When you are attempting to make changes to a system, Leadership on the Line author Ronald Heifetz advocates for the concept of “giving work back.” He means that the change will be more effective if the group works together to formulate the change rather than having it imposed on them.

Adaptive challenges [vs. purely technical ones] can only be solved when the people with the problem go through a process together to become the people with the solution,” he writes.

It sounds like common sense but think of the times where this doesn’t occur. Government entities make policy decisions without involving those who are affected. Leaders try to impose a cultural shift before engaging employees. Community problems remain unsolved because organizations try to tackle only one piece of the system without involving the multiple organizations that are impacted.

Instead of “giving work back” to people in order to cultivate their buy-in and support, leaders too often falsely assume that it will be faster or easier if they frame the work themselves, but experience shows that it’s simply not true. Before you jump too far into your next change effort, take the time to engage others in defining the problem and securing their commitment to finding a solution. It may feel uncomfortable to share your power but it certainly will be time well spent.

See the 3-minute micro-lesson here on Giving Work Back.










About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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