Stop Accepting the Unacceptable and Create a Community Committed to Change

Community committed to changeNothing ruins my day more than an encounter with someone who says, “Well, it’s been like that for as long as I’ve been here and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.” If you hear that enough times, you begin to doubt whether change is even possible. It makes me sad to see leaders and teams fall into this pattern of disempowering acceptance. 

It’s when you feel isolated and alone with a problem that you can find yourself accepting the unacceptable. This brings me back to Margaret Wheatley’s poem, “Turning to One Another.” (To read the entire poem take a look at a previous blog.) I’ve been reflecting on this poem over the last few weeks and this next stanza I find particularly motivating when confronted with the unacceptable.

Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible. 

Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something. 

Know that creative solutions come from new connections.

I love this part of the poem. I want to work with others who care to work on what’s possible. Margaret Wheatley reminds us that each person holds expertise and, collectively, we can come up with new solutions. That’s my vibe, I’m all about collaboration and the synergy of the group that spins one idea off of another until they land on a common direction. It’s powerful.

If you’re a leader, and you’ve observed an unacceptable situation, what should you do next? 

You invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible. How do you start a group of people interested in making a difference in a common purpose? I appreciated this article in the Harvard Business Review, Community-Powered Problem Solving, that shared the need for leaders to think of themselves as community organizers. Before you go out and start creating your community, here are five questions the article recommends you consider that I thought were worth sharing:

  1. What community of individuals from inside the company and across external stakeholders do we need to connect to solve this problem?
  2. What platform (physical or digital forum) does this community need to start connecting in new ways?
  3. What new interactions will community members want to engage in on the platform to design a solution?
  4. What valuable professional experiences will the members get out of these interactions?
  5. What value will this new set of experiences generate for our firm and for the other organizations involved, creating a win for all parties?

While these questions are tailored for businesses and corporations, they can be adapted to many types of organizations. Your goal should be to provide your stakeholders — whether they are employees, colleagues, students, neighbors —  with the means to connect and the freedom to invent new ways to address the problem. 

My favorite approach to working as a team to address a challenge is to create a Community of Practice. Starting your own Community of Practice might sound daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. When I think back over my career, it was when I was part of a Community of Practice that I felt like I made the biggest difference. (Read my post, 4 Reasons Why You Need to Join a Community of Practice, to learn more about the benefits.)

Starting a community is one thing, but how can you ensure that you create an open space where creative solutions have the space to bloom? I’m working on a new architecture for community collaboration that will promote the kind of creative problem-solving we so desperately need right now. If you want to join me for my upcoming webinar, please contact me and let me know to add you to my invite list. Or you can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook where I’ll be sharing the details soon.

Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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