“This was the best experience of my professional career: the program you designed kept external interventions to the minimum and allowed us to share our own experiences, learn together and from each other. We now feel that our future does not depend from consultants but is entirely in our hands!” This was one of the most moving feedback we received in our career this week when my partners Tritia Neeb, Ben Clayton-Jolly, Michael Newman and I ran a “Leadership in action” development program with one of our most cherished client.
Inversely, one of our other partners still vividly remembers the Management Conference he recently witnessed; The purpose was to engage the top 300 leaders of the organization and the management team had heavily invested in it: 5 stars hotel, top external speakers (paid a fortune), the “big guys” flying on the compound by helicopter to provide a feeling of power and success to the rest, a rather generous take-away gift under the form of Ipads… If that wasn’t an obvious willingness to engage and celebrate, what else could it be?
It was a disaster… The whole style of the conference went a bit like on the short clip here below where a new leader (Rolo Lee/John Cleese), in charge of a new strategy has been parachuted to engage the whole organization… The meeting switches people’s energy into passive consumption then silent and disengaged obedience.
Very different are some of the sessions we recently were invited to, in several parts of the world, by different clients. The executive teams had chosen much simpler (and cheaper) residential areas but with a strong informal style and intimacy conducive atmosphere and service.
Leaders were clear about what was non negotiable and presented it in a didactical style (explaining how and why they had come to such conclusions) and invited rapidly their people to join them in co-creating clarity, meaning and ownership about how the new strategy, organization or culture would be implemented. Leaders were not “broadcasting” but constructing, they were connectors rather than directors (as Gerd Leonhard would say).
They were no prestigious speakers: their time was allocated to engage people into talking to each other and get to know each other better.
When observing those conferences where openness and transparency were truly lived, I can’t prevent myself from thinking to the arrogance of a Personal Assistant, a few years ago, intruding into our debate with her boss (who rapidly agreed with her): we were trying to encourage them to open up, build bridges with their people, show intimacy and approachability while engaging them into owning the strategy. In a shock, she replied: “Strategy is too important to be shared with employees…” There you are, this company is history today…
On my way to Zürich… Have a great week all and a good holiday for those of you taking some!