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February 2020 – Question of the Month

February 14, 2020 - By Stuart Foulds, Associate, BA (Hons), MEd

Question of the Month: As a leader, I want to demonstrate that I can suspend my interests in favour of my team’s. But everything I can think of helping them with is clearly in my interests as well as theirs. Our interests do not appear ever to be in conflict. To suspend my agenda for theirs requires somewhat separate agendas … right? I feel like we’re working towards common goals and our agendas are aligned, so what have I missed? Their growth opportunities, for example, might not directly help me but they benefit me in the long run as they grow in competence. My time spent with them never feels wasted.

Answer: Don’t feel alone! As leaders embark on their legitimate leadership journey, many initially wrestle with this apparent quandary. But it’s not truly a quandary. The answer goes straight to your INTENT.

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that in the real world we all generally act to some extent with mixed motives.

In any well-run team there will be broad positive alignment of everyone’s agendas. Through your giving, your team will improve and you may well look good as a result. Clearly, having a happier, better-skilled and better-capacitated team is also going to benefit you as the leader. And that’s fine – we are not asking leaders to go out of their way to act against their own best interests!

What we are asking leaders to do is be thoughtful about what their PRIMARY intent is – am I doing this mainly because I genuinely want to help the team, or am I doing this mainly because I want to get something in return? If you can honestly answer the former, then be confident that you’re doing the right thing.

Think about what each member of your team needs from you to grow and develop. You pass the Intent Test every day when you give your time and attention to helping with a direct report’s “inconvenient agenda”, when your own life might be simpler and easier if you focused on something else.

If as a result your own life as a leader also gets better, there’s no need to feel guilty – just enjoy the feeling of a genuine win-win!

Stuart Foulds
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