Encouraging Our People to Think Big

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A number of years ago, as part of a personal development plan at the organization where I was a Director, I was provided with the opportunity to work with an executive coach. The first time we met we went through the typical introductions and expectation settings, and as the hour came to a close, he asked me to go away and think about where I wanted to be in 5 years, and where I wanted my organization to be.thinkbig

I spent the next 10 days thinking those things through, and came back to our next session with what I believed to be a well thought series of goals for my professional career, and how those would inform the betterment of my organization. He looked at me thoughtfully for a number of minutes, and just when the silence was beginning to be really awkward, he said to me “I was afraid you were going to come back with something like you did – you need a different coach – we can’t work together!” I was stunned and asked him why he thought that – his answer made me mad and challenged my pride, but looking back these 15 years, his answer changed the way I looked at work, life and my aspirations. He said “you think too small – way too small!”

As I sit at this keyboard I can admit he was bang on, and when I met for the first time with my new coach, and she asked me what I wanted to achieve through our sessions together I answered without hesitation – “I want to think BIG”

I still want the same thing – I want to think BIG, I don’t want to be afraid of the art of the possible, and I want those who work with me to be willing to stretch and think big as well. So the question is how do we encourage our people to think big? Consider the following:

  1. Make every effort to expose your teams to the Big Picture

Too often our interactions are focused on the tactical near term priorities we have on our plate. Make an effort at your team meetings to discuss the big picture of the organization, and how the efforts at the individual level, fit into that big picture. Expose your teams, regardless their levels or seniority, to the big policy drivers, the big vision and corporate commitments. And what you will see happen, is that a good number of your people will start to take those big drivers as their own and begin to articulate what they do as enablers of the Big picture.

  1. Engage Horizontally not Vertically

Hierarchy kills big thinking! Engage across your teams at the bottom, middle and top, and not just through your direct reports. Let your team tell you how they are doing, and take those opportunities to not only listen and learn, but also to position what you are hearing inside the bigger picture. Let them here the vision, and your vision, not from their managers but from you, and they will begin to become part of the bigger picture, and maybe just maybe think big.

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So, engage and expose, and maybe just maybe we’ll begin not only to think big but really BIG!

And James, if you are reading this, thanks – you were right – back then I thought way too smallsmily

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After 20 years of progressive leadership within the Canadian Public Service, as an executive and thought leader, Bruce has turned his attention to full time writing, speaking, training and business advisory services. Focusing his work on his long term passion for leadership development, has led to an ongoing focus on exploring current leadership topics through his leadership blog TheModernLeader.ca, and his newly released book - Leadership Hack: Leading the Millennial Tribe. Bruce holds two masters degrees, along with a professional designation in project management. Bruce calls Ottawa, Ontario Canada home, where he shares his life with his wife Susan, and his two university aged daughters.

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