The Balcony

During change, leaders are often all-in. You are engaged, participating. You act like an owner, taking excellence and execution personally (even if nobody else is). You are pulling people out of the stands and onto the field.

You might wish others would stop observing and start participating.

But sometimes we need to do the opposite. Leaders need to stop participating and observe. Yet, have you noticed that during change perspective becomes more difficult. It’s hard to notice patterns when you’re playing along.

Ronald Heifetz has most impacted my view of leading change. I almost ran out of sticky notes reading Leadership Without Easy Answers. Heifetz encourages leaders to get on the balcony.

To get on the balcony means we stop dancing for a minute. Getting off the dance floor means pausing to get perspective from above. It may mean taking a day away, or spending time listening instead of directing, walking slowly through the office or through the crowd at your event.

Here’s what will happen:

  • You’ll be able to see patterns.
  • Symptoms will be less distracting and causes more clear.
  • You won’t have to think about your role as doer and think more about your role as the leader.

To get on the balcony you might ask yourself questions like:

  • Where have I not been clear?
  • What clues can I learn from watching influential people?
  • Who isn’t included?
  • Did I ask the right question?
  • What seems to be in the way?

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