Archive for April, 2017

Getting Real About Freedom

Bag of time (2)

There’s a huge confusion that’s causing a lot of pain in organisations.  It’s the idea that ‘freedom‘ means ‘freedom from consequences‘.  It doesn’t.  It means ‘you get to choose, and the consequences are yours‘.

Freedom is not liberty or licence.  It’s not escape.  A person becomes free when they are willing to stand up and say ‘this is my situation, I am taking ownership of it, and of whatever happens next.’  The moment this occurs, choice comes back into play.  The boat gets a motor.  The hot-air balloon’s fire-thing starts up again.  We have agency, and it feels good.  Energy.

This is the principle we use when we help our clients with how their organisations are designed and lead….that people want freedom.  They want choice.  They want a level of challenge that pushes them without blowing their minds.  And they would like to know how things work so they can make more informed choices.

Leaders at all levels have the opportunity to give people freedom.  But it’s not always taken.  It’s hard to trust, and decades of high control leading to unaccountable behaviour simply reinforces this, and it’s not just the managers.

So how do we create freedom?

Through conversations and other communication that creates clarity for all on who is delivering what, and how roles fit together.  And decisions when decisions are required so people can get on with it.

People cannot make choices about their own way to get things done if they don’t know what ‘done’ is or how things work.

But above all, this requires a willingness to trust again.  This is the hardest part, and it applies to everyone.  For managers, it’s trust that people will take ownership.  And for employees, that their managers will let them take ownership.  This is the foundation of any successful enterprise.

Clarity and trust.

Pre-requisites for freedom.


Why you have organisational malaise

Everyone knows about leadership these days.  Well, knows enough to be disappointed.  We’ve all done enough courses where we can list off the things our boss should be doing, and the things they do that they shouldn’t, and we can then all agree that there’s no hope for us until THEY change.

And at the same time, no one gets to tell us what to do.  We’re self-managing, self-organising, and if you don’t think this is the best way to be, then I refer you to the acronym VUCA, to the popularity of the word ‘complexity’, and if that’s not enough, here’s Laloux.

It’s perfect.  The problem is always above me, and if you try to make my problems my problems…then you’re just being an old school manager.


And that’s why you’re still on hold even though your call is important to us.

It doesn’t have to be this way.


Want change? Meet people where they’re at.

Stability fans

Stability fans

People can change.  If they want to.  You can’t make them.

And there’s one way to definitely make them NOT want to change – assume that they are you and act accordingly.

It’s not uncommon for ‘traditional’ organisations to choose a dynamic CEO to ‘shake things up’ who then chooses Executives who get things done.  And this is great because we need to get things done.

And it’s going to work in an organisation or department filled with achievers and overachievers who are hanging for the chance to ‘show what I can do and to hell with the rest of em‘.

Here’s the thing though…many people might choose to work in such ‘traditional’ organisations because they want to be a) part of something stable that b) serves other people and/or the community.  Which means taking a megaphone and shouting ‘we need to achieve, we can be #1‘ as the driving force is simply not going to connect.  It’s not wrong.  It’s just not going to connect.

What does connect?  Well, not shouting for a start.  What connects to this group is creating stability.  And for this group stability is what gets things done.

I can feel the reeling back in horror at the idea of creating stability in this apparently complex, volatile, ever-changing and connected world.  But I didn’t say ‘rigidity’.  I said ‘stability’, which can be defined as ‘the strength to endure’.

And if your people need strength to endure what’s coming….start where people are at.  Which means if large groups of your people value the work because it’s stable and provides connection….then start there.  Tell people the truth, deliver the news, then make things more stable.  Settle things down, make jobs clear, sort who does what with who, connect what’s required to the future conditions you’re going to be in and get the damn systems working!

Because starting where you’re at, rather than where they’re at is going to lead directly to disconnection.

And no megaphone is loud enough to get disconnected people moving, no matter how dynamic the wielder.