Friday, February 24, 2006

Leading From the Grey Zone

There is more to situations than what we call ‘black and white’. Leaders who lead from either perspective are usually making decisions based on some of the facts but not all. That might get them into trouble later on. Leading from the grey zone melds all the information together to make a more informed, responsive, not reactive decision. Those who lead from the grey zone are able to think differently from the people who surround them. Thinking from that perspective promotes leadership by allowing individual talents and creativity to emerge. Conventional leaders think it’s valuable to be able to make split second decisions, but leading from the grey zone encourages people to incorporate new ideas and wisdom subtly and without as little ‘upsetting the apple cart’ as possible.

Thinking from the grey zone takes a long time to develop but allows a leader to think between black and white and not form an opinion about something important until they’ve heard all the facts and perspectives. Thinking grey stops leaders from forming opinions before they have to and wait for all relevant information to come to light before jumping in with both feet.

Leading grey also hones listening skills as these leaders listen for what they don’t know, as opposed to from a position of validation of what they already do know. Not only do ‘grey leaders’ listen in an artful and mindful way, they look at global and multiple perspectives to see complete pictures, thereby not having to ‘fix’ things later. They also use their environments wisely, both knowledge based environments and people environments or, in this case the experts in various fields.

Things are rarely black and white. Why lead from either perspective?

Some would call this a form of procrastination. This is subtly and powerfully different. It’s more a form of positive delay; not avoidance but strategic decision-making. ‘Grey leaders’ do everything in their power to make their direct reports succeed. They don’t run the organization, rather they lead individuals who share the same vision and give substance to the organization. They all run the organization as they create a ‘community of excellence’.

I often hear from clients how sneaky I am as I get them to do things they absolutely didn’t want to do and they end up loving it. They try to wrap their heads around this to be able to lead from the same perspective. It’s more than direction. It’s showing people the possibilities, giving them time to see the benefits and letting them fly as they embrace new ways of being, doing, working….. and once they come together with their own individuality and work towards the same goals or purpose, they begin to pull themselves forward. I don’t have to push them in any way shape or form. Why would I want to? Why would anyone in a position of leadership want to push anyone in any direction? That’s taking ownership of what they do and how they do it, how they think, as well as their successes and failures.

‘Grey leaders’ might lead quietly but are very powerful all the same. They have power with people, not over them.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Are you in control of the technology you use daily or a slave to it?

The other day I was talking to a computer specialist about technology and how it is such an integral part of the work I do. He surprised me by asking “People are always looking at the good side of technology but why aren’t they looking at the downside?” I never thought I’d hear that from a computer specialist!

But he’s right. And he asked me a valid question which I have been thinking about ever since. When he can turn to me and tell me a friend’s son at the age of 3 knows how to turn on the computer and insert a game to play, that is worrisome. He’s right. That child should be out in the playground or in the fresh air socializing with other children as this is a prescription for societal problems down the road. Besides which, it’s common knowledge that kids aren’t getting enough exercise because they’re too busy with video games and computers.

Let’s leave that for a moment and look at adults. We are so used to technology and if you think about it for a moment, you’ll realise computers and technology are integrated in all aspects of our lives. That won’t change, only increase. Truthfully, when I look at the impact it’s had on my life and that of my son’s, it’s immeasurable. Half the success of his rehab after his surgeries was because of medical technology, from a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine he wore for weeks on end which moved all his hand joints on a continual, programmed basis to prevent internal scarring to biofeedback to retrain, neuro-muscular stimulators to enervate, and laser and ultrasound for scarring. That is just one small personal example as medical advances are taking place almost daily.

For another example, because of technology, this blog now has subscribers from 74 countries and I have a dialogue with people from all over the world. That would never have taken place before. The wonders of the BlackBerry help me process emails through the day so I’m not inundated with hundreds when I get home at night. It facilitates my work and keeps me one step ahead of the chaos. I do turn it off at night, however.

Bottom line is, technology, computers, cell phones etc are tools, period. They are used as effectively as the people who use them. It helps us build our futures and reach out farther than we ever thought possible, but we are still responsible for determining our own fates.

Learn how to use it, update regularly. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it. But don’t let it be a substitute for life. Let it enhance your life. Use technology as a way to take back your life, not take over.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome new subscriber from Slovakia. We now have regular readers from 74 countries!