Better Choices, Better Outcomes

Its more than steering a course – this situation requires Stewardship

March 2022 marks 5 years of writing this column, thank you to Bob, Michael, and Joiners Magazine for the opportunity to share views, stories, and ideas all of you in the industry.

As we move further into 2022, we are sure that the only thing we can be certain of, is more uncertainty and with that the challenges of leading a business forward in unchartered territory once again.

To lead in these times, will require something more, like Stewardship, which can unite, align and bring out the best in your team.

Beware of getting stuck in managing mode

The traditional approach is to create a plan behind closed doors, plotting the course and controlling the flow of work and resources.

Instead, with belief in the life that exists throughout the organisation, a process of invitation and encouragement can be set into motion, connecting people to each other and to their dreams for themselves and for their shared experience of community… revealing hidden gifts and releasing pent-up energy… and cultivating the organisations inherent capability to thrive.

To enable the system to take on a life of its own and to help it become truly self-generative, the challenge of stewardship is to navigate a thoughtful mix of control, guidance, and nurturing; to tend to both individual and collective; and to support the system’s wisdom, learning and enrichment, as well as its accomplishment of tasks and milestones.

Along the way, the wise steward’s questions include: What would bring the most life to this situation? What is the wisdom that is needed now? What seems to want to come to life here? How can I serve this unfolding, either by disturbing things, by planting a seed, by cultivating a freshly sprouted initiative, or by compassionately hospicing something that needs to die?

Stewardship requires thoughtful crafting of structures and systems. It necessarily takes a holistic view — which in organizations means linking purpose with passion, brand with culture, and worker with customer and community.

Management Controls

Management continues to be appropriate for the useful, surface-level busyness of the day-to-day, with its focus on controlling the parts — rather than on the system as a whole — through tactics, action plans, performance goals, and expert-driven solutions in a push to achieve certain, generally known, outcomes.

Leadership Guides

As we shift our focus from efficiency of parts to effectiveness of interactions, leadership becomes the stance of choice. Where patterns of relationship and supportive, connected infrastructure are the primary leverage points, leadership offers guidance (rather than control) through strategies, structures and processes. The leader shapes human dynamics through influence and incentives, as well as through shared values and principles.

Stewardship Nurtures

If our aim is to grow the capability of the system — then we shift from managing the parts and leading for effectiveness to stewarding the health of the whole. Here, control and guidance are replaced by encouragement and invitation, with continuous iteration and attention to evolving patterns of “what wants to happen here?” The goal is not to control, but to create the fertile conditions for something new and unknowable to emerge. The intention is to nurture the system’s intrinsic and ongoing capacity for learning, innovation, self-organization and, ultimately, thriving.

Adapted from an article by Michelle Holiday

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.  

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If you would like to talk in confidence about any of the above or feel the need to reach out, please call me for a no obligation chat (number on website link below)

Ian Featherstone is a cabinetmaker, machinist, business advisor, mentor and leadership coach, and the owner of Glass Half Full. He specialises in the construction industry, particularly the joinery & cabinetry sector. For more information or to find out how you can move your team forward, please visit