For nearly three decades working with people at various levels, I have adopted some ways of gaining support — buy-in.
For people higher up the scale than I, I applied a measure of subservience with a twist of submission in recognition of the superior roles. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, it worked. My ideas have been embraced and supported and grown.
When dealing with juniors, I have often come off my position, walked down and engaged with them at their level helping them to rise.
At their level, I identified with them, put myself in their shoes and empathised with them. Traditionally, superiors don’t come down, they call you up. I have also employed this approach with some success as well as failures. In general, I’ve encountered two groups of people.
The first group viewed me with suspicion wondering what benefit motivated me to walk down to them. They treated my approach with trepidation and even resistance.
They put their guards up and effectively rejected my close involvement in their work. They deemed it as micro-management. As a result, they stayed stagnant and frustrated by their lack of growth or moved away under the mistaken notion that they were leaving “the problem”, that is, me behind.
The second group chose to see my closer involvement in their work as the opportunity that it was. They had the presence of mind to discern that much as I had come to their level and could be seen as intruding, I brought with me the ever-rising standards of my higher level as their manager.
To put it mildly, there was a measure of challenge in working more closely with me. To use writing as an example, most of us are content writing one hundred-word sentences without commas, full stops and not much spacing in-between. That can work just fine.
However, when we are suddenly required to ensure that all our “I”s are dotted, our “T”s crossed and our sentences short, precise and distinctly separated, we immediately put up steel walls of resistance. I mean, we have been communicating anyway so what’s the big deal, right? Not quite so.
This group made the wise choice to rise to the challenge. It wasn’t always a smooth ride, I have to say. There were days we rained on each other like cats and dogs and there were days one would easily have been excused for believing that we invented the concept of serenity.
In the end, it has always been a humbling experience filled with joy growing myself and watching the their individual potential unfold. I didn’t just get more out of them as a result, they brought more of themselves to the surface, pleasantly enjoyed their improved attitudes and performance, their sense of achievement and resultant rewards.
We are mostly taught that the way to lead others is to hold their hands and lift them up. This seems to be the most accepted way. It comes naturally and easily to most leaders and is just as easily accepted by most followers.
While this approach has worked for many who have gone before us, it assumes that these “others” are down to begin with. It also blindly assumes that where we are as leaders is their ultimate desired position. I have always wondered what keeps this misguided impression alive in us.
We have got to endeavour to discover a more powerful way to work with people.
This powerful way requires that we get over ourselves and recognise that we are all still am work in progress — no matter what our successes.
Once that vital foundation was laid, we’ve got to shift our minds from where it was set, that is, that we are in a desired position to simply working with them. Further, in working with them, the objective has got to become INSPIRATION.
To awaken their minds to appreciate just how capable they are. This effectively raising their self-image and empowering them to continually lift THEMSELVES from where they are, to their highest possible level.
You constantly find yourself at a T-Junction as a leader. If you turn one way, you lower your bar, let people in and only “help” them.
If you turn a different way, you raise the bar and work with inspired followers willing to listen to your voice of to their rise to their ultimate potential.
Which way will YOU turn?