Thursday, February 23, 2023

Leadership Playground

 A synopsis of a Fortune magazine article intrigued me.  It described how Legos’ Leadership Playground increased engagement and motivation. The mantra around the “playground” is be brave, curious and focused.  Then it had a quote from the Chief People Officer saying this increased empowerment and accountability. Does empowerment and accountability increase engagement and motivation?

As I’ve written before from noting key research and my own experiences leading successful teams, empowerment can go a long way towards engagement. Because you’re giving others some (or a lot) of decision-making power, it increases motivation. (See Alfie Kohn’s work and more recent narratives like Daniel Pink’s Drive). Of course, this assumes a lot of mutual trust. Otherwise, leaders will jump in and tweak the new endeavors and then it’s not the team’s idea but the leader’s. Empowerment goes down. Team decision-making goes down. Trust in leadership goes down.

The curiosity factor of the “playground” encourages people to explore new ways of doing their work, overcoming obstacles. This fits in well with The Progress Principle, a critical aspect of improving motivation.

Gathering around the “campfire” in the playground, team leaders can be vulnerable and ask for help. This builds trust. And the thrust of the gatherings is to engender creative collaboration, another key component to improving motivation. Collaboration forces us to look beyond our particular role and realize we each are part of a bigger vision, strategy and customer delight effort.

So at first, I was skeptical that a “leadership playground” could improve engagement but, if handled well, it could.

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