Want To Build A Successful Company? Give Up Control (Paul Brown) The Forum applies the 70:20:10 lens

This short article by Paul Brown on the Forbes site discusses the issue of ‘command and control’ leadership particularly in start-up situations. People start companies (or new divisions in existing companies), take on the role as CEO, and then try to ‘manage’ everything.
Brown points out that this can be a growth-limiting behaviour – the organisaton can never grow beyond a size that can be managed by one person. It can also impact organisational agility and responsiveness, and put a ‘dampener’ on innovation.

70:20:10 Lens

People tend to ‘grow into’ roles. Certainly we can sometimes identify top talent, fling them into new challenges and positions and watch them fly. However more often than not it takes time and effort to build a high performing organisation driven by high performing individuals. It also takes trust – both ‘competence trust’ and ‘benevolent trust’.

  • Competence trust: ‘I trust you as an expert. You will give me high quality information’
  • Benevolent trust: ‘I trust you will not tell me anything or do anything that will harm me’

One of the major drawbacks in the start-up companies described by Brown (and it is not only in start-ups) is the lack of trust in others’ ability to take responsibility and make decisions.
Lisa Abrams, Rob Cross and others published an excellent paper titled ‘Trust and knowledge sharing: A critical combination’ as part of an IBM publication series. Although written more than 10 years ago, and before the recent explosion of social media and tools, this paper is well worth reading. It details the role of trust in knowledge sharing. The authors recommend actions managers can take to help build trust:

  • Create a common understanding of how the business works – reinforcing the importance of a common understanding of context and goals, a shared language and a shared view of how work gets done, how it is measured and how it is rewarded.
  • Demonstrate trust-building behaviors – such as receptivity and discretion, and employing active listening skills. Simple actions such as CEOs and leaders sharing staff cafeterias to encourage employees to share their ideas and concerns in an informal environment, help build trust more than many structured ‘employee engagement’ exercises.
  • Bring people together – managers often have discretion about the physical location of their team members. Bringing people together – both physically and virtually – is important for building trust. Bringing people together spurs conversations and ideas.

Lessons for HR & Learning Departments
Many HR and learning professionals also find it difficult to ‘let go’ and encourage employees – from senior leaders to individual contributors – to use self-directed learning and development alongside the directed development they build, deliver and manage. The issue of trust is often raised as a barrier.

  • “How can we trust that they will do the right things?”
  • “How can we trust that they will learn the right ‘stuff’”

If HR & learning professionals don’t accept the importance of the trust relationship, our organisations will suffer the same fate as the CEOs Brown speaks about in his article. They will find it difficult to grow; they will be less agile, and less innovative.

The 70:20:10 framework is built on a number of basic bedrocks. One of these is the importance of self-directed learning. If HR and learning professionals are unable to embrace this they will hold back their organisation’s development, whether they are using 70:20:10 or not.
Read: Want To Build A Successful Company? Give Up Control