A businessman took off on an extended trip. Before leaving he called his team together to delegate their individual assignments.
Based on their abilities, he gave 60% of his portfolio to the first investor. Another effective manager was put in charge of 30% of his wealth and the remaining 10% was entrusted to a high potential manager. He left the country.
The first leader went right to work and doubled the funds she was put in charge of; so did the second manager. But the third employee secured his assigned funds in a safety deposit box.
As the owner returned to the office he called each leader for an update. Imagine his delight as the first two leaders reported doubling their assigned funds. Heaping praise on them, he rewarded their top performance with even greater opportunities.
Remember the play-it-safe employee? Listen to his report* …
Look, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best, and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money.
Here it is, safe and sound, down to the last cent.
Wanted: Self-managed leaders
What did this business owner want? He expected his leaders to get their work done, be accountable, relish new challenges, work well with others, create a “can-do” environment, lower conflict and stress, and be engaged and highly productive. High potential leaders must be self-managed in today’s workplace.
The businessman was furious:
That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with bankers … I’d gotten a little interest.
The power of fear
Remember what the new manager with potential said in his report? “I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place….”
Fear-based thinking is the pits and leads to pitiful performance.
Fear puts us in a headlock, worried about what could happen; anxious about what someone who isn’t even thinking about us might think; stuck so that we underperform our full potential. Fear leads to disengaged.
Purpose gets fuzzy. Passion is replaced with respectability. Vision to see the people and the potential is lost. Fear limits our ability and willingness to learn and change. Fear steals our contribution. Fear kills the dream.
Fear pushes us be that play-it-safe leader. You might as well kiss future success goodbye. People who are afraid hide. Call it a comfort zone if you like, it is a cave.
Fear produces ancient behavior, unproductive ways of showing up in the workplace. Fear drives that fight or flight response so we fail to stay and engage.
Fear can produce brain freeze so we fail to do even the least we could do.
I was afraid…
You know that beyond fear is freedom and that freedom is vital to success. Martin Luther King, Jr. correctly noted: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Where will you demand your freedom today? How will you avoid living a “criminally cautious life?”
In support of your liberation from fear I encourage you to create space and go here. If you’re short on time here’s a simple if not easy exercise. It is best to write this in your own journal in your own handwriting…
I’m afraid of _____________ because of _______________
but the truth is ____________________________________
Seeking truth could have saved the new high potential leader’s job. If only he would have created space to think and challenge his beliefs.
What do you suppose kept him from consulting with his team members? If he worked with you, what open-ended questions would you ask to help him pursue the truth?
Here’s to your breakthrough in 2014,
PS: If you want to become self-managed, Next Generation Leaders courses are available for individuals or business teams in February and March. Get more details at the team-based coaching page.
*This story about investment is taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.