OK I admit it; there are tons of leadership ideas in the business world. Much of it reflects the same thoughts revisited from different paradigms (consultant rule: one must use the word “paradigm” once daily to remain credible) and perspectives. However, there is much less consensus on the mindset we bring to work each day. I want you to think about your daily commute to work. Do you think about the problems and opportunities that need to be addressed? Or, do you think about the people you need to help become successful? This may seem insignificant at first glance, but is it?
Consider the implications of both. One puts us in the mindset of direct action while the other is much more indirect. I compare it to focus on leading indicators versus trailing indicators. One obviously leads to another. However, I believe the difference is much more powerful for those in leadership roles because it changes our approach to work. Consequently, I believe the approach we bring daily guides our response to the many challenges that we are going to face.
So let’s examine the concept of approach. According to the APA (American Psychology Association), sports psychology is a proficiency that uses knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and the wellbeing of athletes. As a CEO Coach, my role is no different. I help leaders with the developmental and social aspects of business participation. Together, we address the systemic issues associated with participation in business settings. Think about the approach a batter chooses when stepping into the batter’s box. If the batter is struggling, one approach may be to avoid another out. If a batter has found success, the approach may be to make solid contact and see what happens. Does approach matter?
Sports psychologists help players overcome problems, enhance performance, and achieve goals. So what prevents a CEO, supervisor, or manager from taking the same approach each day? Instead of solving all the problems, they can take the approach of making others successful in whatever role they occupy. A few synonyms for approach are access, path, and way. If we approach leadership from these synonyms, they all point to servant leadership. Leaders can provide people with access to information and resources to perform job duties. They can provide a career path for current success and future retention. But most importantly, leaders provide a way for people to achieve success at work.
What does all this mean? Many executives unfortunately reveal themselves as organizational saviors. They must bring most of the intellectual capital that makes the organization achieve results. The problem is that as organizations grow, this intellect becomes diluted to point of inefficacy. This dilution starts much earlier than most CEOs and executives realize and they become less effective sooner than they are aware. Saviors get sacrificed and so do many aspiring executives. The organization has outgrown them and they simply cannot do it all. Coincidently, the organization willingly allows this dilution by letting the struggling leader do even more work. Too many are doing work that they already pay others to perform in the hopes of achieving success. This cannot be sustained for long. The eventual result will be failure or burnout.
Tomorrow morning as you commute to work, make the attempt to change your approach. Instead of pondering solutions, consider your role in helping others on the team become successful. Ask yourself, what can I do to help this person accomplish a task or a goal? You will likely be sucked into finding a solution anyway because you can and they know you can. Resist this urge because I promise, they will let you solve their problems; over and over and over again.