I’ve been mentoring an executive at a mid-size organization, let’s call him “Jack.” One day when we were talking about his work, Jack became very despondent. The story that unfolded was a warning flag regarding the leadership of the organization.
A Great Idea
Jack explained that he had a great idea about an initiative that could substantially improve the performance of the organization.
Participation from many of the other functions and departments of the organization would be required to effectively implement Jack’s idea. Additionally, these departments would be impacted by the decision to implement the idea.
In addition, these organizational functions and departments could provide very helpful suggestions regarding how to make the idea even better and how to best implement the initiative.
Approaching the President
When Jack went to the president of the organization about the idea, the president really liked it. However, when he asked the president if it would be OK to involve the other functions and departments in the decision-making process, the president said NO. WOW!
– John C. Maxwell
A Surprise Request
The president requested that Jack single-handedly perform all the research, come up with all the questions and corresponding answers to implement the proposed idea. Then and only then, should he go to the heads of the various functions and departments and present his findings. OUCH!
I feel sure that the president of the organization was unaware of the Participatory Paradox. But, just because you aren’t aware of a timeless principle, it does not mean that you are immune to its truth. His desire to efficiently limit the involvement of related people and departments will, in the end, reduce his effectiveness. The dollar he saves today may very well cost him two tomorrow!
The Participatory Paradox
Instead of first blaming someone else for strained relationships or substandard results, effective leaders take a long, hard look in the mirror.
As a leader, how can you cultivate peak performance to maximize your success? The answer is simple but eludes most leaders. You obtain optimum results by engaging your employees through a participative leadership style that I call Engage2Lead.
And therein lies the paradox. Most people assume that strong leadership means independent action and that greater control produces greater results. However, and ironically, the reverse is true.
Always remember that the most important things in the world aren’t things. They’re people and relationships!
That is the reason I’ve been writing about one of the best ways to engage your people –it’s called the 1-2-3 leadership tool.
First, let’s explain the 1-2-3 process, and then we’ll look at why most leaders fail to employ such participative approaches in their own leadership.
What is 1-2-3?
1-2-3 is a unique approach to the decision-making process defined as:
At the very beginning of the decision-making process – AND before making a decision – the empowering leader seeks input from his or her employees. Such a leader asks:
1. Who can help me make a better decision?
2. Who will have to carry it out?
3. Who will be impacted by it?
The answers to the three questions above will guide leaders to assemble the right people and involve them, as appropriate, to help make important decisions.
The power of 1-2-3 is available to any leader if they simply follow this approach as they make important decisions in their organization.
Could I suggest to you that the benefits of such an approach are worth the effort? I know, because I’ve seen the outcomes: better decisions are made, and teams become more effective and efficient.
Now, you may be asking, “Why don’t more leaders take this approach with their people?” Good question! I have learned that many leaders form incorrect assumptions about this powerful approach to leadership. Consequently, they miss out on enhanced relationships with their people and better financial results for their organization.
Every leader can embrace the 1-2-3 process by avoiding the following five incorrect assumptions.
The following are five reasons why many leaders don’t pursue the 1-2-3 process:
- A person who is bright, knowledgeable, dedicated, decisive, and dependable may also be impatient and intolerant when dealing with others. Consequently, he or she assumes that no one else in the organization could possibly contribute toward a better decision or plan.
- A leader may think he has to give up the drive for results to have more of the 1-2-3 process. (I have seen this way of thinking is not correct. It is not either-or. To be the most effective leader requires embracing both the 1-2-3 process AND the drive for results.)
- Some would question whether a participative leadership style such as Engage2Lead means running your organization as a democracy. (The answer is no. As the leader, you always have ultimate authority and responsibility for decisions and results.)
- Some would even think that participative leadership style means creating consensus decisions among all members of your team. (This assumption is likewise incorrect. Consensus decisions usually take forever to be reached and yield diluted results.)
- Some also think that participative leadership style is not always the right approach. (There may be times this process-oriented strategy isn’t best, but it’s generally the most powerful approach a leader can take when driving for results.)
There are many concerns that get in the way of leaders, such as the president of the mid-size organization mentioned above, to fully applying this Engage2Lead principle. Anyone can, however, make conscious decisions to learn and leverage this powerful principle of participative leadership. And the best, most practical way I’ve discovered to employ this approach is the 1-2-3 leadership tool.
Which incorrect assumptions do you have? What changes can you make regarding how you do things to become the most effective leader? Please share your thoughts <here> and share this article with a friend and/or co-worker.
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