Special Assistant to The Secretary of Corrections Explains How to Support Leaders
Secretary John Wetzel leads the Department of Corrections for the State of Pennsylvania. It’s an organization with a $2.6 billion budget and 18,000 employees.
This post reflects my conversation with Deb Sahd, John’s Special Assistant.
(5:34 video on Linkedin of my conversation with Deb.)
Support begins when you understand and embrace the leader’s vision.
I’ve been in leadership a long time and this is a beautiful thing. People often have their own agenda and give their best energy to pet projects.
Be the person who owns the vision as-if you created it.
Organizations have people who like the vision, BUT. The but’ers drain organizational life. Don’t give yourself an escape hatch. Avoid saying, “I like our vision, but I’m not sure about … .”
Create three spaces:
Deb explained three spaces she creates to provide support.
Tell the emperor he has no clothes. Speak hard truths with courage, kindness, and openness.
Deb says you should give leaders your honest perspective and respect their process. You may be good at seeing connections, for example. If that’s true, then share your insights.
Make space for leaders to work through their own ideas by sharing your perspective.
Don’t expect them to immediately agree. Give your viewpoint and let it go.
Some situations are too volatile to address with others.
Build a relationship that provides space for leaders to say things they shouldn’t say publicly.
Leaders need a place to hear themselves talk.
Conversations in the Sacred Space are never repeated.
Make space to talk about the day or personal concerns.
Take the perspective of the person you want to support.
Deb explains how to take perspective. “[I] think of myself as the person who is responsible for every decisions that’s made.”
4 aspects of a support-mindset:
- Rise above checklist-thinking. Don’t focus exclusively on getting tasks done. Think about the whole organization.
- Think beyond, “I hope he likes it.” Worrying about your own performance is important but too narrow for a support-mindset.
- Be willing to get in trouble. You can’t seek the best interest of others and always (CYA) cover your own ass.
- Don’t live for a great performance review or promotion.
Deb asks herself, “If I had to go before the senate or governor, what would I do?”
Perspective-taking, “… creates a great empathy for that position and it helps to bolster those spaces I talked about.”
“Act as-if you have that responsibility.” Deb Sahd
What does supporting others look like in your role?
How might we support each other in organizations?
I like the Brave Space comment. Two years ago I sent a “report on the Company” (my observations) after working with a cllient on just one issue. I gave them “space” (didn’t make specific contact just invited them to seminars) Last week they contacted me to help and support a change programme they are now ready to put into place based on my report.
I hadn’t thought about it in the way you put it however thanks for letting me see how it works.
Role creation is multiple for me, workers first, they need to understand every task for the client start to finish. All tools and materials need to be on time to complete the project in a timely fashion. Paperwork needs to be accurate for billing and ordering, they need to know what we available from stock and what needs purchased, everyday needs planned to work with other trades if we are on large project and sharing space for all the trades involved to accommodate all parties can be a logistical collage, neatly packaged.
Understanding we all need to work together to complete the best project for our clients. Being prepared for conflicts and resolutions if something is missed.
Totally a challenge for everyone involved.
As I read this, I was struck by the degree of trust that has to be involved… in both directions. If other workers are confident that they can speak unflattering or unwelcome things without fear of reprisal, they can bring out things that will help increase effectiveness. If the “bosses” trust that others are speaking from an unselfish perspective, they are more comfortable listening to those perspectives. Another potential issue is that the vision should be tough enough to not only endure diverse perspectives but also to benefit from them.