I’m putting away my golf clubs for the season. As I do that, I can’t help but reflect on what a great metaphor golf is for leaders and leadership.
In my role as Executive Coach I have engaged this metaphor with clients who are also golfers with some surprising results.Like the complex and changing corporate environment, there are constant unknowns in the game.
There are hazards everywhere and when we find ourselves in one of them, it requires some thought, a reframe, refocus, a decision and action. And after all of that, and you take the next stroke, there is the knowledge that there is no guarantee that the outcome will be what is intended.
Moving out of a trouble spot requires another look at what club the golfer (and for the Executive, what tools or skills) might be used to move forward…toward the goal that isn’t always visible and is often surrounded by several more hazards!
I also realized halfway through this golf season, that asking for help to enhance my skills (which at times are highly developed already! Well, sometimes!!!). Even the greats have Coaches and must practice to enhance their game.
One of the things that has had a great impact on me this year was to recognize the benefit of quieting, calming and centering. In the Spacious Complexity process we engage quieting and reflective learning as one of the most fundamental, effective development techniques that leaders can use. And in using the golf metaphor, the quieting and reflection is similar to when the ball lands in a water hazard where it stirs up the silt making it impossible to see the lost ball.
When we too quickly attempt to retrieve that ball, we stir up even more murkiness, similar to when we may too quickly react in the organizational environment. Yet if we simply wait, often for only a short moment, the silt settles, the water becomes clearer and we can see so much more clearly…to retrieve or recover. It is the next shot that makes the difference!
What is your next shot?
What tools are in your leadership toolbox?
Who is your silent partner?
What are your resources to bring you to the top of your game?
Like the skiers in the photograph, leaders are often faced with decisions that are complex and where making the wrong decision could have serious consequences. In such situations, decision makers can find themselves at either end of the decision making spectrum – analysis paralysis on the one end or falsely simplifying the ‘landscape’ or context to make the decision easier on the other. In the case of our back-country skier – either method could have life threatening results. In business it may not be your life that is at stake, but it could cost the ‘life’ of your project, your credibility or even your business as a whole.
Struggling with decisions in complex or ambiguous situations doesn’t mean you’re a poor decision maker, it likely has its root in other factors. A big contributor is the myth that; “While there may be more than one way to do it, there is only one BEST way to do it”.
If you find yourself in agreement with the ‘only one BEST way’ thinking, you are probably missing many great decision opportunities.
There are very few situations where that thinking is true – even fewer when it involves people. Any time a decision has impact on people it is more likely to have an optimal range of BEST decisions to choose from. The ‘only one BEST way’ thinking is borrowed from a mechanical mindset. A context in which it is often true, but not so in most leadership decisions, as very few leadership decisions are purely mechanical.
Try it out for yourself. Think of a complex or ambiguous situation where you believed there was only one BEST decision. Maybe you’re in one right now? How did that impact your decision making? Many great leaders find their decision making compromised because they are holding tightly to the belief that there is only one right answer, only one best way to proceed. It is true that there are right and wrong decisions, good and bad decisions. Think of your scenario. Imagine it on a continuum with the analysis-paralysis at the one end and ‘quick-n-dirty’ decision at the other end. Where on that continuum do you see the optimal decision making range. Think of 5 to 8 decision options you could make from there. Assess them at a gut level. Which are your top 3? What more information do you need before you act on them (using the same continuum scale)? Choose and act.
Take the time to try it out and we’d like to hear how it changes things for you and for the outcome as a result.
I’d like to share a story with you. A story of beginnings. A story of discovery. A story that I hope begins to show what we believe so deeply about the forces at the heart of Spacious Complexity.
As a person who values meaningful, lasting impact I always give myself fully to whatever I do. A few years ago I found myself questioning the value of the leadership development work I was doing. Not if it was of value to the client. I only do work I believe is valuable for my client.
I was questioning how it was a meaningful use of my life to give it to providing the same leadership development work that consultants on every ‘leadership-corner’ were providing. God gifted me with an ability to see things from unique perspectives and to reframe things in ways that open new understanding. So why was I relying on the work of others? Where was my original work?
I started asking the hard questions – could I see any universal leadership gaps that weren’t already addressed in leadership material out there. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the force of Creativity or the drive to build or to create to have unique impact that was behind my need to apply myself in this way.
Thus began a 4 year process of observation, discussion, discovery, testing, discarding and some more ruminating. The more I looked, the more my convictions were affirmed. The more I tested my thinking with other leaders, the more it was validated. Early on in the process I recognised that I needed ‘more than me’ if I really cared about developing something meaningful. (The Force of Belonging was unknowingly having its way with me).
One year into my process I asked Anita to join me in my observe, test, ruminate cycle. Anita and I always find ‘creative genius’ when we get together. This was no exception. Very early on Anita brought the Force of Invisibility to my attention: every visible action has an invisible component that impacts the action. In conversation with Anita, I stumbled upon the Law or Force of Continuum: all things (in the relational realm, and most things beyond it) exist on a continuum.
We continued to explore and test how these forces, as well as the Force of Reciprocity and the Force of Choice were at the heart of the leadership gap I had identified and so we knew we had an incredible, transformational and unique product. That the rest of the world didn’t know about.
Enter Deb. A while ago I was sharing our concepts with Deb when it became clear that she needed to be part of our team. So the ‘creativity of two’ became the ‘alchemy of 3’ and each day the concept moved closer to becoming a product and now a business.
Every time you read, share and/or comment on our blog you become part of that creative journey with us and belong – in some way – to the outcome of what we bring to the world through Spacious Complexity.