Transformational leadership views the pathway to any extraordinary outcome as being paved with a series of well-met breakdowns.

Within organizations, as in all areas of life, there are inevitable challenges, problems, and failures. The ordinary reaction to such circumstances is to try to hide the issue, to blame oneself or others, or to just give up.

However, by addressing these situations directly and openly as breakdowns rather than as something bad that you need to avoid, you can generate new and powerful cultural conversations in which to relate to them.

In our last four blogs we highlighted five conversations which, when well facilitated, lead to outstanding accomplishment. These conversations all interrelate and feed each other. (See previous blogs)

To review briefly, the five conversations are:

  • Building relationships
  • Opening new possibilities or insights
  • Seeing new opportunities
  • Generating effective action
  • Uncovering and resolving breakdowns.

The final conversation—which deals with uncovering and resolving breakdowns—is essential to creating breakthrough performance.

Through transformational leadership you can build a culture where uncovering and resolving breakdowns supports outstanding performance.

What is a breakdown?

Breakdowns happen when there is a commitment to an outcome and something happens which interrupts that commitment being fulfilled.

Rather than seeing the interruption as a product of something inherently wrong with you, them, or “it”, this way of relating to what happened steers you away from the normal pitfalls of avoiding, blaming, or giving up. You can then relate to the situation as simply something to be handled, leaving you and your colleagues freed up focus on how to best handle the situation.

When you build a culture based on the perspective that breakdowns can and will often happen, you can plan for them and will be more effective dealing with them when they do happen.

Avoiding addressing breakdowns builds a culture of no responsibility and ultimately leads to bigger issues.

For example, when the report about GM’s ignition switch failures came out it revealed that no conversations were being had about breakdowns. The network of conversations in the company was not oriented around addressing them openly.

A cultural milieu had evolved which actually reinforced people not speaking out about the safety issues, and management not owning them. In GM’s case this evolved into a life or death situation.

In most companies not generating an environment where breakdowns are addressed openly, directly, and responsibly may not have a life or death consequence, but it can have serious impacts.

As someone providing transformational leadership in your company, you are the one to generate these conversations.

You can invite team members to uncover the breakdowns and work together on how to correct them. In this way, you establish an environment of open, honest, dialogue. As you encourage surfacing breakdowns as part of regular business, this will spread throughout the company. Resolving breakdowns then become milestones on the way to realizing intended outcomes.

To practice this approach: What conversation can you initiate this week to foster a culture where it is safe to openly and directly bring up any breakdowns and view them as part of the path to realizing goals?

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