Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Juggling

You all know what that’s about.  If you watch the Crime Procedurals or the Con men shows, you know that the Mastermind of the group is the one that does the most juggling.  As one of them said, “You know what you each can do, but I know what you can do together.”  So many times, the CEO or CFO or COO is juggling so many plates, he doesn’t allow the plates to take care of themselves.  There are some situations that make focusing on any one item detrimental to the success of the whole team.  The Leader has to let the team in on the vision, and what part they play in it.  The team, in turn has to trust the leader to insert the proper commands at the proper time to make the plan work.

I have seen a leader give a “vision speech” and get eye rolls from the members of his team.  One of the comments overheard was, “So You decided all by yourself where this team should go, huh?”  Isn’t that what a leader does?  Determine the direction of the group he’s leading?  Wellllllll….  The team is more likely to back the leader if they have input on the goal and the direction as well.  I think My problem in getting buy-in is that though I talk with people on the team, I don’t talk with EVERYONE on the team.  I believe I have a consensus then, but in actuality, I only have the support of maybe half the members.  Being an arrogant know-it-all, there are some opinions I dismiss out of hand.  Being a person who apparently is easily intimidated, there are some people I won’t even ask for opinions because I don’t think I’m worthy enough to talk to them.  Being a fairly intelligent outside-the-box thinker, there are some people whom I don’t consult because I would have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining my perspective and my vision.  I know I’m not the only one that does this.  I have been the one whose opinion was dismissed before I finished my statement.  I have been the one that some have feared to ask because I intimidate them. (That came as a surprise!)  I have had people try and explain their points of view to me and I nodded as the ideas flew right over my head.

I also know that it is nearly impossible for a diverse group to get to consensus.  This is why jury selection is so important.  If the jury is too diverse, they cannot come to a conclusion let alone a consensus.  This is also why leaders tend to hang around people that lead and think like they do.  It is also the reason that some leaders never grow, because a group like that won’t challenge you to be bigger, better, smarter, and more successful or significant.  What’s interesting is that if you belong to a very diverse group, after a while, they start conforming or choose to leave.  The ones in over their heads either take notes like crazy and improve or they throw up their hands and walk away.  The ones in the middle may either strive to be like the ones on top and grow, or they become “mentors” to those behind them and don’t grow themselves.  If they don’t see improvement in their businesses or clubs, they conclude that it’s not going to work for them and they leave.  The ones on the top push each other and other members on the lower rungs.  But if they feel every meeting is going to be pulling someone kicking and screaming into new awareness and no intellectual challenge from others at the same or higher level, they’ll get burnt out.  Who’s left then?  It’s the people that think and lead alike again.  Only with an influx of new members does the fire continue to burn.

What if you find yourself leading a diverse group?  How do you get that first win?  You have to make small wins and celebrate them.  The team is evaluating your leadership, and you are evaluating your team members.  Which people work well together?  Which skills do you need in particular and who has them?  What can you do right now that will have a positive affect on your long term goals?  How much can you delegate?

The most critical time is the 1st time the team has to trust the leader.  If the leader is successful, and the outcome is positive, they’re more likely to go along with his plans the 2nd time.  What if one of the team is untrustworthy or unreliable?  The plan will go on as usual, but at the first sign of something going sideways, no matter how many times the person has done something correctly, the first instinct will be to go to mistrust again.  He’s a con man so when the jewel goes missing, he’s the first one they suspect, even though he’s been working with the team and acting honorably on all their adventures.  She’s a thief, so when she has extra money to give to a victim, the team assumes she’s stolen it.  He’s a well respected member of the police, but he has a gambling problem.  When the money goes missing, he’s the first suspect.  There has to be mutual trust and mutual respect among the team members and with the leader.  Trust and respect must be earned.

You have to be the first one to trust.  If you trust your team members to do what they do best, they will trust you to do what you do best.  Take a look at all the “Taking Steps” entries and find the areas you need to buff up on.  Keep the leadership aspect always in front of you.  If you go into too much detail on the day to day concerns, in other words, the urgent but not important or the nit-picking details, you cannot focus on the long term.  Make sure the team knows that each project gets you closer and closer to the group’s long term goal, and how it does that.  Also remind the members what they have accomplished.  With my music students, when they feel disoriented or stuck, I remind them. “Look what page you’re on!  Remember when it was hard to read 6 notes?  Remember when it was hard to get a sound on your instrument?  Look how far you’ve come!  Soon we’ll be doing this!”  Then I show them something at the end of the book, or play something for them that is above their current abilities and yet attainable in a matter of months.

I used to remind my Girl Scouts on every camping trip, “Won’t we have fun in Colorado when we can do this without thinking?  and band-aids?”  We went to YMCA of the Rockies for our Junior trip.  Then, two years later, our troop of Girl Scouts were on the Explorer hike with some other troops in the district, and we made the others look like amateurs.  We took a certain amount of pride in what we’d accomplished, and referred to the other troops as City Folk.  Our troop had our campsite set up, the wood collected, the water collected, and the fire going within 15 min.  When it came to cooking, our troop was done eating and were cleaning up before the others even had water hot enough to cook in.  We had spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread and cherry cobbler about 7:00 PM.  The others had hot dogs and baked beans about 10 PM.  We were identifying types of frogs and owls by their calls, and they were sitting in their tents whining and complaining about all the noise.  City Folk…

To get the buy-in, your goal has to be just a little out of reach–not too easy and not something outrageous.  It has to be worthwhile, and beneficial to the group and the community.  Your vision must state why the goal is worthy and attainable and the benefits of reaching the goal result in individual growth as well as growth for the group.  If they have a hand in choosing the goal or helping with the direction, they take ownership and will stick with it longer than if you dictate it to them.  This is NOT school!  This is totally voluntary on the behalf of your team members, and if the direction and the goal is not something they want to do, you’re going to lose them.  Get their input!

Then, don’t just juggle the plates; set things in motion and let your people do what they do.  All you have to do is keep an eye on the goal and (gently) adjust the rudder.  Reallocate resources and team members as needed and keep the goal in front of them because it’s their goal too.  You never know when one of your team members will find the secret passage and bump up your progress!  But they can’t if they don’t take ownership.  You get the plates spinning and let them go.  All you have to do is watch to make sure the plates continue to spin, and you ramp them up as needed.




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