Turn Up The Heat

In our new book, Retooling Leadership Development, Michael Couch and I write about the importance of leaders taking on hard challenges as a way to learn and grow. The challenges must have what we call “developmental heat.” They can’t be easy, and they have to create some adversity that forces the leader to think about things differently and to try out new behaviors.

Recently I was working with a newly promoted division leader who was focused on being the lead on a key project implementation. He had all the plans and team members aligned but then found out that there was a core disagreement at the between 2 C-Suite leaders about the best way to proceed on the project…or to put it more precisely he got caught up in a full-blown political disagreement.

This was not a surprise for him but being the lead for the program mandated that he not sit back and wait for the disagreement to be settled. He realized he had to take the lead in moving the project forward and quickly. While a bit nervous about taking this on, we discussed a strategy that involved providing an analysis for both leaders on the pros and cons of project actions and then arranging for individual meetings with each leader to discuss his findings and recommendations. He further decided to take the risk and call out the true turf issue in the hopes that transparency would win the day. In his meetings, the leaders agreed with his assessments and observations and then agreed to meet together to settle their disagreement in the best interests of the business.

During our follow-up discussions, my client was surprised about how his preparation and thoughtful perspective was appreciated by his bosses. Recognizing that this approach may not always work on political disagreements, he still felt that he had developed an important new competency which we agreed was not, as you may suspect was,”political savvy” but instead was what we noted was more properly “managerial courage.”

We often fear taking steps to improve our own leadership and work performance because we’re not sure how to proceed or are worried about the outcome. The truth is we’re not getting on a military field of battle and no one is shooting at us. Leadership requires taking risks and most of them are not nearly as scary as we are afraid they might be.

Your challenge this week: Consider taking on a new task that get you a little nervous. That nervousness tells you that it is important. Map out your plan and then go ahead and take the leap.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019

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