The 5C Staircase

Wednesday mornings usually find me walking along the beautiful Brisbane river, listening to the latest Brené Brown Dare to Lead podcast.

The podcast this morning was about giving and receiving professional feedback, and the hardest feedback you’ve ever received as a leader.

In the Dare to Lead ™ training, there is a section on this very topic, and what we need to be aware of as leaders when we give others feedback. It’s a huge responsibility, and one we need to be skilled up for.

The most courageous leaders amongst us are the ones who take the time to grow this giving engaged feedback skillset, and they are also the ones who seek feedback often as way of growing their own self-awareness and focusing on their leadership growth.

A common struggle for leaders is the tension between having time and space for strategic, big picture thinking (aka the balcony), and getting stuck in the doing, the weeds (aka the dance floor).

It’s also a huge source of frustration when our direct reports keep dragging us back down onto the dance floor.

My big ‘aha’ moment in this podcast this morning was the way Brené Brown connected the dots between her 5 C framework and this balcony/dance floor struggle.

She described it as a Third Space, the time a leader must take to walk their people up and down the staircase that connects the balcony and the dance floor.

When a leader lives in frustration and resentment because people aren’t stepping up/presenting the work in the way you expect/understanding the big picture/drowning in detail/procrastinating…the question to ask is “how have I painted the full picture across every element of the 5 C’s?”.

There are 5 stairs, and we need to go up with people, and back down again. To take the time to communicate clearly and to make sure they understand every aspect of the 5C framework.   

If you’re unfamiliar with the 5 C’s, and wanting to walk your people up and down the staircase, here they are:

Colour

Make sure you paint the full picture setting a clear intention; assign the level of importance to the work, and answer “What does done look like?”. What specifically do you expect to see when this work is completed.

Context

No one has visibility on everything that’s going on in an organization. Discuss what’s happening in other areas that will impact or be impacted by this decision, project or strategic plan.

Connective Tissue

Help people understand how this work solves or amplifies what’s already happened or what’s happening now? And how it lays the foundation for what hasn’t happened yet but is part of the vision for the future?

Cost

What’s the cost involved in terms of money, time, effort, bandwidth, focus, priorities? Is this cost communicated, agreed on, expected, negotiated…?

Consequence

What’s at risk if we do nothing here? What unintended consequences could there be? How can we problem solve for these?

Walking up and down the 5 C Staircase with people is a choice. And it’s a brave choice, because it means getting off autopilot, slowing ourselves down and making the effort to connect the people we lead to their potential as we foster their own learning and growth.

With courage & gratitude,

Alison