THEME: Fall 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable Report
Monday morning: November 8, 2010
When I got out of college, I was lost about what to do next. I had learned a lot of things and had many fantastic adventures but with a major in history, I really wasn’t very career minded. As a result, I ended up working Crew for the Farm and WIlderness Foundation in Plymouth, Vt. Our work consisted of doing maintenance on the physical plant for the six camps the Foundation ran each summer. This also included milking cows by hand, logging, and making maple syrup. I loved this job and I loved living in a cabin in the Vermont woods for a year.
During this first post college experience, the person who was the Crew Coordinator for our group got fired. As a result, I was approached by the Executive Director of the Foundation to be a part of the “new” Crew Leadership Team. Thinking back, I really did not know what I was getting into, but as Lao Tzu the ancient Chinese philosopher once wrote: “If you live in a country run by a committee, be on the committee.” Over the course of the winter, this dysfunctional group met on a regular basis. And by spring, the Executive Director came to me and asked if I would just run the whole thing. So, I did.
When I reflect on this convoluted journey to leadership and what I am seeing now in the work place, I realize that more and more people are in positions where they haven’t a clue about what to do. Often, they are in over their head. They were the last man or woman standing around, and all of sudden they were the supervisor. Or they were the least crazy person in the bunch and someone who actually got some things done so the mantle of leadership was handed to them.
One particular element that intrigues me within these situations is the number of people in leadership positions who also lack any social intelligence or interpersonal intelligence. Popular science writer Daniel Goleman has drawn on social neuroscience research to propose that social intelligence is made up of social awareness, including empathy, attunement, and empathic accuracy, and social cognition and social facility, including synchrony, self-presentation, influence, and concern.
Our challenge on the business front this fall is that we are also running into role ambiguity and, at times, task ambiguity. This in combination with a lack of social intelligence is a very difficult affair. While it would be helpful to train everyone on how to be socially intelligent, and I am sure someone out there offers workshops on this subject, I believe we can start today by clarifying roles, not just clarifying tasks. I have noticed that collaboration improves when roles are clear.
Next, we as leaders need to be both task oriented and relationship oriented once roles are clear. During the early stages of strategic projects, we need to be tasked oriented to create structure and goal clarity. At the same time, we also need to develop internal team “culture” through modeling and clarifying expectations. Next, we need to remember that the precursor to success is extensive networking to build relationships before we need them, and to understand the core strengths and differences of people within the pool of potential team candidates. While the above actions will not fix issues related to a lack of social intelligence, I believe they will help.
This week and this fall, we must relearn the following:
- organizational change is the sum of individual change.
- individuals change better when the work environment is healthy.
- healthy relationships are the foundation of individual change.
- trust and respect are the foundation of all change.
Have a great week,
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257