Self management and leading change through conversation

How many change efforts fail due to a lack of communication? In Kotters book, Leading Change, he talks about not being able to over communicate. And this does not simply mean sending out memos and directives, this means talking with people at all levels of the organization. Asking questions, listening, sharing ideas, and engaging with team members, in other words being in conversation with others. This is how we learn and create change. This is how we can change the world and create healing in our communities.

It is always a frustration to me that so many people who call themselves leaders, refuse to talk with others. They may have their small circle of elite supporters, but they are not out engaging with the community. I have not fully figured out what the problem is. Are they so insecure that they are afraid to find that others might disagree with them? Is it simply easier to bark orders and demand action? Certainly if one explores leaders from around the world and in any type of community, one will find that the great leaders engage with the people in the community. Their leadership may come in many styles, but more importantly, conversation is what they do share in common.

There was a recent series of answers to a question posed in the Harvard Business Review Working Knowledge posed by James Heskett, Are We Ready for Self-Management? As Jim says in his summary, the predominant reactions to notions of self-management explored in this month’s column could perhaps be described best by two words, “enthusiasm” and “skepticism.” He used my comment to sum up the thoughts of many:

But John Inman’s comments suggested a concern that was more strongly voiced by others, when he commented that “if you are a command and control manager… keep away from self-management… However, if you can ask and not tell, engage people in learning conversations, coach, develop, and create a clear picture of the result, you probably will be thrilled with the result…”

The ability to drive self management is driven by the ability to be in conversation with team members. See the full treatment on this topic at http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5507.html#forum-summary.

Keep up the conversations.

John