Blogs

Derek Bishop

Director

Reaching out of the comfort zone

Date added: 17th Feb 2016
Category: Leadership

What does your leadership style say about your organisation? Perhaps it’s time you found out.

What’s your leadership style? Yes I know you pride yourself on being expansionist, engaging and empowering but is that really what you are bringing to your organisation? Think back over the last week; who did you meet with, who did you listen to, and what did you do to help others to develop.

I admit that your answer may well be coloured by the size of your organisation but forgive me for asking the question. You see, I am only too well aware that the challenge of leadership can cause people to turn in on themselves; to meet, greet and interact only with an inner circle of peers and immediate reports. What’s wrong with that? Well for a start, whilst isolating yourself from the day-to-day can enable you to ‘get on with things’, your view of the organisation and the organisation’s view of you is totally dependent on the abilities and outlook of your inner circle. When it works well, those individuals can really help to spread the message across the organisation; when it works badly, that covering and jockeying for position can lead to a complete distortion of messages and ethos.

Perhaps even more dangerous than relying on your inner circle, is the message that isolationism sends to the rest of the business. If it’s okay for you, or for the top table, to effectively work behind closed doors, then surely it must be okay for the rest of the business to create their own closed circles. The result is a complete lack of collaboration allied to a silo mentality which can lead departments to actively work against each other rather than cooperate to drive solutions.

Collaboration is the name of the game

I’m not condemning you. In a busy world in which the pressure for us to be more, do more, deliver more is unrelenting, it can be all too easy to retreat to a safe place, to commune with those we are close to. I’m not condemning you, but I am saying that such an attitude is wrong and is in the long term going to harm both you and your organisation. And the reason is quite simple. In an increasingly innovative world in which the disruptors can come from anywhere we can no longer afford to operate in isolation. Collaboration is now the name of the game and that means not just opening up communication pathways within an organisation, but also reaching out to draw in ideas and input from customers, suppliers, academics, researchers and other third parties.

Let me give you an example. One of our colleagues was recently contacted by a local supplier with a simple request to check out their website and feedback their thoughts. Upon investigation it turned out that the supplier had decided to completely revamp their website but before they did so wanted to receive feedback from existing users. When you think about it, it’s a sensible thing to do and it also helps to build loyalty from customers who are pleased that they have been canvassed for their opinions. But how many businesses actually reach out to customers or others in this way? More worrying still, how many businesses pretend to reach out but in actual fact ask closed questions to reinforce the business’ own viewpoint?

What’s this got to do with your leadership style? Quite simply, because the ethos and the attitude of the organisation starts with you. You can write what you want in the company literature, you can send your people on as many training courses as you like; but unless you are prepared to reach out, to step out of your comfort zone and lead by example then your people are never going to deliver the level of empowered collaboration which creates strong organisations and strong results. What does your leadership style say about your organisation? Perhaps it’s time you found out.

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