An Ode to the Holistic Contributor

Igniting the full potential of your people

by Michael Dix

Here’s a simple idea: great organizations enable each person to contribute as fully as possible. This seems inarguable, right? The reality is that this is rare and hard to do.

Most organizations are set up to tap just a fraction of each person’s capabilities. Much of this stems from what I’ll call “unintentional design.” By defining rigid titles and roles, rewarding only measurable contributions, and tolerating territorialism, you are telling people only to offer only what is specifically asked of them and to swim only within their lanes. It’s a good way to calcify your organization and inhibit your ability to adapt to the changing world around you.

Every leader faces hard, ambiguous problems that haven’t been solved before. Individuals, teams, and companies as a whole must be highly collaborative, experimental and creative to push thinking and improve techniques. And to do that, great leaders embrace the simple truth that every single one of us has the capacity to contribute in unexpected, valuable ways. They know that tapping this is essential to competing effectively.

There are many ways to pull this off. I’ll share a few things we’ve observed from great leaders and organizations — ones that we try to emulate at Intentional Futures (iF).

  • Create a culture where everyone, regardless of their background or role, is expected to contribute new ideas and perspectives. Encourage risk taking. Celebrate unexpected collaboration.
  • Find different techniques to draw people out, recognizing the variety of ways they think and express themselves. Insist on balanced input in meetings. Use silence to create space for people to fill.
  • Maximize everyone’s exposure to work in progress so they can figure out where else to contribute. Slack channels. Weekly huddles. Brown bags. Walls festooned with ideas under development.

At iF, we do our best to apply these approaches to improve the quality and impact of our work for our clients. And we deliberately take on challenging assignments that push us all to take chances and learn.

How do you light up the full potential of your people? What more could your organization accomplish if nobody held back?

Originally publisehd on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ode-holistic-contributor-michael-dix