The leadership style I engage in is essential when helping you to apply systems thinking for yourself. I might be asking people to step outside of their comfort zone, see things from a different perspective and, at times, put their own necks on the line to enable others to work with curiosity and ‘try things out’. People generally need to feel safe, encouraged and supported in these situations. This takes honest and open, legitimate relationships, built on mutual trust and respect. In my opinion, everyone’s leadership style is ESSENTIAL when applying systems thinking. There are a few things I often ask people I work with (and myself) to consider:
Know yourself and how your thoughts and actions impact on others
Before you can effectively lead others you need to know yourself and how you make sense of the world around you. How you ‘frame’ a situation is incredibly important and I can help you to understand this. This self-reflection is better when it is an ongoing process, not a one off exercise. It helps if you are able to be open-minded and curious. Being truthful about, and letting go of, your preconceptions are two powerful skills to help you on your way. It is far too easy for any of us to get caught up in our own obsessive thoughts and to forget to challenge our very own thinking. Therefore, my first piece of advice to people working in situations I explore (including myself) is, ‘get to know yourself and how your thoughts and actions impact on those around you and the situation you are in’.
Celebrate not knowing
Applying systems thinking to any situation means that you have to start from a point of not knowing the answer. Only when you adopt this approach can you truly start to expand your perspective and take into consideration the wider context. Think about that for a moment. To say “I don’t know,” particularly if you are in a management position, is not often an acceptable starting point. Traditionally, managers are expected to know the answers. What we often forget is that it is perfectly ok to say “I don’t know, until I have a look.” Much of what is expected when applying systems thinking depends upon people acting in a way that is opposite to how they might naturally behave. I usually encourage people to see not knowing as a huge opportunity. Only then, can they overcome the stigma attached to not knowing and embrace the situation more openly.
Embrace multiple perspectives
It is important that you do not just stick with people who think like you. I encourage people to listen deeply to others and consider beliefs, fears and hopes. People have these for a reason and if they are trying hard to make you listen to them, it is often with good intentions in mind. If someone is shouting out, listen to what they have to say. Many an, “I told you so!” moment could have been avoided if people learned how to actively listen and take others’ perspectives on board. That does bot mean you have to agree with everyone else, but you should at least listen. I encourage people to observe and listen deeply and with an open mind.
Think positively about those you work with
If you do not believe in the people around you, then that very mindset alone will be a barrier to the positive outcomes you could achieve. I encourage people to engage through the eyes of empathy and bring humanity back into the work.
Build legitimate, honest relationships
Nothing destroys trust more than dishonesty. When I work with people I encourage fairness and transparency. Give constructive criticism if necessary, but avoid reactiveness and defensiveness where possible.
How I work with you
I use a facilitative and coaching style to enable people from across teams or organisations to take a wider view of situations and to collaborate and experiment together. This enables them to co-create value and take a more entrepreneurial approach to the work.