One of the execs I coach called me today after a conversation he had with his boss. He wanted my help in choosing his "One & Only."
These aren’t their real names, but to make this easier, let’s call my exec Joe, and his boss Harry.
Harry has set only one goal for himself in 2008: He wants to learn to be an authentic leader.
Over the Christmas holiday, Harry read Authentic Leadership by Bill George, and it really resonated with him. So today, on his first day back to work, he called each of his managers into his office one by one, including Joe, and he shared his goal with them. Harry told them that George’s book convinced him of the wisdom of this single sentence:
"Authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership."
Then, Harry said to Joe,
"I can’t serve you well, if I don’t know what you need from me, and if you aren’t comfortable telling me exactly what that is. So, I’d like to ask that you do something for me. We can help each other best if we focus on one thing at a time. After we nail it, whatever it is, we’ll move to the next thing, and then the next. To start, what would be the one and only one thing you’d like me to work on, that has to do with the way we communicate with each other?"
Joe told me that this was totally unexpected, and he had no idea how to answer Harry, asking him if he could think about it and let him know tomorrow. Harry’s one and only one request at a time made a lot of sense to Joe, for he’s just one of nine division heads reporting to Harry. Joe felt that starting with communication was smart too. In fact, the more Joe thought about it, the more excited he got, for this is not an opportunity Harry has given him before.
Joe called me because as he left Harry’s office he quickly moved from being stumped to being overwhelmed by his wish list – getting to the one & only one was his challenge.
As you might imagine, I love Harry’s focused approach.
- Harry has cut to the chase. He has reduced a 200+ page book into a single,
powerful sentence that every one of his direct reports will know is his 2008 Intention
- Harry is enrolling Joe and Joe’s peers in his goal directly and honestly. If Harry’s behavior starts to change (and Harry knows it will have to) Joe won’t be nervous and bewildered about it; he’ll know why
- Harry is asking Joe for a suggestion, and for clarity, rather than trying to guess what Joe would prefer. Harry is not assuming he knows what’s best for Joe – who to know that better than Joe?
- Harry will actually end up with nine things to work on at a time, and so he is grouping them together under a common theme: Desired communication
- And what a great theme to start with! Harry knows he will be creating new relationships with his managers, and great relationships are fueled by communication which is effective
- Harry is creating a very simple, straightforward process: One & only one, success with that one, then repeat. One & Only = One at a time
- Through this process, Harry is also getting Joe to prioritize well. The follow-up conversation Joe had with me today was all about deciding on the one choice that would deliver most
- In starting with communication, Harry is ensuring that conversation and agreement is a vital part of the process. How so agreement? Besides the obvious of selecting the one & only one with Joe, Harry has to agree to serve it up if he’s to have any hope or prayer of Joe feeling it is Harry’s genuine desire to do so
- Harry is modeling goal setting for Joe which is realistic, achievable yet visionary, day-to-day meaningful, and anticipated to be satisfying and rewarding for both of them
By the way: Harry hadn’t asked Joe to read Authentic Leadership, but by the time he’d called me, Joe had ordered it on Amazon.com. I’m thrilled, for it’s a terrific book, sure to help Joe in our coaching.
How about if you be Harry for the team you work with?
If Harry was your boss, what would be the one & only you asked him for first? Why not print this out, and talk to your boss about it?
- At Joyful Jubilant Learning: Dean Boyer reviewed Authentic Leadership in A Love Affair with Books last March.
- From the Talking Story archives: Authenticity: pitfalls versus ultimate advantage.
own person, authentic in every regard. The best leaders are autonomous
and highly independent.”
— Bill George, Authentic Leadership
What do you do, when you are authentic, you are real, but others just can’t handle it?
You genuinely want to serve. You sincerely intend to bring only that which is good to your environment. You are positive and optimistic, you are forward thinking, you embrace change as “the new normal” but others aren’t as ready as you are.