It Doesn’t Take a Wizard to be a Great Leader
As a life-long ‘Wizard-of-Oz’ fan, I was eager to see the new film, Oz…The Great and Powerful. It gives us a glimpse into the man behind the curtain before Dorothy and Toto. Like the original movie, we see a small-time magician in dusty Kansas. But this time it is Oscar Diggs (nicknamed Oz) who is hurled away in a tornado. He arrives in a land by the same name, a land that had no leadership at the time. Although he was not the Wizard they wanted, Oz reluctantly transforms himself into a good man who becomes a great leader. How did he do it? He enabled the impossible to become possible.
I won’t spoil the movie in case you haven’t seen it, but I will tell you that it underscores the most important responsibility of a leader in any organization…to instill a belief in followers that they can achieve the desired end goal. From my own experience, I've learned there's no magic in the way inspirational leaders operate. However, what they do consistently is to awaken a positive and powerful source of human potential in others. And that can feel magical.
When I think about inspirational leadership, I think of people in my life that pushed me beyond what I imagined I could do. A 2nd grade teacher who taught me that mistakes can be corrected. A high school chemistry teacher who helped me to feel smart. And a graduate school mentor who got me through my dissertation. Inspirational leaders are people who make you feel better about yourself, who believe you are capable of more than you realize.
When you inspire others, they want to work beyond what is expected. Of course, in light of today’s conditions of continual change and upheaval, it’s easy for that focus to shift to putting out daily fires as a means of feeling some form of accomplishment. But think about what might happen if you re-directed your energy towards helping your employees to excel, despite the obstacles that stand in their way.
Often the fear of failure prevents many dental leaders from trusting employees to actually do the job. However, when given the chance to prove themselves, many succeed and it becomes a win-win. This does not mean, of course, that you set the employee up to fail. Rather, you entrust them with a task involving the right amount of supervision to ensure they do succeed. Once the employee develops a sense of confidence to accept more responsibility, they become more willing to accept the next challenge and as a result they gain that sense of purpose and meaning you want for them.
Stop to consider the possibilities. How would you like your practice to be? Think back to a time when it was that way, even for just one special day. What if you started talking about that vision?
Invite your employees to recall a day when they felt that things were going well. It’s essential that you ask the right question. As an example, if you want to improve patient service and satisfaction, you could take a traditional approach: “What can we do to minimize complaints?” However, the better question is, “When have patients been pleased with us, and what can we learn from those moments of success?”
Hold a staff meeting and swap stories. Be detailed. Pay attention to the excitement that is generated as you and your employees tell and hear each other’s stories. Get everyone involved in a conversation about what they were good at, and the outcome of those positive efforts.
Note the common themes in the stories. Explore the ingredients that made those ‘high moments.’ This is not the same as picking the ‘best’ story. The purpose of this step is to identify the factors that are consistently present in those moments of success. It is important that you involve all your staff in finding those elements.
Build on the momentum of the energy that is created. With your staff, articulate the vision. What will it be like when those ‘high points’ are present every day? Together, craft a collective picture of the future. This is a good time to write your practice mission statement. Have it printed. Post it throughout the office.
Create the future. What are the circumstances that will allow you and your team to repeat those elements of success every day? Encourage creative brainstorming with someone taking notes. Be specific about the action steps that each person will take to achieve the desired result.
What we focus on becomes our reality. It’s not magic, but neuroscience research shows this to be true. If you want a different workplace, stop talking about problems and start envisioning possibilities. Make your focus achievement and joy, not problems and distress. The outcome is energy and success. Pay attention to what your employees are doing right. Transform yourself and your practice. No wizardry required.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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