The tension-busting challenge
I’ve been thinking about tension over the past few days, prompted by a couple of conversations with organisational leaders and the dilemmas they’re tussling with in this area. What I’m thinking about here isn’t tension of the stressy kind but how to balance seeming polarities or countervailing forces and synthesise a new way forward…though it’s a balancing act that could cause tension of the stressy variety.
Consider the dilemma of leading a team whose work products are subject to heavy regulation in an organisation where the cultural disposition is towards more emergence…to allow some of the long-established yet cumbersome and, in some cases, time-expired ways of working to be shed whilst still addressing the relevant regulatory considerations (relevant being a key word). It’s a challenge shared in many organisations.
For the team those practices are a safety net, even a guarantee that they’ll get the job done without sanction. However, they’re also a barrier to change and the development of the team and its individual members. And, because the practices are so ingrained engagement levels are likely to be pretty low and boredom off the scale. There’s an increasing danger too of getting left behind, or worse, as the organisation evolves around them.
Shaking things up is a leadership must…
As leaders, shaking things up a little is part of the territory – giving people some stretch, asking them to question and challenge even the longest-accepted wisdom and practise (in fact, especially the longest accepted).
New thinking, ideas, ways and capabilities emerge, and keep coming, if we push hard enough and role model for long enough, resulting in more powerful performance and likely a more satisfying and energising experience for the people we lead.
The question for all of us is where have we allowed ‘it has to be done this way because…’ to stifle the potential for something even better?