Let Go & Lead
Meg Wheatley Author
Co-Founder of the Berkana Institute

On Owning What You Create (3:28)

MARIL MACDONALD:
As we talk about engaging people one of the things I thought was fascinating that you mentioned in your book, Leadership and The New Science is the whole concept that strategies and ideas aren’t real to people until they have an opportunity to kind of kick the can and get in there and mess with it.

MEG WHEATLEY:
That’s right.

MARIL MACDONALD: 
And so can you talk a little bit about that because there’s so many times that I think that leaders are frustrated that people don’t just say Ah hah! Eureka!

MEG WHEATLEY:
I mean I’m right there with you as much as I know what’s going on in the process of people developing ownership of your idea. I’ll describe that in a moment but as much as I know this I sit there and I just have to keep my mouth shut and just keep telling myself, just give this group time, it’s actually building ownership so the process is that you present a very well defined, well researched, well thought out plan at a meeting.

You may have given it to people to read ahead of time if you’re really good. And if they’re even better they would have read it, which doesn’t happen much anymore. Um but you’ve put your heart and soul into this and your best mind heart into it and its really good. And then you have to sit there where sometimes for hours people will just pick it apart. And they’ll ask stupid questions, they’ll ask good questions or have– you know it starts out well, have you thought of this, but then they’ll bring in what their current issue is, whatever it is. They’ll get on soap boxes and it’s a very painful process to go through but if you can last it out, what you’ll usually find is that by the end of this dissection and deconstruction of your great idea, people will start to put it back together in just about the same form. And there may be hopefully some tweaks or things you’ve learned from this that will make it more successful but the end result is like, why do we have to go through this because this is just what I was proposing. You know, or I said that on page five.

But the process is what’s critical here and it is a process of people getting inside it. Getting their own thinking into it and thereby developing ownership so people own what they create and even though you’ve given them something that’s very useful and could be, you know, let’s just do this, you don’t get that kind of buy in, real buy in, unless people have the time to pick it apart and reassemble it. And then we just have to be generous and forgiving and say okay that was the necessary process, I won’t feel like, uh you know, I won’t feel angry at you for just taking this apart and putting it back in exactly the way I presented it. It’s just what we have to do so patience is required here. And if you understand that that’s what people are doing maybe you’re a little less defensive.