In the past 24 months, since founding Human Fluency, I have been granted the opportunity to facilitate and support the learning journeys and conversations of many leaders and their teams. These women and men are not only working in some of the larger profit and non-profit organisations on the planet, but also in small local organisations and businesses. Many have formal leadership roles, while many others operate without any reference to title or authority.
Often we read about the fantastic things that high profile leaders do, the ones running very successful global businesses. They show us what they do, what they avoid doing and what drives their behaviour. Often these stories come from a place of humility may I add, and sometimes less so. Certainly, we need those stories for inspiration, self-reflection, and some of us may even appreciate them as a means of glorified admiration. Nonetheless, most organisations survive, thrive and accomplish extraordinary things thanks to the daily dedication, talents & skills, and tremendous energy of those ‘ordinary’ formal and informal leaders. Women and men in delivery teams on the ground, or those in the tough middle layers, working relentlessly to turn vision and strategy into reality. All whilst life is happening with all its delight and detriment that it brings in all its facets.
What I learn from all of them is that most of us face similar challenges, pursue comparable ambitions, look for genuine respect and appreciation, eager to make a valuable contribution and experience a sense of fulfilment. Yes, some get luckier than others, and again others face far greater challenges than average. And yes, everyone comes with his or her strengths and shortcomings. At the end of the day these leaders have to make sure that production targets are met, service levels are satisfied, justice is served, lives are saved and a working place is created where their people feel they belong and can make a difference. No matter how small, these contributions all count towards a greater whole.
What I also learn from them is that there are no single answers to their leadership questions and dilemmas. Each situation brings a new angle or other factors that make the previous answer just not good enough. Instead, they look for other approaches to deal with immediate or emerging challenges and opportunities. Two of those approaches that seem to catch on with many of them revolve around reflection and spending time in dialogue with others. Discerning and understanding what is going on, and developing a fresh perspective requires taking a step back. To take that ‘pause & reflect’ step regularly is not considered a luxury. They also want to spend more time in deeper conversations so they can listen to others, obtain new ideas, explore new ways, care and get cared for.
The challenge with these two approaches is that it requires time, attention and headspace. These commodities are scarce nowadays. No need to elaborate I suppose, we all experience the constant flow of priorities and activities creating significant pressures. And as for headspace? Well, just assess the vacant space in your head on a typical day. If there is a slither of room left we often jump on our smartphones to fill it with a bombastic wave of irrelevant information, marketing messages and other people’s opinions.
Here’s to you all. I have sincere respect and admiration for what you do, what you stand for and how you show up every day. You inspire me to follow my path of helping you create that time & space for reflection and dialogue, and make the most of it once you have it. I know it will make the difference to you, your people, and what you strive for.