A few years ago I had the chance to go on a whitewater rafting trip with some friends. Before we were ever allowed in the water, our guide spent a significant amount of time with us discussing safety rules and rafting techniques. He explained what we were to do, when to do it, and why it was important. We practiced responding to commands and ducking into the boat.
He wanted to make sure that when we were in the middle of a large rapid, we would all be on the same page, and respond appropriately.
Organizations face similar challenges every day. How do you ensure that everyone on your team is headed in the same direction? How do you make sure they are prepared to work as a team and respond appropriately when the heat is on.
I recently drove by a local business that had a sign out front advertising that they are “Now Hiring Leadership.” That struck me as an odd phrase. What exactly does it mean?
Leadership is difficult to define and multifaceted, so I’m not really sure what aspect they are referring to. Are they looking for people with a specific skill set? People with leadership character or mindset? Someone who can fill a certain position or title?
While I can’t be certain what they are looking for, it did get me thinking about what I desire in new leaders. For me, the number one indicator for success in new leaders is their ability to grow. Individuals who are constantly learning new skills and challenging their understanding of the world will be prepared to thrive in today’s rapidly shifting environment.
“Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.” – Mark Miller
Here are several ways to learn and grow as a leader.
As the end of summer approaches, my attention has naturally turned to the beginning of a new school year. There are supplies to be purchased, new teachers to meet, and schedules to coordinate. My thoughts, however, have been focused less on the tangible activities related to a new school year and more on the growth of my children.
This growth becomes particularly evident in light of the milestones they are reaching. The first day of kindergarten, new classes and subjects, rapidly increasing grade numbers. The progress is much easier to see when there are clear markers that can be observed, as opposed to the progress during the school year that often goes unnoticed.
A number of years ago I met with several leaders to determine a strategy for improving the performance of their operations. The discussion started with the high-level goals of the organization and the general direction of the team. As the conversation continued, the topics became very granular, with even minute process details being dictated by the senior leader in the room. He had a very specific plan for the operation that he wanted to see implemented.
After discussing the details of the new process, the topic of conversation turned to rolling the changes out to the staff. As a team, we all agreed that getting staff input would be a valuable part of the improvement process. There was less agreement on what that staff input should look like.
The senior leader described a series of meetings with front line staff in which it was the job of the area leader to present the new process and ask for staff input. He stressed that the point of the meetings was to make sure the staff “feel involved” in the process. He wanted their buy-in, while still making sure it was his process that was implemented.
My heart sank at this. He missed the point. Having control of the situation was more important to him than involving the staff in a genuine way.
I recently spoke with a friend about an issue that his organization was facing that was causing him significant frustration. They had experienced an equipment failure that caused significant downtime for their production line. In response, the leadership team demanded that all the similar parts on the line be replaced, regardless of condition.
My friend indicated that this particular part was one that could easily be inspected for wear and only be replaced if necessary. They did not typically fail without warning. If all the parts had been inspected instead of replaced, the organization could have saved the cost of the parts and weeks of work.
Unfortunately, the decision-makers were not aware of this possibility. None of the mechanics who knew the equipment shared this information. They knew it was a costly decision, but no one spoke up, not even my friend. Why?