Parker Palmer in his book, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life, Jossey-Bass, 2004, reminds us that many years ago at the first sign of a blizzard on the Great Plains, farmers would run a rope from the back door to the barn. They did this because they all knew stories of someone who had wandered off and been frozen to death, having lost sight of home in a whiteout while still in their own backyards.
Today we live in a blizzard of another sort. The degree of anxiety and frustration within the home and the work place is overwhelming. People are feeling lost and wondering what to do next given the economy. Dave Ulrich and Wendy Ulrich in their book, The Why of Work, McGraw-Hill, 2010, write that as the economic recovery slowly takes place, many employees are experiencing an “emotional recession because they have not found sufficient meaning in their work lives, a condition that reduces productivity and commitment.”
From my work with leaders this past summer and fall, I see this blizzard, and this emotional recession taking a huge toll. Over and over, I listen to good men and women who are living a life which is compartmentalized and divided with little soul, spirit and passion. For example, recently I listened to an older executive complain about how his company was setting strategy without including the people who worked directly with the customer. In the midst of this absurdity, he just wanted to return to a time period in his life where the work that he did actually made a difference and was meaningful.
As fall turns into winter, we need to reclaim our work and our ability to lead with a good heart. We need to become leaders who are less fragmented and more whole. We need to become leaders who actually lead.
The first step in this journey back to wholeness begins when we reclaim being architects of meaning. We need to remind others that it is OK to love what you do and it is OK to grieve through the difficulties of this time period. Furthermore, it is OK to be passionate about projects or the mission of the organization. Finally, we need to tell people that it is OK to be tough, but loving.
During a retreat this past summer I listened as Bill Dodds, President of Optimae LifeServices, shared with those gathered that a leader needs to be both a builder and a destroyer. They need to build the people and the infrastructure for the present and the future as well as a destroyer of the dysfunctional parts of the organization that no longer work or support the movement toward the future. But at the foundation of all this work, noted Bill, is the need to have a healthy core, namely a sound mission, vision, and core values plus a well written and adaptable strategic plan. With these tools in place and the right people on the team, an organization can move forward in the midst of its challenges.
We all know that the degree of leadership effectiveness is dependent on three things working together. First, we as leaders need the enthusiasm and dedication of the followers. Second, we need good plans and intelligent strategy which are supported and acted on by followers. Third, we need quality people who work together as a team. In short just like a company, we as leaders need a healthy core too.
This winter there will be more blizzards, and the rope from the back door to the barn will be essential. Nevertheless, this week think about Bill Dodd’s perspective and build a healthy core in your company and in yourself before you need it. In short, remember the old Boy Scout motto: be prepared. The future is just around the corner.
Have a great week,
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257