Have you read the Saboteur article? It might help you make sense of this page.
Let me give you an example, from many years ago, from my life and before I had this knowledge of archetypes.
I was working for company and we were setting up a ‘green-field’ manufacturing facility. We had the vision of establishing this as a high-performance workplace, and I was one of the key leaders chosen to help bring this vision into reality.
Because it was a new factory, and we were committed to high performance, we had designed a very intensive selection process.
In order to get a job with us, each person who was applying for a role as Production Team Member, went through about 11 hours of selection activities (over a period of about 4 months), including aptitude tests, role plays, group discussions and interviews.
As the People and Culture Leader, and responsible for the selection process, I was very much the voice for the company. Telling people over and over, in every interaction they had with us, how this was going to be a very different place to work, how they were going to be empowered, listened to, and participate in decision-making within the business.
And this, at a time, when employee empowerment was really quite unusual.
Eventually after 18 months of planning and organization design activities, we we finally flung open the doors and our first Production Team Members started working with us.
Now, if you’ve ever been involved in the start-up of a business you know that the hours are long and with Murphy’s Law if anything can go wrong it will. 18-19 hour days can be the norm and people are exhausted.
But, as part of our commitment to creating a high performance workplace, we had fortnightly meetings where every single person in the factory came together to discuss the state of the nation. To talk about successes and problems from the previous couple of weeks, to talk about what was coming up and to air concerns.
The Fateful Meeting
After we’d been operating for about 4 months, with all the normal start-up frustrations and hiccups, several of the things that I had promised, during the recruitment process, had yet to be implemented.
One particular day, I happened to be leading up a section of the fortnightly meeting, when people’s frustration bubbled over. They were complaining and venting their frustration. I was at the front of the group taking the brunt of, “You said this, you said that, why hasn’t this happened…" And on and on it went.
After several minutes of standing there, and absorbing their frustration and at times anger, I stated to feel attacked and to feel defensive – I was feeling very alone and very vulnerable. I can clearly remembering feeling, that they were inferring that my integrity sucked and, even though the words weren’t being said, that I had ‘sold them a line’ — which couldn’t be further from the truth. (It was just that many things, hadn’t gone the way we had hoped in the hurly burly of start up. But, we the leadership team were still strongly committed to our vision of a high performance workplace. But our team members weren’t convinced of this!)
I was looking to the rest of my leadership team, sitting in the meeting, and on the inside begging, pleading with them ‘help me out here guys’. Yet not one of them, jumped up to help respond to the team member frustrations.
No-one was making a move to help me out, so I was starting to feel resentful.
So here I was feeling attacked, vulnerable and resentful.
As you know, when people are feeling under threat, they do one of two things they fight or the flee. My option of choice, at that time of my life was always fight – it was instinctive and out of control. If only I had known about the Moment of Choice back then, the rest of this scenario may have played out a whole lot differently!).
So, when nobody seemed to want to listen to my explanations, and none of my colleagues from the leadership team seemed to want to step in and support me, I had a rush of blood to the head, became furious and launched into full attack: and what came out of my mouth next is something that every great leader can learn from – so get your pens and pencils ready folks I said …
Remembering, these people had been through a 5 month selection process, and they’d been told about the wonderful empowering culture they were coming to work in, and they were so excited to be a part of the creation of something new and different …
“Well if you don’t like it, there’s the front gate you can all leave.” It was certainly not, one of my life’s crowning moments! It was just awful, I was mortified at what I had said.
The next thing I did, was something every exceptional leader does –
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