Managing our companies provides the most strenuous leadership challenge: though owners must lead by example, they in fact cannot lead others where they themselves have not gone!
Your competitive advantage as a firm is to harness the nascent future within your employees. Go beyond respecting to encouraging, celebrating and liberating your employees to bring their full selves to your firm. Bring your “not knowing”. If you believe your employees are interchangeable, expendable functionaries, you have already lost what could make your firm stand out from the competition.
Let’s consider how the final three phases of Scharmer’s Theory U provide a way for you to “enflesh” these principles with your employees.
When a liquid is supersaturated, it only takes a single crystal to fill the space:
As take yourself though this liminal dimension of presencing, two things happen. Like the supersaturated liquid in the video clip, your posture of “not knowing” gives your team tacit permission to become supersaturated with their own as yet unborn sense of the future. If you have already become supersaturated by presencing, you can become that seed for your employees’ presencing. Like the crystal dropped into that medium, you attract and collectively embody what was formerly invisible in your team.
In this stage of “enfleshing” the future, the collective vision now needs to be instantiated through investments in time, money, and collective action. Such movement often results in resistance from those both outside and on that inner team as their perceptions of that direction meld into the whole.
In large companies, this stage is when many potential initiatives or technologies die a silent and sometimes unwarranted death. Prototyping takes the most courage and perseverance. Yet it demonstrates the strength of the prior step of crystallization among your key company stakeholders.
Consider what John Elway has done with the Denver Broncos over the last two years. His vision had two objectives for his team when he started as general manager on January 5, 2011: build a great defense and reestablish the home field advantage. While this season’s results were disappointing for us Broncos fans, there’s no question that Elway’s vision got us this far.
When I was preparing to be a professional cellist, I remember one teacher telling me that, rather than playing as though I was in my 11×11’ bedroom, I must make my cello sing to the last row of a 500-seat concert hall!
Our hypothetical petri dish of crystalline beauty symbolizes the prototype of the vision you need to enflesh in your whole company. Performing is putting your firm’s unique “flesh” on the sterile roadmap of what compliance requires. It’s akin to judging the nuance of weight to place on the cello bow as it is drawn across the strings in coordination with the correct pitch and frequency of vibrato in the left hand to fill that auditorium of my youth. Will you sing to the back row?
How about Elway’s presencing? The Broncos have created the #2 defense in the NFL, they have a 7-1 record at home in 2012 AND they had home field advantage through the AFC playoffs. Like all great leaders, you can bet that Elway is already “presencing” the Broncos for the 2013 campaign.
Here’s to going forth and “presencing” yourself and your firm in 2013!
Like Elway, your presencing may leave you short of your Super Bowl. What are your thoughts on handling unexpected—but inevitable—disappointments?
If you’d like to go deeper, try out my tips on utilizing the tool of journaling.