#1 Who’s Your Team?
When we lead without authority, we consider all the people who may be critical to us achieving our goals. And we enlist them as members of our team. It’s a unique opportunity to set aside the limits imposed by the resources you control, and instead consider the impact you want to make.
But where to start? What’s the mission? How can you elevate it? Perhaps you’re in sales and want to redesign how you go to market by bringing the product and marketing folks onto your team. Or there’s some sort of friction point between your department and another group and your goal is to eliminate it, fixing what hurts most right now.
Every company’s leadership needs its employees aiming as high as possible to create breakthrough solutions to meet new market pressures, and the only way to do this is to bring everyone who could contribute to your mission onto the team.
Here are some tips and best practices about how to get started co-elevating, how to build on early success, and how to best track and organize all your co-elevating teams.
Start Where It’s Easiest
find someone you think you’ll have a positive experience co-elevating with. Choose someone most likely to grasp the roughly outlined vision you think deserves your collective attention. Even better
start building that co-elevating relationship before you need to. The more time you spend nurturing and building relationship ties with an associate you respect and think you may want to work with on something big, the easier it will be later to invite them to join you in taking on challenging and aspirational projects together.
Check Your Hot Button Priority
Sometimes, you have no choice. You need to start building your team in the midst of a crisis, when everyone feels they’re behind
what’s stressing you out? What’s keeping you up at night? What’s occupying your headspace? Where can you introduce the co-elevation conversation as a potential solution? You will likely find,
the very urgency of the situation will help you forge the bonds necessary for a productive co-elevating relationship.
Look for Those You Admire and Want to Learn From
On any given day, we bump into extraordinary people who could up our game and make us better at achieving our goals. In the next project meeting, instead of checking email or pondering what you’ll say when it’s your turn to report, pay attention and take note of who speaks up with the most interesting insights. Is there a project you can imagine co-creating with someone else you admire, not just for the project’s impact, but for the learning experience or to deepen the relationship?
Identify Someone You Believe Would Benefit from Your Help
All of us work with people who could improve their performance with the right guidance or encouragement. If you are truly committed to a mission or project and you find that someone’s performance is holding the group back, why not do what any good leader would do and coach them? Take responsibility for making a positive difference in that person’s career so you can make a positive difference toward the project or mission at hand.
Face the Person or Problem You’re Avoiding
Sometimes, we avoid certain people and projects because they hold an important key to our success. In his essay “Heroism,” Ralph Waldo Emerson passed along this bit of received wisdom: “Always do what you are afraid to do.”
#2 Earn Permission to Lead
As long as you undertake this journey from a genuine and authentic place, you can’t get it wrong. As Adam Grant says, “It takes time for givers to build goodwill and trust, but eventually, they establish reputations and relationships that enhance their success.”
Serve, share, and care is a journey of curiosity, candor, vulnerability, and action marbled together, a journey that only you can lead. It’s not a step-by-step process. You’re constantly searching to find what really moves and inspires those you co-elevate with, to make them part of your team. You are constantly thinking about the things they truly want and need in their lives and careers that you can help them attain.
Forget the Golden Rule
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As an ethical code, it’s pretty reliable. Before you do something, consider how you’d feel if it were done to you. For most of us, that helps keep us on the straight and narrow.
As a tool for change, though, the Golden Rule has some obvious limitations. What motivates you and makes you excited to dive in headfirst is not necessarily the same thing that motivates those you co-elevate with, your teammates.
Seek the Blue Flame
You can earn permission to co-elevate with someone fairly quickly once you identify their emotional purpose, or their “blue flame.” We all have one. The blue flame is what gives our lives meaning; it’s what we value most—our purpose, our passion, our calling. It’s the aspiration that lives deep inside us. And when this blue flame is ignited within someone, it’s what makes them bounce out of bed in the morning, eager to make a difference in the world.
Promise Joy in Your Partnership
To put it bluntly, many people feel that a lot of what they do at work is downright drudgery. They feel regularly disengaged, disconnected, and discouraged by their jobs. Maybe you’re among them. Gallup, the polling and consulting organization, has been tracking workplace engagement levels for almost twenty years, and reported in 2018 that worker engagement had hit an all-time high—of just 34 percent
In other words, two-thirds of us are just getting by at work each day, emotionally and intellectually disengaged from what we’re doing.
Tell Your Story
Empathy is the bridge to get you from where you are today to a stronger relationship, one ready for co-elevation. And the key to accessing that bridge? Vulnerability.
The point is not to be vulnerable for the sake of vulnerability, but for the sake of establishing authentic connection and trust with another person. Just as you have to be the first to do the work toward co-elevating, you also have to be the one to go first in establishing a connection with another person if you are interested in creating a relationship with them. You often need to be the first one to open up, to share your struggles, your professional and personal challenges, and your journey in a frank, candid, warts-and-all way.
Help Them Be Part of Something Bigger
the mantra of every great co-elevating team is “Committed to the mission and to each other.” It is a powerful formula, because it responds to two fundamental human needs—to belong, and to be part of something bigger than oneself
even if our hunter-gatherer roots lie in our distant past, instinctively we realize that our modern-day survival depends on rediscovering community.
Keep the Gas Tank Full
Earning permission is not a one-and-done kind of exercise. If one of your co-elevating relationships fades or starts to slip down the Co-Elevation Continuum toward the coexist or resist state, you have to assume it’s on you to get it back.
If you want to be a leader on your team and in the world, there is no other way. The farther you travel together down the road to co-elevating, the more closely you have to watch to see if your relationship gas tank is low on fuel.
#3 Co-Elevate the Tribe
Leading without authority is a lot like hosting a big party. You’re also devoted to being of service and making everyone feel welcome and at ease. And the best and easiest way to ensure that everyone is taken care of, without exception, is to explicitly enlist your teammates in taking care of each other.
Turn Gossip into Gold
Negativity, whining, complaining, making yourself a victim—all are poison to co-elevation and any initiative for change. But expressions of pessimism can also provide great opportunities to be of service to our teammates through coaching: Whenever someone speaks disparagingly about a co-worker, flip the conversation so that the venting turns into positive action.
Talk Behind Your Teammates’ Backs (but Only to Be of Service
Whenever you have a problem with a teammate, sit down with that teammate in private and approach them about the problem in a supportive manner. However, before we make an approach, it sometimes makes sense to gather some insights by conferring with another teammate or two, but only with the intent to help out the person needing support: “I think Joshua is falling behind. How can we help him? And what’s the best way to discuss this with him?”
Coach the Team Members Most at Risk
True leaders leave no one behind. Going higher together means together. Summon all your skills in serving, sharing, and caring, leverage the tribe for the tribe, and bring your maverick teammate back into the herd.
Keep Growing the Coaching Ranks
In developing your team, be creative in how you draw in the additional coaching resources you need to keep expanding the team’s capabilities.
Create a Tipping Point
keep on inviting teammates to co-elevate, and before you know it, your workplace will have a whole tribe of people speaking the same language and leading without authority. Never give up on those who were part of the early resistance to change.
#4 Join the Movement
Now is your time to develop your own special feel for how to co-elevate and lead without authority. You’ll develop your own unique insights about what works best with your teammates as you coach them, co-develop with them, and celebrate with them. In doing so, you’ll contribute to the emerging movement.
And when that day finally arrives, when leading without authority and co-elevation are recognized as essential workplace skills
You’ll have walked the course many times before, fully prepared for the challenges ahead.