After close to a year as a Legitimate Leadership consultant I was recently asked which practice in the methodology and framework had made the biggest impact on my client groups. This is a tough question to answer since every aspect of the approach fundamentally shifts the way leaders see their role.
But if I had to choose, it would be what we call ‘Watching the Game’. Here’s why.
Clearly, the scoreboard is important. You know what the business needs to achieve, how to measure it and what KPIs or lag/lead indicators you need to track.
It’s also true that your people need to know what goals and results they are working towards. How else do they know what difference their contribution is making, or how they can add value?
But once the results and targets have been clarified and communicated, you need to quickly shift your attention to what your people can individually contribute towards achieving those results. This is about actively growing them, ensuring they have everything they need to give of their best.
There’s only one true way you can determine whether your people have what they need to make real contributions – whether that’s the means (tools, time, authority etc.), the ability or the will. That’s by watching the game.
Take a classic football analogy. The score at full-time is 3-1. While the coach may be satisfied with the result, s/he is more interested in whether all the players pulled their weight. Did the team win because each of the players played the best game of their lives, or because the opposite team was short of its best players. Was it luck or effort? And if any of the players didn’t bring their ‘A game’, why not? What was the problem?
In other words, the focus is on the players.
How can you know what your people need from you as their leader if you’re not out there watching them?
And this is where trust comes in. Because it’s only once your people trust you that they will see your presence and observation as benign and helpful. If there’s even a shred of doubt that you want what’s best for them and that you are 100% committed to enabling excellence in them, it will be seen as auditing and checking up – the worst form of micromanagement.
As with everything in Legitimate Leadership it comes down to intent. Is your intent to use the results and the task at hand to enable excellence in your people; or is it to get results out of them? Is it to ‘get the most out of them’ or ‘enable the best in them’? A subtle but powerful difference that lies at the heart of the difference between management and leadership!