In contemporary leadership, we feel that anchoring connects you as a person and the structure you offer to employees. Instead of implementing a mass of rules and procedures, we think that you as a leader will be able to provide a more flexible structure by defining the playing field, one that guides people’s behaviour and approaches to their work. This playing field should consist of core values and principles rather than of fixed sets of rules.
In a time when adaptability and agility are a must, we feel that it is nonetheless necessary to maintain structure and stability. However, instead of implementing a stifling number of rules and procedures, we think that stability and structure can be achieved more effectively by establishing a playing field of core values and principles that guides the behaviour of co-workers.
The importance of defining a playing field (see leadership funnel) has been a key theme here. Again, remember not to make the playing field too practical. People often tend to limit it to time, money and means. However, perhaps even more important is the playing field that is shaped by the values you as a leader consider crucial. You can gain speed and agility if you make these values explicit from the earliest possible moment. So, do your homework and define in general (not in relation to a specific project or task) what kind of solutions/actions/behaviour you hate (yes, be frank to ensure clarity, no sugar-coating!). For example, to define a playing field you could say that you will only accept solutions, actions and behaviours that:
– are built on facts and numbers;
– add value to the customer and cause no extra hassle;
– are aligned with the needs and goals of other departments;
– use the ideas present in the company (it is the company’s people who generate and implement ideas)
– are simple and effective (i.e. are proven);
– align with our key values; and
– make use of the available budget (we will invest in good ideas) etc.
Solutions must satisfy all of the above, and these criteria create the playing field.
Crucially, you must be rigorous about the criteria you implement. Consider each criterion carefully and test it by asking the following question: would I still consider a solution if it didn’t satisfy this criterion? For example, if an interesting and strong solution was suggested but it did not support the work of other departments would you consider it? If yes, then this criterion is not essential.
Of course the adage ‘walk your talk’ is valid, but even better is ‘first walk, then talk’. Make sure that you embody all the values and criteria of your playing field. When you have defined the playing field that will shape your leadership, have a look at all the criteria, values and principles in it and reflect on whether you apply them yourself! Do you really show the playing field in your own (non-verbal) behaviour? This will put you firmly on the ‘we’ side of the leadership compass!
Take time to present and talk about the playing field (values, criteria, principles) during meetings or dedicated sessions (see leadership funnel). Have a dialogue about it. It is impossible to impose values on other people, so talking about them, giving other people space to express their ideas and beliefs and translating them together into behaviours (do’s and don’ts) is the only way to ensure that your playing field will be accepted and solid enough to structure how people act.