letting go to connect

I'm struck once again by the power of letting go. Okay, it was my smart friend, Mandy, who called this to my attention earlier this week on another topic - but the notion is apt here. We went to last week's Internal Branding Conference together to investigate what the super stars (IBM, AON, Genentech, Mayo Clinic, American Eagle) are doing to engage employees as ambassadors for their brands.

Wow, there are a lot of impressive, major-budget initiatives - beautifully messaged and packaged, slick, expensive. I keep wondering how much all of this really resonates with employees?

It boils down to letting go. It's not about hierarchies, perfect "messaging ladders," leadership authority, fancy branding or change management models. It's about asking people to step into a conversation and listening, and then taking action. Whether they use cutting edge Web 2.0 social media tools or in-person focus groups, successful leaders are letting go of the need to have all the answers. Rather, they're having the courage to ask employees to step up with some answers of their own, and staying out the way while the ride gets a little wild, a little scary...but in the end, produces much more credible answers because the people who work there figured it out, not their marketing or HR folks.

Sure, top leadership (and marketing and HR) must have the vision to tap into the paradigm shift underway here. But none of this is rocket science. This is not about jazz hands and sparkle ponies. It's about emergent collaboration. It means we all need to stop worrying and relinquish control.

Calm, grounded detachment is something I remind myself to embrace often, especially during a week like this. I've got a client that I'm trying to help who is fearfully clinging to her last illusory threads of control. She's making everyone around her nuts, including me. She's a very senior person in a large organization, so she's able to inflict a lot of damage. As much for her as for myself, I'm reminded of an idea that I attribute to Margaret Wheatley (although I can't verify this - if you know the source, please share it with me). I guess this one's for both of us:

Show up and listen fully, speak the gentle truth, let go of the outcome.