|| What inspires followership? Trust, empowerment, and the truth.
by Matt Paknis
As a college football coach and then as a manager, responsible for overseeing and influencing the daily actions and behaviors of up to sixty people, as a sports captain in high school and in college and even as the president of the “animal house” in college when we became the first fraternity to return to campus housing after losing this privilege, and then working around for the globe with leaders to help them inspire followership, a few best practices emerged.
It's all about trust
Ownership and involvement
Address difficult and emotional issues constructively
It's all about trust. Management guru Tom Peters states trust is the greatest motivator. Trust builds when a vulnerable person is protected from injury or harm. Leaders also build trust when their actions align with promises and when their behaviors reflect constituent shared and expressed values and beliefs. People are willing to listen and take action when they know a leader's direction will keep them safe. The greatest leaders change attitudes and perspectives. They open minds. This requires people to suspend mental models and perceptions and to listen. This requires great trust, most influenced by, in order of impact, what they see in, how they hear, and what they learn from a leader's message. People forget what leaders say or do, but they always remember how a leader makes them feel. They remember stories and actions proving a leader displays what, according to Gallop, constituents in America want their leaders to be; honest, competent, inspiring, forward thinking, and fair minded. If constituents trust a leader, they are willing to take….
Ownership and involvement. The best leaders sell, rather than tell. They delegate with constraints all decision making to people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy. They develop everyone in the organization to this point of competence and confidence, so everyone learns to make the best urgent and important decisions. If there's an emergency, or when time is limited, a leader can decide and announce, or poll individuals and decide or poll the group and decide, but to increase ownership and involvement, it's important for constituents to have skin in the game, to feel like they are being heard and what they have to say is valued and important. Coming to consensus and delegating with constraints augments followership and action. And, to keep open dialogue, great leaders….
Address difficult and emotional issues constructively, rather than destructively. The least offensive, and most direct, tool used to share or clarify someone's raw emotion, or true feelings, is by reflecting (making an observation as it's easier to agree on facts) like, "John, I notice you look away every time I pass you," and then guessing (or respectfully sharing one's opinion in the form of a question), like, "and I'm guessing my smile's so bright it's blinding," or, “It seems like you may be concerned about your upcoming deadline.” To clarify, check in with the other person by asking, "is this true?"
These three steps allow one to inquire and share difficult or awkward thoughts in a constructive, rather than destructive, manner and can lead to world peace:
1. Making an observation,
2. Respectfully sharing opinions as questions, and
The greatest distance between two people is misunderstanding. Great leaders use trust, empowerment, and addressing the truth to bridge this gap and inspire followership.
Matt Paknis is a senior management consultant with six years of college football coaching and ten years of playing experience through 5 championship seasons whose focus is on lessening bullying in the workplace. He was a former assistant coach at Penn State under Joe Paterno and has spoken publicly about being abused as a child. Matt transcended childhood bullying and the death of his mother with teamwork and leadership. He has dedicated over twenty-five years of consulting to helping global clients embrace healthy management practices to thrive. His latest book Successful Leaders Aren't Bullies: How to Stop Abuse at Work and Build Exceptional Organizations is available for purchase now.
The Experience of Seeing, Thinking, and Being Different
by Ross Smith
There are plenty of examples of research showing that diverse teams are more creative, more effective, and more innovative. We know that inclusive and high trust organizational cultures simply outperform others. I believe that, by extension, this must be true for individuals as well. I was fortunate to spend two weeks at three incredible gatherings: The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Technology, the American Road and Transportation Builder's Association conference on innovation - Transovation, and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference. Each conference had a wide variety of talks ranging from organizational culture, climate change, blockchain, resiliency, and leadership – and inspiring stories from several walks of life that had significant impact. The speakers included astronauts, scientists, students, entrepreneurs, CEOs, VPs, tribal elders, city planners, and HR leaders.
Leonardo da Vinci and many other multi-discipline creators were known as polymaths – skilled across boundaries – and there is a great article by Michael Simmons on Medium about research showing people with “too many interests” are more successful and how that is even more relevant in the 21 st century. The old adage “jack of all trades, master of none” may no longer be true.
Reflecting on the whirlwind and diversity of experiences over the last 10 days, the preeminent feeling is how tremendously inclusive these groups were. The conference halls were filled with people very different from one another smiling, open to questions, laughing, and sharing a belief that we are all working towards a better future. Not every group these days is like that - some societal relationships are strained more than ever - but these groups illustrated the importance of inclusive behavior and accepting of diverse perspectives and different types of people, cultural practices, skill sets, and disciplines. It made me realize how much better I am because people accepted me into their communities, and I could feel comfortable listening and learning from them.
I would highly recommend this as a deliberate practice to consider for HR professionals and senior leaders alike. Pick two or three conferences or events that are outside of your comfort zone or expertise area – loosely related to your vocation – and attend back to back. Whether you choose local community gatherings or large international conferences – or both! The similarities and the differences are impactful and will change the way you work. For me, it's been interesting to see how some of the challenges of these communities overlap yet are very distinct and unique in their nature. Each group shared important lessons, takeaways, and opportunities to continue to learn and grow. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “we may have all come in different ships, but we're in the same boat now.”
I would invite every HR professional, every senior leader – to experiment and insert yourself into a set of diverse communities – you will learn much – and find that we all are more alike than we are different.