The Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit brings together not only faith leaders but leaders in all types of organizations. The slate of speakers intentionally includes not only those from churches and faith-based organizations, but corporate executives, consultants, and researchers who deal with people development.
Speakers this year included Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and author of Lean In and Option B (with Adam Grant); Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and Good Sam, and host of the TV show, The Profit; Laszlo Bock, Senior Advisor at Google and author of Work Rules; Marcus Buckingham, consultant/researcher and author of StandOut 2.0; Sam Adeyemi, pastor of Daystar Christian Centre in Nigeria; and Angela Duckworth, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perservance.
A common theme among these speakers was that people basically want to do good work and the role of leaders is to help them be the best that they can be. For many of us, this raises a theological question: “Are people basically good or bad?” Does original sin taint all our efforts to do good?
Bock specifically asked participants, “Are people fundamentally good or bad?” His assumption is that they are basically good. They know more about their work than their managers and want to do it more effectively. He encouraged the audience to “give people more autonomy. Provide more autonomy that you are comfortable with.”
Angela Duckworth came at this is a similar way by stating, “I believe all people are ambitious and that they want to be good at what they do.” Even Sam Adeyemi, the Nigerian pastor, had a very positive view about human potential. He said, “What we believe is what we become.” Of course, he bases this on change in the person, most often through religious conversion, but he stated it in an interesting way: “Real and sustainable change in a person's life begins with a change in identity.”
If we accept that people want to do their best, then what is the role of the leader or supervisor? Both these and other speakers addressed this topic as well.
First, we must hire the right people. Bock observed that we are not as good at hiring people as we think we are and suggested separating interviewing from the hiring decision. Too often if the person doing the hiring is also the interviewer, the tendency is to hire someone based on identification, comfort, or a good feeling. In other words, someone like me. He also stated, “Seek to hire people who are better than you in some way.” Strengthen the organization by seeking those who bring something to the table that you don’t offer.
Second, we must invest time in people. Marcus Buckingham provided research to show that performance reviews are a waste of time. In their place, he suggested investing time in others through weekly “strengths-based check-ins” that ask, “What are you doing and how can I help?” This is more coaching than supervision. If you don’t have time to do this, Buckingham said that you are supervising too many people!
Both Sheryl Sandberg and Marcus Lemonis emphasized the importance of investing in people. Lemonis pointed out, “Business is about vulnerability, making connections. Vulnerability is difficult to unleash” Coming out of her own experience of dealing with the loss of her husband and returning to work, Sandberg encouraged leaders to recognize when people are hurting and acknowledge their struggle. Too often, we want to ignore their pain. While the leader can offer the hurting person time away, he or she must still communicate the message, “You are still capable. We still need you.”