Leaders who are questioning, skeptical, and challenging can be very helpful when in an early phase such as “exploring implications”. When working toward alignment, however, it can stand in the way.
When I was a teacher, I had a principal in my early years who found that we had extra time at the end of a staff meeting. “Dream out loud”, he said. “Let’s take a moment to explore your ideal situation.” Randi raised her hand and said, “I wish the class were divided into six smaller sections again, instead of the larger five that we have now, especially since we laid off the aides. It’s too much to handle.”
The principal pondered Randi’s dream a moment, then said, “With the budget cuts, and the new directive to add computer applications classes, we’ll never go back to six sections. You’re stuck with five. Who else has something? Dream out loud!”
No one said a word. The principal appeared receptive, but turned out to be a challenging dream-crusher.
On the flip side – being receptive at M Booth happens all the time. One example comes from something related to support of Small Business Saturday, The Global Merchant Services of AmEx.
M Booth supports American Express in their efforts to help retailers see the value of accepting–and promoting their acceptance of–American Express cards. This often takes the form of standard educational opportunities, like sessions at industry events, or web-based training and resources.
Moon Kim, an M Booth VP, leads team members in their efforts to help the GMS folks in those efforts. In doing so, she stays receptive to creative and innovative ideas. A couple of examples:
- A strategic partnership with the Seattle Seahawks led to a merchant event featuring popular Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman who off the field is a small business owner.
- One educational session was a panel discussion to educate entrepreneurs through the practices of the Golden State Warriors basketball franchise.
These unique twists on traditional events help keep small merchants up to speed on business practices, and helps them understand and embrace the benefits of being an AmEx merchant.
And, having more small businesses accept the card opens up more opportunities for Small Business Saturday and the incentives they offer.
The principal in the first story shut down the dialogue before it even got interesting.
But when leaders like Moon stay receptive, that dialogue can lead to great things.
Staying receptive is a leadership behavior that helps drive Dialogue during the Alignment process of the Work of Leaders.
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This is the tenth post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.
For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.
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