Traffic lights. At a roundabout!
It was 5.47am, pitch black. Not a car in sight. One light beckoning me to come while the other holds up the red hand of authority saying not yet! Both inventions with the original intention of doing good and adding value to the world and both inventions when thrust together looking like a bad fitting suit, a joke that falls flat, or a party trick gone wrong.
It was so frustrating.
Leadership has opportunities to solve problems and a leaders tool box must have a flexible and adaptable set of skills that allow them to look at the problem, find the real issue, remove obstacles, and speed up the pace towards the outcome. Colin Powell said “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
The three roles of a leader when solving problems are:
- Issue Clarification – Define the problem in the clearest and most succinct way.
- Obstacle Removal – Make the pathway as clean and clear as possible.
- Purposeful Action – Move even more intentionally towards the outcome.
When you have clarity and remove obstacles you create meaning, we know what to do and can see what’s possible.
When you remove obstacles and engage in purposeful action you serve motivation, we know we can do it and we want to make things happen.
When you have purposeful action in the light of a clear problem you get momentum. All available resources can be focused on a solution that will serve the mission most effectively.
Innovation lives at the edges. Teams understand when to work around the organisational chart when they need to. Empowered teams understand their mission, boundaries and authority to get the job done. Solving problems creates a new level of collective thinking, a new pattern of collaborative behaviour new opportunities for mission achievement.
Elon Musk’s viral letter to his organisation resets the bar for initiative and proactivity for solving problems and making work culture work in the light of organisational mission. He says:
“Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.
Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility.”
Elon Musk is saying ‘solve the problem as fast as possible, take initiative, BE A LEADER!’
At 5.49am the light turned green. As I made my way through the roundabout I realised how easy it is to create problems and then get used to them.
Leaders do the opposite.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.