Before you became a leader, you thought every executive had it all together. They are confident, always know what decision to make, and turning ideas into execution happens at the snap of a finger. You just walk around telling everyone how to execute the plan, how hard could that be?
Insert the laugh track here…
Leading is messy…we have to communicate effectively, approach problems from multiple perspectives, turn creative chaos into a cohesive plan and a whole lot more.
That is a feature of the job, not a bug, and it is….A LOT.
How do you get comfortable with having moments of messiness in your leadership journey? In this episode, we talk about how to embrace the messiness of leading a team or an organization.
The challenge for executives is to balance creative messiness with a need for clear and coherent strategy. -Jen Thornton
0:00:01.2 Jen Thornton: Y'all, it is messy at the top.
0:00:06.3 JT: Welcome back, friends. This is your place for cutting edge tools, exercises, best practices and modern leadership strategies. Because when the world is changing, it's time to bring our leadership styles along for the ride. Whether you're a company leader, a corporate visionary and entrepreneur, this show gives you new insights into the neuroscience and the language of leadership, plus practical steps and tips to lead your teams in a powerful way, but also help you keep your people happy and engaged, all while achieving your biggest goals. I'm your host, Jen Thornton. I'm a talent strategist, a brain-based executive coach, speaker, and the founder of the 304 Coaching. Now, let's fix leadership.
0:00:49.7 JT: I remember that time in my career when I thought every executive totally had it together. They were confident, they always knew what decision to make and always gave this clear direction without ever wavering. I also remember thinking it would be so easy to set the direction and just tell everyone what to do. [chuckle] And if I had a laugh track, I would insert it here. Because we kinda all laugh at that now, but I think we all remember a time in our career where we thought, "Wow, it would be so easy to just be the boss." But in today's world, now I know it's really messy at the top.
0:01:26.1 JT: And every day when I'm working with clients who have found themselves in those early months or years of their first executive position. I have to explain to them how messy it is at the top, because let's face it, it's a shock. We think that it's so nice and easy, and when we get there, we figure out how messy it really is.
0:01:46.7 JT: And again, we are told it'll be easy. You just have to walk around telling everyone to execute the plan. But no one tells you until you get there that it's the essential part of complex decision making. That's the messy, that the mess comes out of what needs to happen to really drive great business decisions. And a group of executives willing to make a mess or I like to say, break things, or just throw out ideas without the worry if it's actually gonna be able to be done, those groups of executives, what they are is they're brave. They're willing to take risk, and they're willing to learn something new.
0:02:27.7 JT: And the messiness of being in that process is really the process of just figuring it all out. And at the heart of every successful company is an executive team that's unafraid to engage in robust, sometimes chaotic, dialogue. This messiness stems from a blend of diverse opinions, backgrounds, visions for the company's future. It is within this seemingly kind of disordered environment that the most innovation-effective strategies are born.
0:03:01.3 JT: Successful leaders know that that dialogue matters. Effective communication is critical at the executive level. It involves not just transmission of ideas, but also active listening and the willingness to challenge and be challenged. And that dialogue can be intense, it can be very uncomfortable, but in its essence, it's really there to uncover the best path forward. And this dialogue allows a team to play out all those options without the fear of telling the truth.
0:03:35.4 JT: In these messy conversations, everyone is willing to share what is on their mind. They're willing to ask the questions. They're willing to be vulnerable. And great executives crave that diversity of opinion. One of the greatest strengths of a high-functioning executive team is the diversity of its members perspectives. When VPs and C-suite executives come from varied backgrounds and possess different skill sets, they approach problems from multiple angles.
0:04:06.6 JT: This diversity can lead to initial disagreements or that messiness, but ultimately, fosters a more holistic and well-rounded decision-making process. And that dialogue, that diversity, all that stuff, leads to creativity.
0:04:22.1 JT: Creativity in the executive realm is finding innovative solutions to complex problems. It involves questioning the status quo or breaking things. It requires brainstorming new ideas and being open to radical change. This process can be disorderly. It's never linear. But it's necessary for driving meaningful progress. And that creativity, that becomes the strategy. And that's the challenge. The challenge for executives is to balance this creative messiness with a need for a clear and coherent strategy. This involves taking a myriad of ideas generated through the creative dialogue and molding them into an actionable plan. It requires a delicate equilibrium between open-minded exploration and focused decision-making.
0:05:13.2 JT: Let's take a quick break from the conversation. Does your company need to prepare those upcoming leaders to take the reins? To learn more about our leadership academies and our coaching and to see if your company is a good fit for our transformation programs, visit 304coaching.com.
0:05:32.9 JT: Now we've done all this decision-making, we've had the dialogue, we've been messy, so let's clean it up, 'cause now it's time to deliver that clear path forward. This is the moment I thought always happened with just a simple snap of the finger. I never knew about the messy part before this happens. Once decisions are made, the messiness transforms into that structured strategy to be implemented company-wide.
0:05:58.8 JT: The role of the executive team then shifts to clear communication and guidance, ensuring that the creative chaos that led to these great decisions translates into an effective action. This is the part of the story most of us see, which is why we are clueless about how messy it is at the top.
0:06:19.9 JT: With that being said, how can you get comfortable with having moments of messiness in your leadership journey? It doesn't matter where you are in your career. Bringing in more conversations, embracing diversity of thought and creativity can lead to big things. Think of it as finding a messy closet and you don't know what's in it, and you don't know who... You have no idea who put the items in it, but you and a group of people are tasked with organizing it. What might that work sound like? You might wonder where to start. You might be asking, "How in the world did these items get here in the first place?" You also might be wondering, "What purpose of the contents of this closet? Do they have any purpose? And is anything here valuable? Should we keep some of these items or just throw it all out?"
0:07:08.8 JT: It's even better if you and your team are not emotionally connected to those items in the closet, because without that emotional connection, you can see things in a new light. You can ask all kinds of great questions, and you can share endless ideas without ego and fear.
0:07:27.9 JT: Now, these are the types of moments that can drive new and innovative ideas. The messy nature of decision-making for leaders is not a sign of dysfunction, but rather, a testament, the dynamic and creative process that drives successful teams and companies. It is in the midst of this diverse opinion, intense dialogues and innovative brainstorming that the most effective strategies are formed.
0:07:54.6 JT: Embrace this messiness. It is key to fostering a leadership culture that is not only adaptable and resilient, but also capable of steering the company or a group into the future. And let's never forget, to fix leadership, we have to break a few things, and we have to get comfortable with being very messy.
0:08:17.6 JT: Thanks for listening to Let's Fix Leadership. By hanging out with me today, you're already on your path. If you're looking to learn more and to see if your company is a good fit for our coaching and leadership education, then hey, visit 304coaching.com. If you got value out of this podcast, share it with a friend, and it would mean the world to me if you'd leave a thoughtful review and a rating on iTunes. Thanks again for listening, and I appreciate your work in fixing leadership.