The most successful change process empowers you to hold yourself responsible for making decisions. Sometimes it’s not possible now, but it will be.
About a year ago, I got a new-to-me car that had a navigation system. With the vast majority of my driving being local and a navigation app on my phone, I didn’t need this feature. However, in recent months, I found myself going to new places more often, so it was nice to have this option available. The difference I’ve noticed between the navigation app on my phone and the one in my car is most interesting. The navigation system in my car adds “if possible…” before many of the point-by-point instructions. For example, the voice instructions say something like, “if possible, take the next exit onto H Avenue.” At first, I thought it was a fluke, assuming that my car’s navigation system somehow had special information about the traffic or perhaps an accident that indicated the instructions given may not actually be possible to execute. And the cynic in me thought maybe it was a way for the navigation system to avoid responsibility for incorrect or less-than-ideal instructions.
But the more I thought about the addition of those two words, the more I liked the fact that the user of that system (i.e., the driver of the car) had to make the final decision about whether or not those instructions were actually the best instructions at that given moment. Adding this perspective to other aspects of our life can be extremely powerful. Empowering.
Common sense? Not really. Great leaders and teachers empower employees and students.
My Pilates instructor has a similar method of communicating instructions that gives the student the information to determine what’s best during class. The instructor might offer a range of options for each exercise, depending on what area of the body you want to focus on, or may offer different set-up options to accommodate individual skill sets or injuries. For example, several of the exercises are normally done kneeling, but for those students with a knee replacement, the same exercise may be modified to a sitting pose. Effective yoga classes I’ve attended also offer similar options for accommodating skill and flexibility.
Great leaders also recognize this ‘if possible’ perspective. When discussing the need for an employee behavior change, a wise leader once shared the way he initially assessed the situation. He said that he tried to determine if an employee was unwilling or unable to adjust behavior. Super simple but very powerful. If an employee is able, but unwilling to adjust behavior, then the ‘if possible’ question is answered with a ‘yes’ but the employee has ultimately decided that she is not going to make an adjustment. That leader is then able to make a better decision about keeping that person in her current role or the organization. If the answer to the question is that the employee is willing to change behavior but unable, then the ‘if possible’ question is answered with a ‘no,’ and that opens the potential opportunity to provide training or adjust circumstances until we can get to a “it’s possible” (willing and able) scenario.
I like that navigation (and life) rarely say something is impossible, only that we have to stay on the journey… keep moving… until it is possible.
How do you determine “if possible” for yourself?
As an individual, are you accepting responsibility for your decisions?
As a leader, how are you providing a range of options for employees (and thus removing obstacles) to meet expectations?
Please share your thoughts with me!