In a LinkedIn leadership group, Mark Deterding posted up an interesting thought on leading from insightful contemplation and framing things in a servant leadership model. His post was called, “Vision from Behind” and Mark said:
Hindsight is 20/20. While we often think of that in relation to blunders, it’s limiting to consider hindsight valuable only when recovering from mistakes. Making a reflective observation is a necessary step in clarifying your vision for the future. You discover more about yourself as you take a reminiscent tour through life experiences. Looking back is a magnifying glass, enhancing awareness of where you are now because of where you have been. This is helpful in understanding how you currently lead, and where you might want to focus your efforts in developing your future self as the servant leader that God created you to be. Vision from behind creates an environment where you become more and more a student of servant leadership.
This aligns overall pretty well with my thinking about communications and teamwork and issues of motivation. Mark’s hindsight and reflective observation is pretty much what I think of as “Stepping back from the wagon.” The idea is to disengage from that first-person, through your own eyes view of the world and to change one’s perspective, looking at the situation from a dissociated viewpoint, like watching TV. From a distance, you can better see other people’s viewpoints. Innovation and insight generally come from reflection and contemplation.
My explanatory model for how the world seems to work and how most organizations seem to operate looks like this:
We have Wagon Pushers who simply cannot see where they are going and who do not receive much in the way of performance feedback or coaching — they are simply too busy pushing the wagon and their view is one of “boards and hands.”
So think what the pushers actually see, and think what the Wagon Puller can see if he simply turns around. (Not much, actually.) My guess is that his view is mostly of the wagon, even though he might have a really nice view if he looks ahead. After all, who wants to stare at the front of a wagon for any length of time. So, to really generate perspective and a change in thinking, there is the need to really stop doing what we are doing and to move around a bit.
Reflection, in my model is termed,
“Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.”
The idea is to step back from the wagon to get a different perspective, one that includes the Pushers and all the wheels, the whole scenario basically. One can probably identify ideas for improvement as well as thoughts on how to improve involvement, engagement and motivation.
That one, skipping a bunch of intervening, process improvement illustrations, could look something like this when all is said and done and everyone is allowed to play with ideas and solutions:
Vision from Behind is good and it is helpful. Servant Leadership is a fine concept. But I think that involving and engaging people in generating their innovative ideas for workplace improvement — and implementing those good ideas — is really more about how to generate intrinsic motivation for the journey ahead. Celebrating successes most likely will generate more successes and improved teamwork and collaboration.
If you are interested in more along these lines, take a look at some of my other blog posts around Square Wheels and motivation and engagement that are in my blog. A few of them are these:
I also write poems and haiku and produce a bunch of different “posters” that you can see if you click through to my Poems on the Workplace blog in the footer below.
If you are looking for some simple and effective tools for impacting communications and improving innovation and engagement, connect with me,
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Dr. 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.
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