Make Meaning By Letting Go

Making your thinking meaningful to others is one of the most important steps in driving new behaviours.
A bit like election promises, strategy and change only starts to appeal when people can understand what it means for their own lives – and how it connects to the bigger picture.

Ironically, while politicians seem to get this, public officials don’t always join the dots. 

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink outlines three key elements to motivation:

1)    Autonomy – The desire to have control of our lives
2)    Mastery – The urge to improve 
3)    Purpose –  The desire to be in service of something greater.

“Let it go, let it go” – Elsa, Frozen

This theory applies beautifully to engaging people and teams in strategy and change initiatives.

In my ‘Tell, Ask, Support’ framework for strategy implementation, there are three levels of communication. Each level calls for different levels of engagement, and require different styles of leadership -  some that are more direct, and others that are more facilitative.

Meaning sits square in the middle – it’s about asking, not telling. Discovering the ways that your thinking will impact and inspire others, and drawing on that meaning-making process to drive momentum

Applying Dan Pink’s theory, it looks a bit like this:

1)    Autonomy – Let go of your preconceived ideas about what change and process will be necessary and be genuinely open to the interpretation of your team
2)    Mastery – Let people run with and build on your thinking in ways you didn’t imagine (this is where the magic happens)
3)    Purpose – Use intrinsic motivational forces by tapping into the broader importance of strategy, rather than relying solely on external rewards and accountabilities.

In many cases, good leadership is simply letting go!