Every organization has a mess. Sometimes it's a huge mess and other times it's a very small mess, but because it involves human beings a mess is bound to be made. The question is how is that mess handled. I've discovered that people are really good at seeing the mess. We talk about the mess endlessly, we stand around it, we give suggestions on how to fix the mess, we create sub-committees to look at the mess, we definitely complain about the mess, but there is something that is much harder for us to do; See our part of the mess and clean it up. Even harder is to clean up the mess that is not yours, even if it has an impact on your area. I think basically there are three types of people in this world.
- People who own their part of the mess and want to help clean it up.
- People who don't see their role in the mess but are willing to help clean it up.
- People who don't see their role in the mess and think cleaning it up is someone else's job entirely.
Groups 1&2 are easy to work with but group 3 is where the challenge lies and frankly it's where my own personal leadership challenge is right now. You see I fall into group 1 really clearly. I see the mess, I know my role in the mess and I want to get it cleaned up and this is a good thing. Here's the problem though, I start taking on everyones mess. I volunteer for multiple committees, I take on the challenges that our group is facing, and I take on challenges that don't even directly impact me because of a desire to make the environment a better place.
Sounds great, right? My thought was if people saw someone engaged in working on the mess they would jump on board, but there was an unintended consequence I didn't see. It creates an environment where people either think they no longer have to participate in cleaning up or even worse they stand around waiting to be told what to do.
It's this problem that has me thinking the most. If the culture is one where an authority figure needs to give the orders people have an excuse to disengage from the process. So how do you create an atmosphere where people are energized to do the work that needs to be done? Over the next few weeks I'm going to share some of the ways I'm thinking about this but your input is needed as well.