By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.
In the Legitimate Leadership business, every 120 days we go through a process designed to generate clarity, focus, alignment, and growth for our people. We call this process clarifying contribution and we believe it has clear benefits for our team members (specifically, the aforementioned clarity, focus, alignment and growth).
It has obvious benefits for our organisation as well, especially as each step in the process must be aligned with the organisation’s goals and strategy. What is perhaps less obvious is how valuable this process has been for me. Every 120 days I learn something.
In the most recent cycle – mid-year 2019 – I learned three things.
- I HAVEN’T BEEN CLEAR ENOUGH IN COMMUNICATING STRATEGY. Given how frequently I see this with clients, it’s embarrassing to admit that I made this mistake myself. It’s not that we don’t have a sound strategy. I even have it written down in clearly understandable picture form. I also know that I have discussed it, debated its merits, updated its details, and made changes to the picture on the shared drive. And that’s the problem: it’s not in people’s heads, it’s on the shared drive. Sure, it’s in some people’s heads – the people I debated it with – but if there’s even one person who doesn’t get where we are going, then that’s one person who can’t be fully committed to helping us succeed. At least now I’m aware. If I hadn’t been rigorous about aligning the team’s deliverables with our strategy, I still wouldn’t be.
- I CAN TRY TO HELP, BUT I CAN’T BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR SOMEONE ELSE’S SUCCESS. One member of our team has a particularly important deliverable. If he fails to deliver there are far-reaching implications for both that person and the business. So, I asked myself, “What is my potential contribution, my deliverable in helping this person to succeed?” I want to say that I will ensure that he delivers. But practically there is no way to ensure someone else delivers. One can ensure the job gets done (e.g. by doing it oneself, or assigning it elsewhere at the last minute), but that’s not the same as the other person delivering. It’s frustrating, because I really want to ensure, but at the end of the day, I need to step back and acknowledge that the only person who can take accountability for someone’s success, is that person.
- CLARIFYING DELIVERABLES IS AS MUCH ABOUT LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP AS IT IS ABOUT UNCOVERING OPPORTUNITIES TO BE HELPED. Possibly the most useful thing about the clarifying contribution process is that it gets people talking. Rather than acting in a vacuum it forces people to talk about what they have done, what they are going to do, and how others can help them to succeed. In the last few weeks, by talking about how I could better support an associate with one of her development deliverables, I realised that our onboarding and development process could be improved in ways that I had not previously considered. As one of my deliverables happens to be formalising and documenting this onboarding process, the insight gained has been enormously helpful in enabling me to meet my commitments too.
I went into the midyear clarifying contribution process thinking I was doing it for the team. It turns out that I may have been the one who benefitted the most.