Give the work back to the people

668 views . 04 Oct 2020

The fifth principle of adaptive leadership, Giving work back to the people.

Script 1.2.5 Eps 5 - Applying the principles: Give the work back to the people 

Welcome to our video series on Applying the Principles.

In the previous video we learnt how you can maintain disciplined attention of the adaptive challenge (Please visit our previous video for details about maintaining disciplined attention of the adaptive challenge).

In this video session, we’ll look at the fifth principle of adaptive leadership, Giving work back to the people.

Everyone has special access to information that comes from his or her particular vantage point. Everyone may see different needs and opportunities. People who sense early changes in the marketplace are often at the periphery, but the organization will thrive if it can bring that information to bear on tactical and strategic decisions. When people do not act their special knowledge, businesses fail to adapt.

All too often, people look up the chain of command, expecting senior management to meet market challenges for which they themselves are responsible. Indeed, the greater and more persistent distresses that accompany adaptive work, make such dependence worse. People tend to become passive, and senior managers who pride themselves on being problem solvers take decisive action. That behavior restores equilibrium in the short term but ultimately leads to complacency and habits of work avoidance that shield people from responsibility, pain and need to change.


Jane, the CEO of Fashionista Inc , realised that there were leadership blindspots in the company. The company requires to know what to improve on and initiatives had been put in place for the company to be “in the know”: employee surveys, suggestion boxes, one-on-ones, town hall meetings… The open door policy was implemented and the company was ready to hear the honest feedback from staff and as the CEO, Jane was ready to handle the truth. Staff did not provide their candid feedback.

On inquiry, Jane found out that the staff feared to give candid feedback and they believed even if they were to say something, nothing would change. They don’t think their opinion or idea will have an effect on the outcome. Jane decided to have a meeting with staff to find out some of the raised feedbacks that were yet to be addressed. To start the meeting off, Jane recognised a number of staff members who were taking the lead in addressing some of the issues that were raised through the suggestion boxes and admitted that she was not aware of any other issue that staff were facing. Jane mentioned how important feedback is to her and to the company in ensuring the well being of everyone in the company.

Staff gave their candid feedback after which Jane asked the staff to have representatives who will take charge of ensuring the feedback provided are implemented and monitored.

Getting people to assume greater responsibility is not easy. Not only are many lower level employees comfortable being told what to do, but many managers are accustomed to treating subordinates like machinery requiring control. Letting people take the initiative in defining and solving problems means that management needs to learn to support rather than control. Workers, for their part, need to learn to take responsibility.

Join us in the next video lesson, we will cover the final principle of adaptive leadership - Protect voices of leadership from below.