I like sceptics. I am not one generally. Used to be. Used to be a harrumphing bore, cynical to the gills. Got over it, myself. Now, I think much more about potential and what if…?
Still, sceptics keep you grounded, prevent some of the plain excess of grandiloquent ideas. I encourage the engagement of sceptics, they make me better, raise the bar. And they come out of the woodwork when they smell the fresh scent of new ideas, innovation, change.
This week, working out loud under the stairs, I have had several good, honest, hardworking conversations on matters of substance. Some have been directly related to “this working out loud bollocks.” Others, more tangential – like the use of technology to change behavior, like the power of networks to (r)evolutionize projects, and like the leadership imperative.
Am I showing leadership placing myself in plain sight in the fishbowl under the stairs? Yes, certainly, if leadership is stirring things up, poking the sediment. Yes, certainly, if leadership is introducing new ideas and ways of thinking. But my expectations and approach are much more prosaic.
My working out loud experiment is simply an investigation of two questions:
- how can I help? (and then making some suggestions as to how I might) and
- what more can we do?
And here is where the leadership conversation began…
A good sceptic told me:
good on you for taking the initiative, but who really benefits? Less than 10% of people?
Considering who showed up, yeah, in the 10-20% ball park. There is a group of people who I knew would move towards me and the WOL experiment. And sure enough, there they were at the random pecha kucha and the lunch roulette table. How many ‘surprises’ did I receive? Not too many.
Now, I’m fully OK with that. When you approach without expectation, you cannot be disappointed! [Note to self: good idea to repeat this approach in other areas!]
But let’s get back to leadership. The sceptic noted:
when you introduce risk, most people move to survival mode. They do not move toward change, but flight from it. So how important is being a leader (of change)? What you are offering (by working out loud) is a kind of leadership training, and it basically does not work. Most people cannot cope with it. Be realistic.
My optimistic soul leaps to answer, but you know what, it’s ok. It may be right. It might not. It does not matter. And the sceptic agrees:
All you can do is be a good role model, and support and encourage people..but don’t expect too much!
Sounds good to me.
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