The task appears insurmountable because most Leaders look to the tools they have always used and imagine using those same tools to extract yet more from an already battle scarred group of people and realize the impossibility of the task. However leaders are driven to succeed and are often more willing than most to persevere, so knowing the results are still required, they just push harder using what they have.
Forcing more out of people just hurts.
The problem with this or any other similar approach is that it is limited to the power, ingenuity and motivation of just one person – the Leader. In addition it is an ‘Outside-in’ Leadership approach that drives outcomes with mandates and directives, feeling that greater clarity and explanation of the needed result, will eventually create it. This is not an ideal form of Leadership because it forfeits the contributions from truly engaged people. (for more information on ‘Outside in’ Leadership see Article: Identity based Leadership) Furthermore, squeezing greater productivity from an already weary people, only increases the frustration of the people involved and leads to burn out and a sense that the business will: “use me up and kick me to the curb when I can’t… any more”
It is no wonder Leaders feel exacerbated when required to do more with less. Their knee-jerk response is: “I’m already squeezing all I can out of these people, there is nothing more to be had!”
At some level, these Leaders are absolutely right. Using the tools they have before and doing more of the same, will not accomplish the needed results. Their intuition is accurate. There is nothing more to be had, using the same tools. The Leaders need NEW TOOLS. New ways to lead, new ways to inspire, new ways to communicate and new ways to engage the people they are working with.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states (roughly) that: Every body left to itself will always settle to its lowest state of form.
When applied to people, that means that if people can accomplish X using 80% effort, then they will. If after some experience they are able to accomplish X using 60% effort, then they will. If the job can eventually be done using only 20% effort then that is all that will be given. Leaders usually have an inner sense that there is more capacity to be had from most folks, whether it be through increased effort or through increased ingenuity – there is almost always more output available. The question is; how to get it out of people?
What is needed is to tap into the inner passions, motivations and Talents of each person individually and direct that endless source of drive toward the outcomes that are required. What is needed is ‘Inside out’ Leadership.
Inside Out Leadership
Essentially, ‘Inside out’ Leadership begins with understanding the person, it approaches all Leadership from the Departure Point of uncovering the Talents that each individual possesses and then determines how to bring that talent to bare on the task at hand. By doing so it leverages the inner motivations of the person and allows their personal drive to surpass the restrictions or constraints of heavily managed and coerced directives.
Steven Covey says: “Begin with the end in mind”, Jim Collins wrote: “Get the right people on the bus”. Both of these approaches address important principles. The principle of selecting the right people and pointing them toward the agreed outcome – from the beginning. I agree with both of them but would add that the only sustainable way to accomplish more with less in this model, is to begin all of it by understanding WHO the people are that are doing the work, and how they are talented. Then using that knowledge to determine where they contribute and how.
Tapping into the talents and passions of every person, bypasses the need for external motivations and coercions, and allows that individual’s inner drive and desire to use their own talents and enjoy their own passions, to push them toward productivity. Often times at a level far beyond what was thought possible. It allows their inner drive for significant contribution in life to be the motivation for productivity, not the whip of the leader or manager. The by-product of this kind of ‘Inside Out” Leadership, is highly engaged people.
According to research done by the Gallup Organization, when people are actively or highly engaged, they give more, try harder, enjoy more and generally produce more. Not improvements of 20% or 40% more, but in multiples as high as 8 times more. By any measure, that would qualify as doing more with less!