In The Leader’s Digest, I wrote the following about the kind of culture or environment created by management teams:

If you buy a little goldfish and keep it in a small bowl, it will remain no bigger than a few inches long. Move that same fish to a large aquarium and it will double or triple in size. Put the goldfish in a large pond and it can grow up to a foot long! The biggest factor that determines the size of the fish is the size of its environment. And so it is with people.

Managers see people as they are and treat them according to what they see. A manager would take a small goldfish and keep it in the little bowl because it would be inefficient and wasteful to put it in a larger environment. Leaders, on the other hand, see people as they could be. A leader takes a small goldfish and puts it in a larger tank because it would be ineffective and wasteful of the fish’s potential to keep it in a confined environment.

Leaders provide a bigger environment by delegating autonomy. Strong leaders are strong coaches. They clarify performance targets, develop skills and abilities, reinforce progress, and build on strengths. Leaders consult, facilitate, counsel, and guide. They also confront when they feel someone is not living up to his or her potential.

In my Leader’s Digest: Practical Application Planner, I built upon this concept with the following assessment exercise for management teams to examine the kind of culture or environment they have created for people in their organization. It is also available as an On-Line Assessment for management team members to complete privately and have their scores combined for the overall picture as seen by the team.