in #5.

Square Wheels LEGO team celebration poster

There are lots of things we choose to do as managers and leaders and most of them work okay. But there are also a lot of other things we can do to make even more contributions to our people and to our organizations.

So, Step back from your wagons and have a chat with your people about these things,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

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