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2011 A Year of Yes
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El Foro Landmark
Standing for a future when it’s only a possibility
Creating a future exists in language—it starts with articulating a vision, and comes to life in conversation. The lifeblood of leadership in one sense is the capacity for dialogue, for connection, for conversation. A leader or leadership team points to a different sense of what’s possible, in the same way that an artist or poet can give people a different way of seeing.
In a mining company in Peru, a clear-cut hierarchical system was in place among the workforce. To make these delineations clear, people wore different color hats to reflect their status. A gold hat meant higher status; a green hat, lower. The context was that “you knew your place” and that defined how workers related to others. Tension was always present, and performance was low. Those were the circumstances; those were the facts.
As part of an initiative to transform the company’s performance, the group started a conversation to create a vision for the future together, and the group leader decided the colored hats weren’t consistent with that vision. He ordered white hats for everyone. Until they arrived, he had everyone switch hats and no one knew which hat meant what. Able to see themselves as a vital part of the mine’s future, the workers were able to step outside their separate roles and experience themselves as an integral part of a team. They began to see their future completely differently, and performance altered dramatically.
Leadership requires courage, taking a stand, recognizing that how people act, the choices they make and actions they take—their performance—is directly correlated to how they view the world. When we create a future and invest ourselves in it, that future starts to open up new territory. And what it gives birth to, what it attracts, and what we can make happen is not predictable.
CEO of Vanto Group
MORE STEVE ZAFFRON
Adapted from: Breakthrough Leadership: from Ideas to Impact