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April 18, 2006

News & Opinion: Prepared Mind World Tour #7 -- Enabling

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 2:52 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy

When Bill and I first conceived of the Prepared Mind skills, we called this skill teaching. Feedback from executives steered us away from using the word "teaching," telling us it sounded too didactic, too one-way in helping others advance and develop their own Prepared Minds. So, we developed our thinking and observations along the lines of "enabling" others. In fact, many definitions of leadership focus on enabling others to contribute.
As we continue to work with leaders cultivating their own and others' Prepared Minds, I am beginning to believe that the most effective and transformational impact we can have in enabling others is when we work with them to discover and uncover potential, talent, even goals that have been left latent, often for many years in their careers.
Recently, I worked with a man who made it a point to tell me that as good as he was technically, he was not a leader. He thought leadership meant being assertive, speaking up in groups, rallying people around an idea, following him. He told me that being a non-native speaker of English also did not help. He did not feel he used the language well to expect people to listen to him. To tell you the truth, most of his colleagues would have not pegged him a leader either. However, after a few days of hearing how his colleagues went about doing their own technical work and involving others, he realized he was missing opportunities, even the responsibility, of helping others come to see things through the superb set of scientific eyes he uses to make him one of the strongest technical experts in his company. He began considering the other skills of the Prepared Mind and how he already uses them or, with minor tweaks, could use them more in his day to day work, and engage others in using them. His proclamation (and it did sound like a proclamation) at the end of three days was, "I a leader!" He told me it was there all along and that he just did not realize that what he did quietly could be such a strong foundation to leadership.
A month later, I followed up with this man and his colleagues. I heard stories of him standing in the middle of a circle during meetings and asking deep, insightful questions that no one else had thought of to ask. He has made it a point to include other non-native speakers from all around the world in meetings and getting them to speak up with their input. Instead of waiting for people to come to him, he asks people if they want to see how he does the analysis of a complex data set. I was even told that he has gone through The Prepared Mind of a Leader and checked off each idea and action he does do or wants to do in his daily work.
The point is that enabling others often just means helping them discover and uncover what they have been doing all along and help them see the value. This is also a powerful motivation tool that sparks them to do more of a good thing and stretch to develop new talents.
What are ways to discover and uncover potential and talent in ourselves and others?
[If you missed the first six Prepared Mind stops, here they are: Observing, Reasoning, Imagining, Challenging, Deciding and Learning]