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“Thank you for doing all the things I never told you to do.” Those words capture the leadership philosophy of the former LEGO CEO, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp. He believed you don’t “control” people to innovation and success. The leader’s job is to provide the context, the supporting environment, and the permission for people to offer their best.

Question:

Do your team members feel empowered to do stuff, to try things you’ve not told them to do? Or… are they cautious, reluctant, even scared to make an un-approved move? What one thing will you do this week to open your people up to operate at their creative and/or innovative best?

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What’s good enough? Too often our people think their work has to be perfect. As leaders, let’s be clear what we expect and when we expect it. Let’s communicate exactly how ‘acceptable’ may fall somewhere between mediocre and perfect.

Question:

Do you know when it is okay to be acceptable; do your people know? How do you communicate that to your people? How do you reward them for ‘acceptable’ workmanship?

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Will PwC ever outlive the wrong envelope at the Oscars? Who knows? Think about it – backstage for PwC was a high-ranking, highly trusted, partner in the firm, not some intern or rookie. Yet, he got caught up in the bright lights of the moment and that overshadowed his ultimate responsibility (an extremely simple task). The result… a world-wide reputation hit for PwC; they are accountants for Pete’s sake, we count on them for accuracy.

Question:

What are the little things that “won’t ever go wrong” in your organization? Specifically, what are you doing to ensure your people don’t take the trivial stuff for granted?

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Let’s stop thinking about what’s gone wrong in the past and start imagining things going right. A basketball player rarely makes a shot when he or she thinks only about past misses; the ball is more likely to go in when he visualizes it going through the hoop. Similarly, I remember hearing of a successful female pro golfer who, as she drove to the course, would listen over and over and over to a recording of the ball going into the cup.

Question:

As leaders, are we helping our people visualize success or are we reminding them of failure? It’s one thing to de-brief things can be improved, it’s another to send an employee into the fire with a negative thought. What changes in employee attitudes, in employee results, when we lead with the notion of “feedforward” rather than “feedback”?

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Leaders see it all the time–employees responding poorly to change initiatives. Predictably, your people don’t take well to hearing countless arguments about why your new idea will make things better. Invariably, one-way talk increases organizational tension. Maybe a new approach is required-one that acknowledges the resisting forces and, in understanding them, reduces their sway.

Question:

What changes if, instead of selling features and benefits of a new approach, you devote real time to uncovering, appreciating and working through employees’ specific resistances to the change? What can you expect when they feel heard and respected rather than expecting them to hear and respect you?

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Let’s reconcile two thoughts about team meetings – first, “Let’s all be on the same page,” and second – “If we always agree, why do we need meetings?” I suggest exceptional organizations get to the same page through those very robust conversations.

Question:

How much conflict do you expect in your meetings? (Not how much do you allow?) How fervently do your people challenge each other’s ideas and your’s? How strongly do you mine for, even celebrate, alternative perspectives and new approaches? What will you do differently in your next meeting?