Monday, 24 November 2014

Community of purpose

A client runs a large team conducting several complex projects in parallel for an international company in the US. He has been going through a difficult personal time and was saying that his management had slipped as a result 

To wit: his team recently invited him to attend a project management meeting. This is the kind of meeting that he would normally call and lead himself, but which he'd uncharacteristically not organized for a while. His team saw a need and did it for him. 

He was, in his own words, hurt and upset that his team had felt the need to "do [his] job for [him]". His managerial mojo was being challenged, but he put on a good face and ultimately thanked his team for taking the initiative for this much-needed meeting.  

Upon reflection, we came upon another reading of this situation. His team allowed itself to take a risk: to call a meeting and thus signal a need (and a minor slip on his side). They were able to take this risk, albeit small, because they know that he trusts them and their motives, and because they trust him, his fairness, and goodwill. Further, they respect him and thus wish him well, as they perceive his success to reflect positively upon them. They know he respects them and would react accordingly. 

In other words, the carefully crafted mutual trust and respect that he has fostered over time has created a community of purpose and goal. It is within this community that his team could reach out to him, to help him and themselves simultaneously. As a manager, building such a community is significantly more difficult, long lasting, and valuable than tracking projects on a spreadsheet, or running team meetingsthat is the mark of a true leader.

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