You know the scenario…
Someone (possibly the boss) asks “Who wants to take the lead on this?” and then…
Crashing Silence! A wall of blank faces or to avoid no eye contact people develop a sudden urge to rummage through documents or an intense fascination with their fingernails OR
The silence keeps up long enough for the boss to say “OK I’ll do it” and then the window of opportunity for development and shared responsibility is missed, OR
The usual person puts their hand up. This person is probably already overstretched but they volunteer through habit or an over-developed sense of responsibility. Over time they can become resentful about how much work they have. Meanwhile others become resentful that they didn’t get the opportunity (even if they were asked).
There could be many underlying reasons for the above scenario. But let’s focus on the impact on the whole team when people are reluctant to step up and take responsibility for something.
When working on team development projects with clients I often use the KGITM (Klein Group Instrument for Effective leadership and Participation in Teams). The KGI explores people’s patterns of group behaviour along four critical dimensions – Leadership, Negotiation Orientation, Task Focus, and Interpersonal Focus. There are 9 subscales within the 4 main scales. Exploring the dynamic interplay between these sub-scales is a valuable way to help teams understand what is hindering them and what they need to do to improve performance and relationships.
The leadership scale has 3 sub-scales: Assertiveness, Group Facilitation and Initiative. Initiative, in the context of the KGI is one’s ability to be the prime mover and spokesperson for the group. To take on a leadership role an individual must be willing to be in the spotlight. The trouble is most people don’t like the glare or the heat that is generated by the light. Putting your hand up means you are accountable and it also means you can be criticised, so it takes energy, commitment and fortitude. It can be scary stuff for some people.
But what happens when no-one new steps up to the plate. What is the impact on the group and what happens if this is allowed to become a culture within an organisation? I tell you what happens … not very much. Work output becomes stagnant, innovation is stymied and those who do put their hands up inevitably get burnt out. And the sad thing is development opportunities are missed and people don’t reach their potential. Eventually a climate of apathy prevails. Not a healthy environment to work in.
Why are people reluctant to put their hand up and take the initiative?
It comes as no surprise that the Initiative sub-scale of the KGI is, for most people their lowest score.
Dr Robert Klein the developer of the KGI attributes this to two key factors: fear and lethargy. In a recent conversation Dr Klein told me…
It could be fear. Sometimes people had negative experiences taking initiative in the past, and those times haunt them in the present, holding them back. For others, they focus on the things that can go wrong: they won’t respond to everyone’s issues and concerns properly, causing resentments; everyone will be staring at them, looking for leadership, creating a harsh, withering glare. By focusing on the downside, they become inhibited and decide that it is better not to step up.
Or it could be lethargy that prevents them from taking initiative. Many people have simply gotten accustomed to “letting someone else do it.” Because of this attitude, they tend to sit back in a small group, content to simply follow along. Their own leadership muscle has atrophied. They often don’t recognise leadership opportunities, or feel confident about their ability to take them on, having become acclimated to a passive role that has deskilled them as leaders.
The antidote to fear and lethargy is courage. Mark Twain said “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
When I see people stepping up as a result of putting their KGI Development Plans into action I see a huge difference in the dynamics of the group. It is a positive shift – a release of energy. More people are taking on new things, more gets done – but more importantly people are more engaged and work is more rewarding. This can only happen if the existing leaders and “high initiatives” make way and create space for new people to demonstrate initiative. People need to be encouraged and supported as they take on new responsibilities. They need to be nurtured and coached as they learn even if they initially make mistakes.
Next time someone asks “who will take the lead on this” and a spark of interest is lit – then go on! Put your hand up.
‘Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is’. H. Jackson Browne
Contact us to discuss how we can help you turn your teams around with the KGI.
For more general information on the KGI visit the website
Dr Klein is currently writing a new KGI Facilitator’s Guide which will be published shortly.