Culture by Design is Now ---- The Leader Factor

Use Minimum Necessary Intervention to Liberate Talent

One of the hardest things for leaders to learn is when to be more or less directive, when to tighten down and when to loosen up. Too little intervention and you’re an absentee landlord. Too much, and you’re micromanaging. As humans we yearn for autonomy in our contribution. We want to create, we want to affect reality in a way that is uniquely ours and in order to do this, we need room.

Download the episode resources.

Download The Guide

Episode Show Notes

Today's lesson:
Use Minimum Necessary Intervention to Liberate Talent

Key Points:
One of the hardest things for leaders to learn is when to be more or less directive, when to tighten down and when to loosen up. Too little intervention and you’re an absentee landlord. Too much, and you’re micromanaging. As humans we yearn for autonomy in our contribution. We want to create, we want to affect reality in a way that is uniquely ours and in order to do this, we need room.

Today's key action:
Next time you work with a high performer, spend time determining what minimum necessary intervention looks like, and then behave accordingly. Even better, write it down.

Episode Transcript

[music]

0:00:05.5 Junior: Welcome back, everyone, to Culture by Design. My name is Junior. I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark for a single-point lesson, the most valuable 10 minutes you'll spend in professional development all week. Tim, what's the lesson today? 

0:00:17.1 Tim: Lesson today is to use minimum necessary intervention to liberate talent. That's a bit of a mouthful, but it's this principle of using minimum necessary intervention, we'll talk about.

0:00:31.2 Junior: That is a bit of a mouthful. And we'll unpack it. One of the hardest things for leaders to learn is when to be more or less directive, when to tighten down, and when to loosen up. Too little intervention, and you're an absentee Landlord, too much, and you're micromanaging. So Tim, we're gonna talk about the appropriate balance and why, especially with top performers, intervening as little as necessary is the best approach. So let's start off by talking about Roger Nierenberg. Tim, who is that? 

0:01:01.6 Tim: So Roger Nierenberg is a personal friend and he is a long-time symphony orchestra conductor, he's a music prodigy, went to Juilliard, and has conducted many of the greatest symphony orchestras around the world, and he taught us this principle, as a symphony orchestra conductor, leading the best musicians in the world.

0:01:28.5 Junior: Yeah, if you have some time, check out YouTube, there's some really cool stuff. Here's a quote from Mr. Roger Nierenberg; "Today, the moment I step onto the podium, my first priority is to establish a connection with the musicians. To listen with such curiosity that after a few minutes, I feel that I know them. At the same time, they have witnessed my fascination with their playing. We're building trust. It's a very dynamic process. In the act of leading people effectively, you're also developing them, and as the connection grows stronger, the level of necessary intervention continues to wane. Eventually, the most subtle strokes of the baton can effortlessly evoke very dramatic changes. Then in the most sublime moments, it feels as though we've all disappeared and there is only the music.

0:02:19.1 Tim: That's incredible. It's incredible.

0:02:20.8 Junior: What do you think about that quote? 

0:02:23.7 Tim: I, It makes me want to be a symphony orchestra conductor, at least one time, to hold that baton in my hand.

0:02:31.4 Junior: Yeah.

0:02:32.9 Tim: And to see how those gentle strokes can evoke such beautiful music. It's just something that we dream about doing.

0:02:40.6 Junior: Well, and to see that in coordination across many people playing all at the same time, all on the same page, it's amazing.

0:02:50.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:02:50.6 Junior: So there are a few pieces of this quote that are particularly interesting to me, and the first is, "I feel that I know them." That struck me the first time that I read it. And why might that be important? "I feel that I know them." So that came from listening to them, he says, "My fascination with their playing. They've witnessed my fascination with their playing." So he watches them, he listens to them with fascination. So I wanna make this connection from the art to management. So we often don't use that same terminology, we probably don't approach it similarly. We don't witness with fascination the work of our team members, we should.

0:03:32.5 Tim: Yeah, Junior, he's pointing out something that most people never even think about, and that is, he's observing how they are listening to him. He's conscious, he's aware of that. That's a level of observation that most people never even get to.

0:03:49.8 Junior: Yeah.

0:03:50.0 Tim: It's incredible.

0:03:51.0 Junior: Well, and he has to do that across many musicians. It's not just that there's one or two or five in front of him.

0:03:57.6 Tim: That's right.

0:03:58.5 Junior: He needs to be able to pick out that line of music from the entire group. Very interesting.

0:04:03.9 Tim: Yeah, the oboe player needs to know personally that they have a connection with Roger and that he is listening very intently to their music.

0:04:16.0 Junior: Yeah.

0:04:18.2 Tim: One musician, in one chair, in one part of the orchestra.

0:04:23.5 Junior: Next, here's the next one that struck me, "As the connection grow stronger, the level of necessary intervention continues to wane." So he used the word, connection, and to me, that implies that it's two way. Right? It's Roger to the musician, and the musician to Roger. So it's not just Roger directing. It's not just giving input. It's the observation, it's the feedback, and it's this back and forth, it's this loop. And so as that connection grow stronger, he needs to intervene less and less. We did an episode recently on the levels of accountability. If you haven't had an opportunity to listen to that episode, I would highly recommend it, but it goes along the same line, where as people move through the levels of accountability, our intervention should decrease. As they move toward outcome accountability, we will need to intervene less and less, and we should intervene less and less. The last one is, "Eventually, the most subtle strokes of the baton can effortlessly evoke very dramatic changes." Tim, what do you think about that part? 

0:05:26.5 Tim: Well, it just shows how tuned in they are to each other, how deep the connection is, how responsive they are to each other and it's pretty incredible. So Roger, at this point, has transferred maximum autonomy to the musicians, but they are willing to be guided with, as he says, those subtle strokes of the baton, they're willing to respond to that when he directs them to.

0:06:01.2 Junior: Part of what's interesting to me about this one is another angle, another implication, that with your highest performers, because they're so responsive to the subtle strokes of the baton, you have to be very, very careful with your metaphorical baton. You have to be very careful with what you say because they may take just a teeny bit of direction and charge forward on a path that might not be the right one. They're gonna be very responsive. They're gonna be very focused. They're often going to be very dedicated to take a lot of initiative, and so you have to be careful because what you say often especially if you're in a position above someone in the hierarchy, they may take that as law and just go for it. And so you gotta be careful there.

0:06:40.5 Junior: Now, minimum necessary intervention is an interesting idea, it sounds good in theory. It's difficult to do in practice, very few people do it well, and we're often afraid to let go. And that could be from insecurity, insufficient experience, we wanna feel in control. And so there are a few things that we can do to improve along these lines. So Tim, there's a point here that you've made with highly skilled people, when you back off, you actually have more influence. Explain that to me.

0:07:11.5 Tim: Well, they're very capable, right? These are highly capable people, and so they need minimum intervention, they want minimum intervention, and they appreciate the fact that you're acknowledging their capability, and so when you back off, that's an acknowledgement, it's a recognition of who they are and what they're capable of, it's an expression of respect. And so then when you do have some guidance or direction, they are more willing to listen and to consider that very seriously.

0:07:48.1 Junior: The pattern that I've seen is that you get much more discretionary effort when they're at that level, and they have autonomy in the way that they contribute, because each of us wants to contribute in our own way. We want to affect reality in a way that's uniquely ours not just the way that everyone else does it, but the way that we do it. And in order to do that, we need room. We need room. There's a quote from Michelangelo that I love. He says, "And further, if I am to do any work for your Holiness, I beg that none may be set in authority over me in matters touching my art. I beg that full trust may be placed in me and that I may be given a free hand." So what's Michelangelo asking for? Minimum necessary intervention.

0:08:29.1 Tim: That's right.

0:08:30.9 Junior: He wants autonomy to be able to contribute in his way.

0:08:33.1 Tim: That's right.

0:08:34.1 Junior: So Tim, as we wrap up today, any final thoughts? 

0:08:36.3 Tim: Well, I just wanna mention the research of Frederick Herzberg as he studied hygiene factors that these are the factors that motivate employees. The top two that he identified from all of his research were, number one, achievement, number two, recognition. This is what people want, and they want to do it in an environment of maximum autonomy and minimum necessary intervention.

0:09:02.3 Junior: It's awesome. So what's the single thing we would invite you to do to help put this into practice? Here it is. Next time you work with a high performer, spend time determining what minimum necessary intervention looks like, and then behave accordingly. Even better, write it down. On the front end of a project, take some time, be deliberate about defining what that intervention should look like. And remember, with top talent, back off and you'll have more influence. Thank you, everyone, for your time and attention during today's single-point lesson, we hope that this was 10 minutes well spent. See you next time.

[music]

Show Notes

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Recent Episodes

How to Build Contributor Safety

Published
June 10, 2024

How to Build Learner Safety

Published
June 3, 2024

How to Build Inclusion Safety

Published
May 27, 2024