How to Create Dissatisfaction that Energizes
Most leaders are too quick to rush to solutions.
Begin with the nightmare, not the dream. Dissatisfaction that energizes begins with an unacceptable present.
The place beyond the hill isn’t worth the climb when the valley feels fine.
Dissatisfaction, not dreams, is the first step toward change. But, don’t beat people with dissatisfaction.
Insults don’t motivate:
Don’t insult the people you expect to build the future.
Leaders who blame their team for an unacceptable present are insulting the people they led to build it. Insults may energize people with big egos for the short-term, but insults over the long-term drain and demoralize.
If you must point fingers, point them at yourself. You led the team into the present situation. Own it.
Missed opportunity is the dissatisfaction that energizes.
It’s true, you must solve problems. But, a constant diet of problems makes people sick. Successful leaders use the problem of missed opportunity to energize and guide change.
Dissatisfaction that energizes – over the long-term – is about missed opportunity, not failure. The issue is, you could be more, not you suck.
Define opportunity. Definition determines outcome.
Assemble the team and create a compelling opportunity statement that addresses the problem you want to solve. Opportunity statements must:
- Go beyond problem-solving.
- Express values and touch hearts.
- Fulfill meaningful purpose and fuel energy.
- Provide compelling goals.
- Build on strengths.
- Galvanize teams.
- Explain short-term wins and include rewards.
Focus on opportunity more than fixing.
One way to fix a problem is seize an opportunity.
Read John Kotter’s book, “Leading Change,” if you want to go deeper.
What’s important about creating successful change within organizations?
This is so funny. I literally just finished writing a post for Monday that speaks to this. It was inspired by the horrible situation one of my MBA students shared last night. A young asian woman in her first job, had her boss screaming at her in front of her peers “they said you were smart, I don’t see it!” I’m so with you. I continue to be astounding why people think that insults are motivating.
Hi letsgrowleaders: I’m new to Leadership Freak, and just today read your comment. I am sure you’ve either heard about or seen movies how young docs are subjected to the many emotional outbursts of senior physicians to whom we are assigned and we shadow. We learn to expect it, yet it’s never fun when it happens to us personally. And, we always say we will never do it to any of our students or interns.
You’re right. It’s ugly, insulting and wrong. Why seniors do it, God only knows. Perhaps it’s the only way they think we will learn. I am not giving them reason or excuse. What I do know is this. These very persons who scream and yell at us in the moment, ironically, are the same persons who revel in our success at a later time. It’s like they abuse us, and then they counsel us:
“Before speaking, ask: Is it kind, necessary, is it true, and does it improve on silence.”
So, when you go back to your MBA course and speak to your graduate students, put them on notice of this phenomenon: These insult-throwing roughnecks have a bit more depth than their emotions and words may seem. They are like the growls and jaws of 2 million old alligators who are able to carry their young as gently as a human mother carries her baby–and as lovingly.
Fine line on constructive criticism and and blasting people with insulting fits of rage,it’s no wonder the ship sinks. Think before you speak, take 10 seconds for thoughts of how you wish to guide first rather then demoralize your partners.
I love the idea of writing an opportunity statement. What a positive way to focus our thinking when we need to reflect on our current situation or when something went wrong. I’m adding this to my leadership toolbox!
This is also good for new leaders to remember as they look to make changes in the existing system they are just joining. Insulting the existing team does not make them want to rally around the new leader, but rather will lead to resentment. Listen first as you give them voice through opportunities to identify areas of dissatisfaction and potential solutions. Don’t assume they don’t know how to fix the problem just because they are already in the system. Sometimes they just haven’t had the power to make the necessary changes.
Taking the team along by keeping an individual respect is the key to bring the desired change at the organization. Insulting or shouting doesn’t really help, not even in the short-term. Employees loose the respect of such bosses and force them to look for a good opportunity to jump out. There is more of damage and the real cause of greater attrition.
The bosses have to be humans first and should motivate people with positive thoughts, success stories and showing the interest in their professional & personal careers.
The bosses have to be people-centric and should learn to be calm as they move up in the corporate ladder. There are certainly better ways to deal with unsatisfactory situations than shouting or abusing in front of others. It should be taken as a serious offence and the necessary warning may be given by the management to refrain from spoiling the organization culture.
Creating dissatisfaction to overcome the perceived discomfort of change, without finger-pointing or communicating failure, is often walking a tightrope! The key for me was always first admitting, in your words, that I “led the team into the present situation.” Now that blame was out of the way, we could move forward. Facilitating their honest assessment of the situation and how to improve it, and helping build a shared vision of what could be, were some of the most important things I ever did. I also like the opportunity statement idea; wish I’d had that tool back when. Great post!
Dan Pink said in best, I believe, in his book, “Drive.” ‘To succeed to optimum levels, leaders need to provide an environment with elements: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.’ Turn them loose to address the objectives you and they develop together!!!
The concept of insulting in order to lead goes back to that old school military sergeant trying to “break” new recruits in order to re-shape them for combat. Problem with that is that somehow people started equating military experience with great leadership, and they mistakenly latched onto the screaming drill sergeant image. That screaming drill sergeant was never the iconic military leader – that person was simply there to break the spirit of recruits in order to push them out of their past lives and into their new reality. That wasn’t leadership and should never have been adopted as such. Old school sports coaches used to do the same thing – but again they were using the screaming drill sergeant approach – never realizing what a huge mistake this was if the goal was to motivate (versus the goal to break the person’s spirit).
At the risk of splitting hairs, dreams, and by that I mean goals and expectations, must precede dissatisfaction. No goal – no dissatisfaction. Creativity and energy flow from the dissatisfaction so long as we stay fixed on the goal. The tricky part for a lot of leaders is to maintain healthy dissatisfaction for the purpose of pushing through to the goal.Too many will accept lowering the goal to eliminate the discomfort of the dissatisfaction. Great topic.
Hi Sgt. Steve. I’m in a reader reply mode today. Because I am a new reader to this Blog, I’ve gone back to several blogs and tried to catch up–and read many of Dan’s blogs and many of your responses. Of the many persons who respond, Marc, Tim, Books, Muse, Education Bob, and YOU seem to be the most prolific, primarily because you respond the most frequently and regularly. However your comments, particularly, always seem to focus “your team benefit” most. That’s quite a tribute to YOU.
You know more about leadership and management than “you believe” people think you know, which is why you write differently than you speak. You have so much to offer and to share that it is just bursting from your seams: Theory, thoughts, ideas, practicum, who you are, stuff you’ve done, things you’re credited for, all things you’ve wanted to try, things you teach, and all the stuff you SEE. You’re no different than a young Henry Ford, or the rest of us. We are all like YOU. You’re not alone. You get as excited and as frustrated as the rest of us. I think you’re just more honest and open about it…for which I thank you. And I sincerely mean that.
Yes, Sgt. Steve, there is reward for the effort. It’s the Law of Compensation. It may not come immediately or directly, or in terms of money. But effort–like energy–is never lost. It is never returned to us empty. It comes back to us in position, or some elevation or acceleration of some sort. Call it God or call it nature, but never does a Law say one thing and do another. Thank you, Sgt. Steve, for being an authentic leader.
Good afternoon Dan;
AND; “That place beyond the Hill isn’t worth the climb when,- (there is NO reward for the effort).” I believe people need to know ‘Whats in it for them’. If YOU as a leader can’t create (Buy-in), don’t expect an (All in) mentality, or, effort from your people.
It’s hard for employees to get excited about something they feel no passion for. At times it can be a challenge for leaders to inspire thier people to adopt & adapt to changes and challenges created in ‘The New Millenium’. Successful leaders never give up looking for inovative ways to inspire the best from thier people.
But once again, here we are at the point where we realize, “to create buy in of any group of people YOU ABSOLUTLEY (M U S T) GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE!”
Besides, without really knowing your people, how can you really expect to inspire enthusiasm in people if you don’t know what GETS YOUR PEOPLE EXCITED???
Gota go my friend. Enjoy the ‘sweltering HOT’ weekend…
One of your best quotes ever; “Leaders who blame their team for an unacceptable present are insulting the people they led to build it.” Nice!