There are two different arguments for how to be a leader: be the "linchpin" – someone irreplaceable, uniquely specialized and incredibly talented or the opposite: someone whose goal is to build a program that is systemized, sustainable and not personality based.
I was watching NFL football with my husband over the weekend and he commented that the Indianapolis Colts have not won a game this season although last year they made the playoffs. The difference? This season Peyton Manning (the team’s MVP quarterback) is not playing due to next injuries. He continued that Peyton may be eligible for this year’s MVP award even though he hadn’t even played one minute of one game this year due to the fact that without him, the Colts are 0 for 12.
Although I admire Peyton and his leadership, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the him. Imagine the pressure of a whole football franchise dependent on your skills? How could a good head-coach put his whole team in jeopardy by building the team around one key player?
It is important to be the best you can be but if you’re the only one who can do it I believe that puts your business in a very dangerous position.
I volunteer regularly with a local NPO helping them develop their Volunteer Program. The organization has been around for more than ten years and is primarily run by volunteers but there has never been a program in place to coordinate and empower the volunteers.
In preparation for National Volunteers Day on Dec 5th, I have been working with the office manager to put together a meaningful handwritten card that would go out to all the volunteers expressing sincere gratitude for the work they had done all year.
Just this last week, I received my "thank you" card. I was excited to open it and see what creative appreciation-expressing ideas they had come up with for their first thank-you mail out. I opened the envelope and found a generic printed postcard signed by the founder of the organization. The card was a thank you for a project I had worked on in the summer and has absolutely nothing written on it despite the fact that the flip-side of the card was blank.
I couldn’t help but feel hurt. This was a thank-you 4 months overdue (strike one), didn’t even have my name on the card (strike two) nor was there any personalized message (strike three). To be honest, I believe the card did more bad than good in showing appreciation. It was more like junk-mail – not the message you want to communicate to your devoted volunteers.
Don’t make that mistake: appreciate quickly, be sincere and personalize your thoughts. Ouch – it still hurts when I think about it.
Change of any type is not sexy or fun. Extreme Makeovers happening in six days (as much as I love love that show) is not real life. Making changes to an organization will always get worse before it gets better and will always be a very messy process.
If you’re a leader spearheading change on your team and are frustrated because your’e being faced with resistance and challenges it is a sign that you’re right on track. Change is not easy to execute and requires immense creativity and patience.
Just because you have a great new idea for improving your team’s dynamics – don’t expect things to happen right away because they most often don’t and that’s ok. Choose a worthy vision, outline the strategic action necessary and then continually communicate with your team as your department is going through this change.
Have you ever tried to teach somebody something and found yourself getting incredibly frustrated by the process? Do you want to scream at the person you’re training because they’re not picking it up quick enough and making careless mistakes?
As leaders, we can not let our emotions determine how we will react to emotionally-demanding situations. Our role when training someone is to show patience and graciousness and to sow confidence into our team mate as they work through their own frustrations a result of learning something new. If you want a team of people who are excited to learn, wanting to help, and willing to take a risk on something new – be prepared for a temporary mess that comes with progress.
Tip: before you train someone take some time to exercise, pray, or listen to some calming music to put yourself in a gentle open head space. When you’re calm and present as a trainer, they will learn faster because they feel that you believe in them.
I regularly volunteer at my son’s elementary school helping as a team member of the sustainable fundraising team. My role usually involves planning, strategy, marketing and team development. Like many nonprofits, at the school there are often more jobs to do than there are people to do them.
In preparation for an upcoming presentation I was asked by the marketing team to help them develop some posters. Although I have many artistic people in my family, arts and crafts are definitely my weakness. I gave the team full disclosure that I was obviously the wrong choice for the job and asked whether there was anyone else who could help with this project. In the end, the need for the posters outweighed by incredible lack of skill.
About half way through the first of three posters I commented to the marketing director that my lack of skill for creating an attractive poster would negatively reflect on the people he was presenting to and would give the wrong image of the school because of the second-rate work I’d done. With a smile, he said I was doing a great job but I knew better.
As a leader, we have a responsibility to put the right people in the right jobs to achieve maximum performance. Just because a job needs to get done does not mean putting just anyone in the role is a good decision. Take the time to put the aces in their places – it may take more time but the quality of work delivered will be worth it.