What’s Your Fuel?

A red car at the front of the pack on a race track.

“The edge is in the inputs.

The person who consumes from better sources, gets better thoughts. The person who asks better questions, gets better answers. The person who builds better habits, gets better results.

It’s not the outcomes. It’s the inputs.” – James Clear

If you are not getting the results you want, sometimes you need to take a break and look at the fuel and resources you are using and how you are trying to achieve your goals. Having the right alignment between resources, processes and the right catalysts can be the difference. The same car that can win the race will be up on blocks if it doesn’t have the right inputs at the right time and a well tuned system. When you are embedded in the system, it’s not always as easy to have perspective on it. That’s where a good thought partner can help you with your discernment as you diagnose and make important decisions about how you want to proceed.

Image by Mika Baumeister.

Upstream Leadership

“To succeed upstream, leaders must: detect problems early, target leverage points in complex systems, find reliable ways to measure success, pioneer new ways of working together, and embed their successes into systems to give them permanence.” from Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath

One of the ways I help my clients level up is to help them take new perspectives on their work and lives, seeing their systems in new ways and finding those leverage points and opportunities to develop systems to help make work easier and more effective.

One of my favorite successes is when a client realizes that work doesn’t always have to be hard to be high impact.

Being an upstream leader is an approach that helps you thrive because you can focus on the big opportunities and challenges rather than getting distracted firefighting brush fires. It’s a way of looking at a dynamic environment that ensures you don’t miss the forest for the trees.

Image by Alex Cook.

Bring out the best with inspiration

“Leadership will flow to those whose vision can inspire the members of the team to put their best abilities at the service of the team. These leaders will create rather than demand loyalty; the best people will want to work with them. They will communicate effectively with a variety of people and use the conflict among diverse points of view to reach new insights. They will exert influence by the values they choose to reinforce. They will make leaders of their team members.” from John Clarkeson, Jazz vs Symphony, 1990

Too often we overlook that one of the best ways to engage people is through being authentic and articulating a compelling vision of why the work we are doing is important.

Among my clients, everyone is driven and visionary, but the difference is often in how well they are able to articulate it. Part of the work I do with leaders is to help them surface and share their vision.

It’s easy to overlook the why behind our vision because either a) it is so intuitive and (seemingly) obvious it doesn’t occur to us to articulate it, or b) because we are focused on how to get it done that we forget to talk about why we are doing the work.

Taking a pause and helping everyone orient towards the same north star of the purpose of our work can unleash the creativity of your team in ways you probably can’t even imagine. It can turn employees into allies and co-conspirators who are as eager to accomplish the goal as we are. It helps them find their own purpose in the work, which makes all the difference in the world.

The future of management is teal

Hands holding a number of colored balls, including ones with wholeness, purpose, trust and soulful written on them.

“Teal organizations operate effectively, even at a large scale, with a system based on peer relationships. They set up structures and practices in which people have high autonomy in their domain, and are accountable for coordinating with others. Power and control are deeply embedded throughout the organizations, no longer tied to the specific positions of a few top leaders…. Whereas [other] organizations encourage people to show only their narrow “professional” selves, Teal organizations invite people to reclaim their inner wholeness. They create an environment wherein people feel free to fully express themselves, bringing unprecedented levels of energy, passion, and creativity to work…Teal organizations base their strategies on what they sense the world is asking from them. Agile practices that sense and respond replace the machinery of plans, budgets, targets, and incentives. Paradoxically, by focusing less on the bottom line and shareholder value, they generate financial results that outpace those of competitors.” Frederic Laloux, Strategy+Business, 2015.

This firm’s name takes inspiration from Frederic Laloux’s work on organizational innovation and development. It is a heterodox approach compared to the Jack Welch model embraced by so many business schools and corporations.

It is an empowering, dynamic approach that helps organizations do what they do best — address the wants and needs of the clients they serve effectively. It prioritizes the engine behind organizations: the people. It recognizes when people can bring their whole selves to work– and when they are supported as they level up their skills and knowledge– it changes what is possible. It is focused on process and how individuals and teams can make intentional choices that help the organization evolve and get better over time.

Working with Teal Executives is an invitation to explore what else is possible when we focus on the people, systems, processes and decision making that underlies organizational success, and to keep leveling up.

Start with Why

Three people sillhouted at sunset walking outdoors

“Leading is not the same as being the leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you—not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.” From Simon Sinek: Start with Why (Portfolio, 2009)

As you reflect on your experience, what is working for you as a leader? What is challenging or needs a tune up? What do you want to accomplish as a leader? Who do you want to be as a leader?

Leadership is hard, and often comes with not just professionally challenging moments, but personally challenging ones as well. We all need allies and a place to reflect on what is happening and our experience of it. Leadership is not a destination, and there are always opportunities to level up and increase the scale of your impact. What are you doing to support yourself on the journey? What could you be doing?

Intentionally growing our capacity to navigate complexity

“I began to realize how important emergent strategy, strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change through relatively small interactions, is to me—the potential scale of transformation that could come from movements intentionally practicing this adaptive, relational way of being, on our own and with others…. Emergent strategy is how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for.” from Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy (AK Press, 2017)

One of the important skills of a leader is to identify how to focus on what will make the greatest difference in our work. Often it is in smaller, intentional actions that the seeds for deeper changes at a broader scale.

How you care for and nurture your staff effects how they are able to show up for the work, be innovative, and support your clients. Attending to the subtle but important differences in clients needs and contexts can help you craft better solutions.

It’s not always obvious how to expand your capacity to work in adaptive and relational ways–this is where a coach can be particularly helpful. Most people are not born knowing these things, we have to learn and practice them.

Work is Love Made Visible

A hand kneading dough on a floured work table

“And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching….

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work.” from Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (Knopf, 1923).

While this passage is from a hundred years ago, but just as relevant to work today. While the way we work and what we produce may be radically different today, it still matters if we are working with love.

It makes all the difference for those you serve, and those you employ. We are social creatures and can tell the difference when work is infused with care, attention, and intention.

If you are feeling a little lost or want to reconnect with your passion, consider working with a coach. We can help you find your way back to meaningful and impactful work.