Each breath I take at StoneHill Farm provides the opportunity to open, to examine and to stretch my being as a leader.  New ideas and metaphors appear daily, helping me get clear and to make choices which are more resonant with who I choose to be in my leadership.

One such moment was when I noticed that BC our barn cat and Bad Santa the rooster (a story for another day) appeared at the back door, having formed a peaceful alliance in service of receiving the human attention that they both sought.  They had mutually found that early morning as we set out to the barn can finds us willing to provide a few moments for a rub in a lap or a treat. They each had come to this discovery and then began arriving together to see us.  Competing was their nature and resulted in a noisy chase played out over several weeks.  At some point they noticed that the competition was overall a losing proposition – even when one won by chasing the other away – most likely we were on to other things when they returned.  In true Darwinian fashion, this feisty rooster
and canny cat chose to align around their common goal, stopped the competition, pooled resources and began to arrive together. The result has been pure success – their synchronicity is so intriguing we are compelled often to give both more than in the past!

What a powerful leadership lesson – to get out of the habits or behaviours which stand in our way to the big win and align around that vision which has the opportunity of even greater success.

In the barn, the cats and the rooters have carved out their own territory which each aggressively defends – the atmosphere does not engage us in giving individual attention to any.  We can all think of work teams that do the same.  They are so engaged in comparing and competing, that they miss the opportunities for shared success. Behaviours such as hoarding of supplies, information, acknowledgment and gratitude are examples of people making unsatisfying investments of their time , talent and passions– they are energetically supporting activities that serve to protect and defend, to hold on to what is  when often the win for themselves and the business is in growth, advancement, joy and innovation.  The potential for their leader is to fiercely and passionately help them find the place of alignment that will then harness an energy that exponentially increases the potential of all.

What can we do as leaders to have our teams align and find the power of one?

  1. Get Clear.  As leaders we hold the vision. Are we clear on what it is we are about as leaders, and what we are about as a company or organization?  We can’t expect others to be clear if we are not.  IF we cannot passionately speak to the organizations mission and its importance, and the value of each person’s effort it is unlikely that our teams will be able to. Once teams are not clear, they set their own course for success, which may result in the unaligned energy and results sucking activities described above.  A team I met recently had front line professionals who spent hours in their customer’s workplaces. They were busy in the workplaces doing the tasks they were assigned, and doing them well. They were well appreciated by the teams they interacted with.  When their leader talked to these professionals about their alignment with the company vision they  realized that happily their teams thought doing a great job was their prime directive and somewhat  unhappily that these quality professionals had no thought to marketing and ensuring that they as a business thrived. Through focused conversations that built understanding , these the key individuals on the ground running  readily embraced their new understanding of the vision to be THE quality provider that customers choose without hesitation to deliver quality to their workplaces thus expanding the possibilities for both business and themselves.
  2. Get Out there.  The currency of leadership is being present – it is the only way you can buy sell and trade the vision – and there is no other way to purchase the necessary information on what is actually happening in the hearts, minds and hands of those you lead. Being with your teams allows you to share the vision and help them see how what they are doing contributes in meaningful ways to that vision. For example when I was working as the CEO of a long term care home, it was important that all of my teams, not just the high profile ones knew their contribution to the mission. The housekeeping teams need to hear from me their impact as our “first impression” and how that made a difference. If they did  not they might make up that their work was less than and give the organization less  in terms of attention to cleanliness– immediately and visibly stating something unwanted to our new and potential clients.
  3. Get into story telling.  Use the power of story to help your teams find alignment.  Tell stories which represent the power alignment in achieving the mission and finding satisfaction. To all who will listen use the stories of the actions and results your teams have done to spread the realities of the vision, to build alignment and to inspire more.  Use stories to set the standard, to raise the bar, to celebrate the extraordinary efforts and ideas of your teams.  One of my team members carried a hot pink purse to work every day. One of our residents living in our long term care home, challenged with an advancing dementia, came alive with joy and admiration each morning she saw that purse. The sight inspired her to share stories of her past and opened a window on her that helped us know her better. The owner of the purse, seeing the impact of her purchase, found another hot pink purse which she gave as a gift to this woman.  A gift that was clutched from that day on with sheer pleasure.  As a leader of an organization with a mission to find ways so each resident would feel at home, the gift of this story was priceless when told to Board members, potential clients and staff and donors. Most importantly it painted the picture for all our teams of the rewards of aligning to our vision in a real way that no number of policies and procedures could ever have achieved.

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