In 1836, William Cornwallis Harris led an expedition to hunt wildlife in their natural habitat. However, an African safari can also be an opportunity to observe wildlife and the landscape by the expedition’s members.
The Swahili word safari means journey. How appropriate for leadership development and business success.
In last week’s blog, I mentioned Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine. He serves as an example of a truth-seeking leader. In safari fashion, Aceto hunts feedback asking employees questions such as: “Where do you feel frustration at work?” “What don’t you like about working here?”
Peter hunts down the “elephant in the room.” To embrace the risk of pursuing truth, you must embrace vulnerability as a strength, not a weakness.
The elephant in the room
A Safari with your company or organization may move you out of your Comfort Zone. Remember, you’re hunting the elephant(s) in the room. You know it’s an elephant when “that situation.”
- Stirs emotion — it’s a sore spot and people have strong feelings about the subject
- Seems obvious — the team sees it, they know what’s going on
- Is avoided — if you dare bring it up, the “leader” shuts the discussion down, old school style
Authentic leaders know the hunt is necessary, “We will address the situation.”
To stay back in the office ignoring the problem disengages the team and sooner or later hinders productivity. The reality is denial, avoidance, and minimization feeds the elephant. The “that problem” only grows and becomes more costly.
Elephants restrict your team’s ability to move towards top performance. Morale suffers, engagement erodes, and productivity declines because elephants take up a lot of space and energy. Your top talent will not stand for it; soon they’ll look for an exit, the room is too small.
Hunt for truth
The business of business is people. Indeed, the journey can be a bit wild at times. And you’re part of that story, right?
Here are a few suggestions for a successful hunting or exploring expedition:
- Build trust — build vulnerability-based trust, admit your mistakes. Embrace vulnerability as a strength. You don’t have to be right or in control. Relax. Stop talking and listen.
- Be approachable — ask open-ended questions to engage your people: What am I missing? How can we do this better? Where are we stuck? Who needs to go? Where am I missing it?
- Challenge the silence — question your belief that silence means resolution; dig deeper. Ask more questions. Go one-on-one. Use an anonymous survey. Engage someone to interview the team.
- Take action — what have your leaders and employees told you and now expect? Usually, the risk of no decision is greater than the risk of making a decision.
- Be courageous — especially if you’re not the boss. Grow your influence by changing your behavior. Create space to think and ask the right questions.
Leaders who deal with elephants maintain momentum, morale, engagement, and productivity. It’s prudent to address anything that threatens employee engagement.
Creating Space to think
Remember, Safari comes from the Swahili, “to travel.” Developing self-managed teams and leaders is a journey, not a destination. It’s about future success. Building a great team and company is hard work. Seeking truth and being willing to address the elephant in the room is not hard, it’s just not easy.
Here’s to your Safari and future success,
Image credit: British Library