Take a Collective Approach and Soar!

Dear Construction Nation, 

Gerry (not his real name) was a very tall, smart, ambitious leader of his construction company. He worked long hours and was always trying to grow his business. One day he sat down at my desk and said, “You know, I have this vision for the business and for my people, but every time I look back to see who is charging ahead with me, I see that nobody is following!” He felt upset, hurt, disrespected, and dumbfounded.

If you have ever felt this way, then what I am going to share today will help you and your team soar. It can make you one of the best leaders on the planet. I hope that these two principles from my The Trusted Leader book, can shine some light on you how can be the leader people want to follow!

Principle #1: People Don’t Argue with What They Help to Create

One thing I’ve learned is that if you want anyone to buy-in and follow through with an initiative that is important to you and your business, then create a forum where they help to create what is going to be done. You could be Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Mother Theresa all rolled into one awesome leader, and still people will fight you if they aren’t a part of creating the solution, ideas, or path forward. The cornerstone of the partnering approach is to give people a forum for listening, understanding, and co-creating together. The level of commitment and enthusiasm people will have can truly do miracles. 

I recall working with seventy-five different stakeholders on an environmental assessment. We had representatives in our partnering process from all the stakeholder groups, from environmental non-profits, regulatory agencies, local, state, and federal governments, passengers, airlines, airports, and surfers. Everyone who had a stake in the decisions that were to be made. We started by allowing everyone to co-create the criteria from which the project would be assessed. They co-created the options and analyzed each. Then they selected their preferred option. 

To my amazement, everyone had a preferred option – this was amazing, because at the start, several of the group members swore that they would never agree to anything! This process could have taken at least five years, instead of the year we spent. The likelihood of an agreed upon option, was about the same as being struck by lightning for the second time. 

When people feel included and empowered to develop answers, solutions, and ideas with others involved, they buy-in to what the group creates because they understand why this was the answer. They vetted each perspective, and had their say. They felt listened to and appreciated. Next time you need real buy-in from your team, organize an event that is a forum for everyone to co-create the answers.

Principle #2: There is a Collective Wisdom in a Team

The Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum means “Out of Many, One.” In 1776 our founding fathers selected this phrase as the principle upon which the United States is based. This phrase acknowledges that there is a collective wisdom in a group of people who come together.

I have learned to completely trust that there is a collective wisdom in a business, in a team, in an organization. The job of the trusted leader is to tap into that collective wisdom. With this wisdom you will be able to do things that you never thought possible. When I am faced with a challenge, I see it from my own perspective. It is my perspective; it must be right. But, when I am willing to listen to your perspective, I begin to see that there are more facets to the challenge (or opportunity) than I saw from my perspective. If you listen to ten more people’s perspectives, you will begin to see how challenges, and opportunities, are not one dimensional, they are multi-dimensional, and you will see many commonalities. 

Can you imagine trying to create the best strategy for a challenge or opportunity, when you only have a small part of the true picture? We do it all the time. We assume that our perspective is right and that yours, if it differs from mine, is wrong. We spend all our time on convincing each other that our perspective is right. When, in fact, both of your perspectives are right from your point of view. If I am in my office and you are 20,000 feet above looking down at my office, it looks very different from what I see. Are you wrong? Am I wrong?

If you can learn to trust that there is a collective wisdom, you will be amazed how people cull out the core issues or create opportunities that no one in the room ever would have thought of on their own. One client of mine had a team that was not talking to each other. They were not telling each other the “bad news.” Everyone just wanted to do his or her job and not get blamed for the delayed opening of the 2 million square foot building. Their leader brought them all together and told them that they needed to figure out what was creating the delay. One by one they spoke up and together they developed a list of the six most critical items that were needed for a successful opening. They all knew that if over the next two months, they all stayed focused on these six things that they would open on time, successfully. That is exactly what they did.

Your leadership is the critical element. I know leaders that say they believe in creating a high trust atmosphere, and yet are not willing to delegate anything to their people. Just remember whenever you are faced with a problem, challenge, risk or opportunity, and there are several people involved, that there is a collective wisdom available to you, that will provide you with the wisdom to make the best decisions.

Well, there you have it – two principles that can help you to create a strong cohesive team who wants to follow you and help you achieve your shared vision! And you can use them to solve any problem that pops up! You can trust that there is a collective wisdom. You just need to create the atmosphere and forum to tap into it! 

Until next time Construction Nation,

P.S.  Curious how you can improve your project’s chance at success?

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