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COVER Article Why Should People Show Up And Be Dedicated To Something You’re Leading? The importance of narratives in leadership Two connected questions confront most people in managerial and leadership roles at some point. How do you get the most out of your team? And, why should people show up and be dedicated to something that you are leading? Perhaps people show up to work and do a reasonable job simply because it’s their job. The “because it’s my job” type of motivation may produce results that are fine. Yet, we usually need or expect them to do more, to take initiative, and push through without our constant direction. We often expect others to be as engaged as we are, to get it as much as we do, but they don’t; and then we become disappointed at the outcome. We complain about their motivation, work ethic, inattention to the right things, attitudes, etc. The problem, as we see it, is clearly them. But what if, to a large extent, the problem may in fact be you? Two critical questions that leaders constantly need to be asking is: “Why SHOULD they care, be motivated, and push through? And, what have I DONE (and NOT done) to facilitate their engagement? And this issue is not just one for poorly performing individuals and teams. Even if your team is doing well – could they be doing better? A Key Mechanism One of the key mechanisms that we see leaders forget or get wrong is this: being clear and compelling about purpose and vision. But the mere word “vision” conjures up many misnomers among people - vision is not about flowery vision statements or platitudes, or trying to be charismatic. So what is it? This is about leaders honestly wrestling with and constructing a narrative that is honest and accurate, open to criticism and change, but one that helps individuals and the team truly understand, frame, and possess a collective understanding for what they do, why they do it, where they are going, and roughly how they’re going to get there. It is easy to eschew this idea. Or pass this role onto the top people in your organization. But the most effective leaders at all levels (even those who are introverts and may shudder at what they’re reading) think carefully and practice proven and learnable techniques in creating a narrative. They do so in a way that is authentic and true to them, certainly, and they are purposeful in communicating and repeating it. Carefully crafting a vision narrative doesn’t come easy, but pays off in both individual and team performance. In our small organization at the FIU Center for Leadership, where we are passionate about helping leaders find and create narratives, we regularly discuss and calibrate: what we stand for, why we exist, how each person plays a role, what success looks like, and what our vision is of the future. We ask each team member to tell us, in their own words, what that looks like for them and for us collectively. Do we mandate that people buy in? Absolutely not. But we give them an opportunity and reason to buy in to a shared vision that they have helped create. This can help get us through times when we need everyone to be at their best. It takes work, for certain, but the results have been undeniable. Two bricklayers working on identical projects in nearby towns were asked about their work. The first replied “Why it’s obvious what I’m doing – I’m laying bricks. This is what bricklayers do”. The second bricklayer was asked about his work, and replied with a smile on his face, “I’m building a cathedral in which thousands of people will find community and purpose”. Two people, with an entirely different approach to their work, and we can quite easily guess which one is more passionate about their job, whose work is superior, and who will be more committed to overcome obstacles in getting the job done. It is the leaders job to help people see the big picture and purposes, because it often gets lost in the weeds, and oftentimes leaders themselves need to become clear for themselves first about they “why” of work – instead focusing only on the how and what. Individuals and teams are far more effective if you help people understand the big picture. This approach claws back the notion of “vision” as being a fancy-worded statement, and instead suggests that effective leaders help to create the lens through which people understand their work. Have you clearly developed and articulated the narrative when managing and leading? It has a chance of paying off more than you might think. LE By Dr. Nathan J. Hiller Nathan J. Hiller, Ph.D., is a Fellow of the FIU Center for Leadership and an Associate Professor of Management and International Business at Florida International University. He is also a Knight Ridder Center Research Fellow. As a consultant and practitioner, Nathan has worked on cutting-edge projects related to strategic leadership development, organizational change, culture, human capital planning, and teamwork with clients including: Johnson & Johnson, Telefonica, Norwegian Cruise Line, Boeing, Boston Scientific, Burger King Corporation, and The United States Marine Corps.Dr. Hiller is the Faculty Director of the High Potential Leader program at FIU – a 4-day leadership development program for promising senior managers. He also works regularly with executives in a variety of coaching and advisory roles. Connect Nathan J. Hiller Would like to Comment? Please Click Here. Leadership Excellence Essentials presented by HR.com | 09.2016 Submit your Articles 5


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