Have a Plan B


When we coach leaders on holding their members responsible, rather than trying to change their behaviors, we often get a “yeah but” in return. It usually goes something like this. “Yeah but, I really need this team to step up their productivity or my customers are going to be unhappy (or my business will be in trouble). If I don’t change their behavior, I’ll be out of business.”

At face value, this sounds like a reasonable rationale for continuing to provide pressure on someone to change. We have only one sobering response. “The minute you make your own success dependent upon the functioning of someone else, you are no longer in control of your success.” It is a sorry state of affairs to be put in a position of dependency like this. And it all comes with a generous side portion of anxiety for the leader. The ones who need the anxiety for motivation for change are deprived of it. The one who is not in control of the needed change is stuck with it. Such is the situation in many organizations today.

Another way to look at this situation is from the standpoint of power. It is a principle of marital therapy that the one who needs the relationship the least has the most power in the relationship. The one who is closest to the relationship exit door calls most of the shots. In this case, it is fair to ask the question, “Who is leading whom?”

The answer for any leader is found in taking responsibility for his or her own functioning and destiny. To remain free from dependence on the functioning of others, it is important to have other options. This points to the necessity of what we call a “Plan B.” When the leader has at least one other way to move forward with his or her own success and mission in life, there is freedom to set boundaries in one’s organization and give people choices. If they don’t like it, they can leave.

Plan B might not be the most preferred plan for the leader but it does give choice. When leaders have a solid Plan B, the followers will need the leader more than the leader will need the followers. The leader can then truly lead.

If you don’t have a Plan B, it’s likely that you can be held hostage by the under-functioning of others. You will be led around by the nose in your organization by the whims of the least mature. You have neither the option to leave nor the courage to lead.

Every leader needs a Plan B!


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