Do you ever look at your past week and then the week ahead and feel this internal struggle to balance time spent laser-focused with your team, and time spent outside your organization? Does it ever feel like when we let ourselves go unchecked, we always gravitate to spending too much time internally focused?
In Henry Cloud’s latest book, “Boundaries for Leaders” he addresses this phenomenon with a comparison to the laws of thermodynamics. Now it’s been almost 20 years since my undergrad years at Waterloo, but I am positive this is the first time I’ve ever seen the second law of thermodynamics explained in the context of leaders and organizations!
He explains the critical importance for leaders to open themselves to outside inputs and setting boundaries against becoming like a “closed system” that is shut off to outside input. For me this make perfect sense. If we are committed to introducing new sources of energy and guidance into our lives, we should be more successful at holding boundaries against spiraling towards a “closed system” environment in our organizations.
For me, first hand proof of this principle in action comes from seeing the impact that leaders in capital projects have when they apply this “open systems” mindset. We see it early in projects with leaders that are committed to seeking outside input and support on the completeness of their scope definition during front end planning. These leaders consistently help their project team’s deliver superior results and avoid risk by leveraging outside (industry proven) front end planning assessment tools. They also seek the support of trained facilitators who can objectively support the project team through the assessment of their progress on scope definition.
Just like Cloud’s recommendation that every leader needs “outside” support from people that can be objective (who are not inside the organization), project leaders can engage expert facilitators who are neutral to the project and also provide them with this “outside” support and input. At its best, I see the industry’s most seasoned facilitators provide project leaders with objective feedback on team dynamics and the connectedness of their team, not just on the tactical risks that must be addressed as their project heads into detailed design phase.
Overall, Cloud’s book moves squarely into my recommended reading pile. The principle of setting boundaries to help us lead in a manner that supports growing healthy relationships and achieving high performance is an inspiring read.
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