the signs, symptoms and practical solutions
General managers who come to me for coaching often say? that they:
- Are being pulled down into the weeds and they want to be up on the hills
- Don't delegate because they don't have the right people around them with the right skills and competencies
- Can do 'it' better themselves
- Are tired or overloaded and overwhelmed.
Do any of these feel familiar to you?
Being a leader requires the ability to work with both the big picture and some of the detail immediately in front of you, and ideally to move skillfully between the two.
Several inspirational leaders have given us metaphors reflecting this ability. Ronald Heifetz introduced the balcony and the dance floor. From the 1960's to the 1980's in management development programmes, the view from the helicopter
was a frequent expression. In each of these metaphors, we have the
concept of stepping back, or lifting ourselves up and out of the action.
The idea here is of creating a distance from being right in the action.
How can we do that? What does that really mean? I help clients resolve
this by helping clients to create distance between themselves and the
I approach this in two ways:
first approach is to invite clients to reflect or think strategically
with me and together we explore what is happening. I ask questions: What is going on here? What are the patterns? What stands out? Or, What
is important? How does what is happening relate to the vision and
outcomes you are seeking? What is working in all that is happening? How
might you approach this situation with the outcome in mind? These
questions tend to generate thoughtfulness, perspective and a distance
from the immediate happenings, and stimulate ideas for progressive
second approach is immediate and practical. This is a concept I rarely
talk about. I use representational methods with clients. It goes like
this: I invite
my client to choose some things (a book, a glass, a post it pad, things
from the office), and invite them to make a sculpture of the situation
they are in. I may ask my client to place other influences impacting the
situation, for example the outcome they are working towards, or the key drivers and players in relation to what is happening.
Then we both physically step back together from the 'sculpture', and take a look from several angles. I might ask, what are you aware of?
I might ask this question several times. The response clients give
provides insights and area of exploration. I am often surprised by what
clients have spotted or what they come to appreciate in these
situations. However I am confident, what they come up with is going to
work for them.
representational method greatly assists leaders learning to see a
situation from several perspectives, from different angles, or to see
the situation through the eyes of different stakeholders.
Einstein used the "observer" position when he imagined seeing himself
riding on a beam of light. He also viewed himself riding that beam of
light from two other positions. From this, he illustrated how the only
constant was the speed of light and the rest were relative. Einstein
used this to explain the Theory of Relativity.
These three perceptual positions encompass all possible multiple perspectives.
1. Self perspective:
self perspective is our most common way of looking at the world. We see
other people and the world around us through our own eyes. We hear
with our own ears, we have our own thoughts and experience our own
feelings. So here we see things from our own perspective.
2. Other perspective: Assuming the other
position enables us to experience the world from some other person's
viewpoint; we see through their eyes, we stand in their shoes for a
moment. By doing so we hear things as they would hear them, we see
things as they would see them and we feel something of what they might
feel. This experience enables us to empathise by taking on and accepting
the values, beliefs and emotions of the other person.
3. Neutral perspective From
the observer position, we experience the world from the outside as an
observer would. In this position, we literally see and hear "self" and
"other" as an observer. By doing this we experience life as with a
neutral observer's thoughts and feelings by learning to see 'as if from above, or at a distance'.
our abilities to both create distance from what is immediately in front
of them, and to shift from one perceptual position to another are
critical for leaders to develop empathy and create unity of direction
amongst people who have diverse views.
I notice four mistakes that leaders make, causing them to take on too much:
- They think they are invincible
- They are self sufficient, and tend not to clarify expectations with those around them
- They forget or refuse to delegate
- They take care of others before taking care of themselves.
The only question left is for you to ask yourself is - are you doing too much?
If you're think you may be doing to much, contact Diana