How to Discover the True Power in Your Organization

Spectrum of light

“No one can teach you to win. But only give you the tools to learn how to do it yourself. And until the lesson gets into your head, defeat can also taste good. It can even be the best flavor you've tasted up to that day.” Marcell Jacobs just won the Olympic gold for the 100 meters in Tokyo.

He broke a speed record. Jacobs had always been fast. But something kept him from breaking through. You know the sensation: doing things halfheartedly. Even talent and skill cannot make up for lack of heart.

The brain hides the secret well. If you never go all out, you're spared when you don't make it.

Yet, it is when you

acknowledge and embrace your story

that the real work can begin.

Jacobs discovered his true power during the COVID lockdown. He learned that as a human, he has dignity and love. No mistake or loss can take them away. As he describes what he felt on the blocks of Torun, he felt only “desire to run fast, have fun, and do something great.”

Change is part of life. Like Jacobs, many discovered their true power as the Covid-19 pandemic introduced changed on multiple dimensions. Companies had to shift to remote work for all non essential individuals. People had to juggle work, home schooling, and life logistics on the fly. Leaders had to figure out supply chains, business continuity, and cohesion.

When change came, we coped. 2020’s saw a 4.3 percent drop in growth. For 2021, the World Bank predicts 4 percent upside. Covid-19 lifted a veil of denial on many changes already happening. From climate to technology, social to skills-based.

You can put in place transformation programs. But the truth is you cannot force people to embrace change. Trust in leaders and institutions is at an all-time low. These changes require a higher level of accountability and activism to expand opportunity for everyone.


Don't bury the lede (or lead)

This is an expression borrowed from journalism. The most important thing should go first. You can take it literally. It's the only way to emerge from the information bankruptcy of the last few years. But also symbolically, based on the kind of transformation that is under way.

In the absence of trust, individuals discovered their power. Rather than waiting for permission from leaders and institutions, many simply took action. Higher productivity was the result of finding emotional safety at home. An aspect of the pandemic that is hard to give up. Even as people are ready to be social again (with caution).


Taking action requires

a higher level of accountability.

And accountability leads to true power. As does finding meaning and quieting your competitive mind. Humans are natural collaborators. They start fighting over the rewards when scarcity prevails.

Whether the great resignation happens or not in your company or industry, a heightened awareness that change is happening is out there. Trustworthy information merely scratches the surface on trust.

But trust is what holds teams, communities, companies, and society together.


Honor dignity

Through my work, I've acquired a high resolution appreciation of human development. What we need at different stages of growth. This is also true of companies and teams. Donna Hicks has investigated the underlying psychological human needs that contribute to conflict.

Unaddressed dignity violations fuel the inability of parties involved to end conflict. In Leading with Dignity, she invites leaders to expand their concept of what is means to be human. Dignity is not a topic many of us think about much. Yet, it's critical to human development, growth, and collaboration.

Honoring dignity starts with acceptance of identity, without fear to be judged. Recognition, acknowledgement, inclusion, safety and fairness are part of it. Independence or agency empowers people and gives them a sense of hope and possibility. Understanding and benefit of the doubt are critical to connection. Accountability is a commitment as well as a promise.

Jacobs' athletic breakthrough happened because he found the path to honoring his own dignity. The comments following his amazing victory quickly went from yay, to meh. Why? Because his name and identity do not appear to be Italian. Jacobs was different from other children.

Growing up mixed race and without a father, he faced prejudice and felt pride. He's always been athletic, but his peers felts he was too good and had unfair advantage. Thus he was excluded from the one gift he had as well. His expanded consciousness was at the end of a journey of inner reflection.


Start with small teams

What will help these small groups achieve their outcome? How can you help them become better versions of themselves? What will help them get better in their work? How will they feel a sense of connection and inspiration?

The greater the distance between where they are and where they want to be, the more leverage to help them achieve their goals. Things like higher intensity projects, coaching and involvement. But the selection of team members also matters.

If you have a small group of highly motivated people with diverse skills, you can cover a lot of ground fast. As long as everyone understands it's a process. High achievement in the true power realm is not happening on day one.

The new Emerging Co-Creation framework I've taught with Virginie Glaenzer fosters compassion, leading individuals to follow their curiosity and inviting organizations to create space where everyone matters. A sense of belonging ensues, and agency results.

Curiosity is a manifestation of agency. Connection stems from a desire to understand and include others. And connection leads to greater purpose, where dignity for the whole resides. When you start with a small group already keyed into a desire to take action, accountability is part of the conversation.


Balance optimize with innovate

We all get paid to deliver certainty. A discrete product or service that performs as promised. We make predictable patterns and models to construct our future. This helps us optimize and deliver on our promises.

But what would happen if we switched our desire to have answers to curiosity about what is possible?

How can we change to probabilistic thinking

instead of certainty thinking?

This would mean a spectrum of thinking to open ourselves with options instead of right / wrong. Can you think of a time where you were faced with a right / wrong or true / false situation which you could have looked at through the filter of options?

These can be simple examples. A discussion with a colleague. Did you honor dignity? Going through a project post-mortem. Where you curious about ranges of outcomes? The truth is that reality moves more on a spectrum than a predictable pattern.

From climate to technology, social to skills-based, these changes require we expand consciousness. Which means getting used to seeing and understanding a spectrum of options. This is the true power in organizations. And you don't tap it through the inertia of the status quo.

Can you embrace and acknowledge your true story?


[spectrum of light via Pixabay]