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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Are You Making This About You?

Often, we connect the success of an idea with our self-worth and value. We assume as a leader, we are expected to be an expert at everything and that all roads lead to us.

As Andy Stanley so beautifully puts it, “Don’t confuse authority with competency.”

Great leadership is about feeling confident as to knowing when to delegate your responsibilities, and when to double down on what only you can do. Recognize your superpower and do it well. 

It is your responsibility to highlight the brilliance in others and allow them to shine by getting out of their way! Capitalizing on the ideas and skills of your team is not an indication of failure. It is quite the opposite. Nurturing the ideas, creativity, and action of others is exactly the role of the leader. Doing it all yourself only limits opportunities, creating an autocracy.

“Your goal is not to become a well-rounded leader where you are good at everything. It is to build a great organization that reflects your strengths, but does not reflect your weaknesses.” Andy Stanley

Stanley goes on to explain that your “fully exploited strength is a far greater value to the organization than your marginally enhanced weakness.”

This leads us to the idea of “depersonalizing” and focusing on solving the problem at hand rather than making yourself the center of discussion. It is a balance between guiding a vision, capitalizing on your team and leveraging your expertise.

Practicing this skill requires humility. For example, many see unacknowledged ideas as personal failures. We subtly (and often unconsciously) shift the focus to defending ourselves, and our perspective, rather than focusing on the challenge itself. You have entangled self-worth with the problem, they are two separate things.

Have you ever double downed on an idea and fought hard for its approval, only to find it was self-serving and did not support the company’s objective? Our thinking begins to narrow and we inadvertently alienate others to control the narrative. We have begun defending ourselves vs. the idea.

If, in a discussion, you ever feel the need to defend your idea, or have no sense of curiosity, it is a great sign that your ego has taken hold of the conversation. You have made it about “winning” and proving your worth rather than collaborating with others and opening yourself up to innovative ideas. Confirmation bias will creep in, allowing you to only see what supports your view. Again, this in no way serves your company - only you.

A few tricks to help with avoiding temptation, and staying focused on what matters: 

  • A personal favorite: Acknowledge to yourself, and others, that focusing on the “problem” and not the people is the goal. Take a physical object (water bottle, plant, book) and place it in the middle of the table. This “object” represents the problem and all comments should be focused on that object and not the people in the room. As soon as it gets personal, stop the conversation and redirect to the object.

  • As the leader, speak last. Ask for everyone’s input before giving yours. Simon Sinek has a quick video, driving this point home. Your title, and assumed power, will deafen other people's ideas. Self-awareness brings out the best in others and drives innovation and collaboration.

  • Implement the “debias strategy” session (outlined by McKinsey), which not only lessens bias but also integrates a decision-making strategy that incorporates research and data.

  • Ask everyone to research and argue the opposing view. This is a great way to develop empathy and broaden siloed thinking.

  • Socialize “failure.” The fear of failure is so prevalent that it controls the narrative. Lead discussions that remove any judgment and celebrate vulnerability. Give a prize for the “worst idea.” By normalizing “failure,” you encourage creativity and company-centered innovation.

My Challenge To You: 

  • Take inventory as to what tasks and projects you, and others, are involved in.  Can you speak to why each person is in the room, and why only they can perform this role? The goal is to capitalize on natural strengths and allow others to rise.

  • Create awareness of how you present and defend ideas. Is it in service to you or the organization?

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