Taking Steps Toward Leadership

Do you ever think to yourself that most of the projects you do could be done faster and more efficiently if you did them yourself?  Have you ever thought that getting other people involved was actually cheating?  Have you ever come up against a deadline and opted for the short cut only to find out it took LONGER than you were allowed?

I will have been teaching for 50 years come 2018.  I teach my students the same process every time, and it’s only 6 steps.  This process will allow a person to learn anything–academic, artistic or athletic subjects!  In all of those years, I have 1 student who can recite these 6 steps.  I have no students that actually use them, and yet…I have learned every subject I’ve taught with this method.  I have taught everything from preschool to college level statistics, from music to football.  I have a degree in music and business.  I am a stock broker and a life insurance agent, and I can read in 5 languages.  I have done computer programming and taught ballet.  I use this process on every single thing I learn.  It works.  And yet…my students all think there’s a short cut.

The greatest distance between 2 points is the short cut.  I heard that on a John Maxwell call today, and he is so right!  If my students, regardless of the subject they’re studying, use this process, they can accomplish the week’s assignments in about 3 days.  I still have students that cannot master the material in a month’s time.  Do any of my students achieve mastery faster using their own systems?  No, no they don’t.  They most likely skip the 1st step, and that cripples them.  The 1st step is to identify what you know.  How hard is that?  What are the notes and the counting?  If you don’t recognize the note, go back and look it up.  If you cannot figure out the rhythms, write in the counting.  What does that word mean?  Look it up!  What tense is that verb?  Find out!  I dribble and shoot with my right foot, is that going to cause a problem later?  The students go straight to the 2nd step–trying it–and they stay on that 2nd step until lesson time.  They pay no attention to steps 3 — they don’t find out what the problem is  or how to fix it.  Step 4– they don’t concentrate on learning the new skill or content in isolation from the rest of the material. Step  5–  they don’t integrate it into the surrounding circumstances.  Therefore,  there’s no number 6 — they never solve the problem. This is the short cut?!  I give them the quickest and most efficient way to learn things, and they make it take twice/three times/four times as much time to learn as it would if they followed the process.

It’s the same in Leadership.  There is a process.  When you have a responsibility to grow other people, and you find it easier to just tell them what to do, you haven’t grown them have you?  When you have a project that has a deadline, and you do not involve others because you think it’s the short cut, you forfeit your options and many times you miss your deadline.  If you have a project that is bigger than a 1 person project, you must get a team together and delegate tasks.  If it is not bigger than a 1 person project, you are not leading, are you?  The process is not instant.  You will have some mistakes, some missteps, some blunders.  So will the people you’re working with.  You will be accountable to the person that assigned you the task or you’ll be accountable to the task itself.  Those on your team will be accountable to you and to each other.   If you get it perfectly the 1st time, you haven’t grown, you haven’t learned anything.  If the leader gets stuck on step 2 and doesn’t progress, he isn’t using the process and he makes no headway.  He’s trying to get to be a leader in the least amount of time, but employing the MOST effort.  The return on his time investment is dismal.  You have to work through the whole process–figure out what you know, what you have to work with, what the deadline is, your authority, the size of your team, the requirements of the goal before you move to the 2nd step–Try it!  Now in step 3, you must reflect!  What went right?  What took more time?  Was the person I delegated this task to up to the job?  Did I underestimate what it was going to take?  Once you have asked those questions, make adjustments!  This is step 4.  Put another person on the task that is taking longer.  Offer some more resources and advice to the one with trouble getting that part of the project going.  Step in to mentor someone who is new to running a part of the project.  Fix the individuals so that the team can work better together!  Keep the communication between members and between them and you open.  Then start step 5– work with the team as a whole to finish the project.  Finally, step 6–reflect with the team after the project is completed to get feedback.  Have you become a better leader?  Certainly!  Have the people you delegated grown in leadership as well?  Of course, because they were watching you go through the process.  Becoming a good leader is not a switch you turn on, it’s a process, a series of steps, and it doesn’t matter if you are a level 1 leader or a level 10 leader, you can always improve.  Does the process change as you get better?  No.  It’s when you get to be really good that you recognize how essential the process is.  Delegation is part of the process that allows you to handle projects that require more than 1 person.  Learn this process!  Live this process, the pass it on.

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