I have the best job in the world – I get to meet high perfoming, fascinating people all the time – clients, candidates, partners, leaders of all kinds – and learn their unique success stories. I always want to know what kind of business environment gets the very best out of people and teams. The answer is almost always a version of the same theme:
“Give the people what they need to succeed and just let them do it”
In the great new leadership book, TOP Box Leadership by William C. Sproule, these themes are explored in a highly compelling fashion. The book informs, teaches, and entertains as Sproule captures the essence of macro-management by showing how gathering the best Talent, setting the right Outcomes, and defining clear Parameters for team decision-making leads to great teams and exceptional results…and then the leader needs to get out of the box and let people do their jobs. I strongly recommend this book to leaders in any environment.
Sproule’s book highlights a subject that totally fascinates me – the conscious choice about the culture within a company. This is one of the most compelling learnings for me as I work with all kinds of companies in helping them build and improve their leadership teams. I believe that the culture of a company, and I define that as “what really matters here”, is fully under the control of the leaders in a company. Sproule’s book suggests a disciplined way to establish a successful culture, and it starts from the leader.
It seems to me there is nothing more important than creating enough freedom for smart people to do what they think is right. Now, admittedly, this is a bit hard to argue…a little like saying “freedom is a pretty good thing” (a quote from my favorite movie – Field of Dreams). However, it’s the source of organizational freedom that I think really matters, and why I believe that culture is in the control of true leaders.
If a leader wants to allow his people to think freely, and thereby get the most from their contributions, it’s not enough to just empower them (do you notice we don’t hear that word a lot any more in business writing?) It goes further than that. The leader has to really trust the people on his team – to genuinely believe that everyone is pursuing the same goals. If there is a doubt about this alignment, the result is the dreaded disease we all hate in business…politics!
Think of the image of pulling a rope together. A leader’s job is to LEAD definition of the rope and what is on the other end (process and goal, or Parameters and Outcomes according to Sproule). Also, there must be clarity on the makeup of the team pulling the rope (Sproule’s concept of Talent). However, I believe the key ingredient for this to actually work is a prevailing trust that binds the people with each other, along with both goal and process.
A leader who cannot engender trust is likely afraid of losing something – perhaps it’s control, maybe it’s credit, or it could even be identity. However, any of these reasons means the leader will never really be able to get the heck out of the way and let people be great. In seeking outstanding results and long-lasting success, focusing on process will never get us to the promised land unless a foundation of trust keeps the sands from shifting under our feet. Trust begets greatness.
I’d love to hear what you think about this. After all, everybody sees important things like this in their own distinctive way, and thank goodness for that or things would be really boring!
Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.
Recommended Resources: TOP Box Leadership – William C. Sproule www.topboxleadership.com
Managing Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
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