Life, Leadership and Business

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Death of My Way

Leaders emerging from successful teams all echo this sentiment - “It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, but it turned out better than expected.” Working in a team will defy what you expected, and it will move beyond what you had hoped.
As the team takes on a life and a personality of its own, leaders and members must place their desire for “my way” on pause, allowing the uniqueness of what the team brings to flow. Working in a team will even defy the more inclusive mindset of “our way.” Teamwork should, and indeed must, give rise to the “team’s way.”

By insisting on “my way,” the leader turns the team into nothing more than a group of labourers. This mindset robs team members of ownership, and ultimately separates them from the vision.
Barking instructions at people that scurry off to do your bidding doesn’t make you a leader. The people that obey your commands without question are not your team. This forced labour may bring satisfaction to one, but not to the whole. If autocratic leadership benefitted everyone, slavery would still flourish today. Working in a team brings a collective satisfaction to everyone involved as a reward for the collaborative effort.

Someone must guide and focus the team’s efforts to maximize results. When leaders chop and change the vision, team members become despondent and less willing to collaborate, sensing that their efforts are wasted. No one wants to put effort into something that produces nothing.
The vision should be set in stone until achieved. Imagine if soccer goalposts were on wheels, and the goalkeeper could drive them around on the pitch during the game. It would impossible for anyone to score a single goal. Planting the goalposts into the ground ensures a fixed destination where the team tries to score. Likewise, a vision planted as a definite end-point helps focus efforts and ensures the team succeeds.

One person within the team ensures the vision remains in place until achieved, and is usually the same person that gave rise to the vision. The role of this “vision-defender” is to ensure the vision remains fixed in place. By anchoring the vision, the leader gives the team certainty that all their efforts are worthwhile. When fixed in place, team members will instinctively know where the vision is, even when the haze of effort clouds the path.
When anchoring the vision, the leader acts like the True North, steadfast and certain, allowing the compass needle to point to him or her. The compass represents the team members, and the needle represents the team member’s tasks. All tasks should point to True North, moving the team closer to achievement of the vision with each step taken, which the leader measures for its effectiveness at attaining the fixed vision.

There is no doubt that the single most important skill to define a leader, with the power to make or break his or her reputation, is the ability to work with a team. This important skill quickly separates true leaders from “leader-wannabe’s” wanting to gloat in their own self-importance. Self-indulgent leaders may fool fans, but will never fool the team.
Teamwork is a skill that evolves and grows with practise and patience. Although a lot of good information is freely available on the internet on how to lead a team, it is merely advice. Each team is unique, with its own nuances and flavour. You will have to adapt what you learn in this book, personalizing it to suit your team, to lead them to the final destination effectively.


Group vs. Team

Groups vs. Teams

A leader emerges when a team gathers to accomplish any sort of objective. A handful of key principles will assist a leader to lay a good foundation for his or her personal leadership style. Understanding the difference between a group and a team will help the leader identify where the team is in the development process.

Listed below are some differences between groups and teams:
- The biggest difference is that groups are people united by a common cause, but are not productive. United by a common cause, teams work to achieve a common goal.
- Groups are motivated but directionless, whereas teams are motivated and have a clear direction, with clear goals.
- Groups mull around with no leader, with no specific role for any individual. Teams define specific roles and clear responsibilities for each member.
- A group draws individuals by their interest in a shared cause, while a team selects individuals for their skills and abilities to accomplish specific outcomes.
- Conflict will easily divide a group, whereas conflict in a team creates an environment for refined consensus and tests rapport to form trust.
- Group individuals focus on themselves, whereas teams focus on the achievement of objectives.
- External forces and influences (such as police or stadium ushers) control group discipline. Teams are responsible for their own discipline, managed intrinsically.

Using an example of a soccer match played at a local stadium will help us differentiate between groups and teams even further. Imagine you are at the stadium to support your local soccer club. In the stadium, you notice that the fans have gravitated to people who support the same club, identified by clothing, colours, or badges. People gravitate towards likeminded individuals, forming a group united by a common cause. The cause in this case is to support the local soccer club.
The fans are excited, and demonstrate it by signing team songs in chorus. The crowd is enthused and expectant. Yet, no one in the crowd has a specific role or title that relates to a function. No one appoints crowd members for their personal skills or achievements. They are there to support their team – on an emotional level. There is no leader. There is no goal or objective, but there is an expectation for the team to win.
The group gains nothing should their local club win. The group may celebrate the clubs’ success, but receives no prize and no reward for their support of the club. Once the game is over, the group will break up and disperse.

This is very different to the players on the field. The soccer players are a team, also united by a common cause, but share a common objective or vision – to win the game. The team owner approaches and employs each team member to occupy a specific position, based on skills, ability, and reputation. Each person in the team will use his or her skills to contribute to achievement of the goal. The team members collaborate and work hard to win, earning their rewards. Once the team achieves the vision, members leave to follow his or her unique path in life.
The leader guides and directs the team to win. The leader gives birth to and ensures the vision’s achievement. The leader doesn’t come from within the team’s ranks. He or she was in position before inviting members to join the team. Whether the leader was born, or made, the role of the leader is to take the team to greatness.    

As a society, we owe a lot to the dreamers and to the vision-givers. The dreamer, the painter, the sculptor, the innovator, and the scientist imagine a better world in which we can all live. Their flights of fantasy give rise to progress. We live in the world the dreamers have imagined, and it is beautiful.
The imagination of dreamers has built cities, created vehicles, and invented tools. Because of the dreamer, the labourer has work and earns wages to care for his family. The dreamer imagines tomorrow, but it is the team that turns the dreamer’s vision into a reality.
When people chose to join the dreamer, to collaborate their efforts for a single vision, they lay down the tracks on which the train of civilisation runs. When people align their efforts to the vision, the team affects change. When change happens, the team’s success becomes the foundation on which the next generation builds their tomorrow.

The Huntsman's Example

The Huntsman Example
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”                    Ray Kroc
People knew what to expect from the Huntsman as he had arranged many hunts before. He was a well-organised hunter and expected discipline within the rider’s ranks. People also knew the Huntsman and his wife were bona fide hosts, providing refreshments before, during, and after the hunt, for humans and animals alike.
People of all riding competencies were comfortable in the knowledge that the Huntsman wouldn’t expect them to make jumps, or gallop at speeds that they were not able to handle. The Huntsman always found routes that challenged people’s skills without breaking their courage.
A kind and patient man, the Huntsman placed the safety of the people, horses, and dogs before the achievement of the goal. Some of the leadership behaviours displayed extended from the Huntsman’s natural ability, some of them he learned the hard way.

Natural leadership ability is God-sent, but the lack thereof should not be cause for embarrassment. Nevertheless, it is unacceptable for a leader to ignore his or her lack of skills. When a leader lacks leadership skills, they are nothing more than an empty can. We all know the quote of how an empty can makes the most noise. It is leaders with no natural ability that are the ones arrogant enough to think they don’t need to develop themselves, and they seem to shout the loudest in the crowd.
The respect people have for your capability and temperament forms your reputation. Reputation clings like wet horse-poop on the bottom of a riding boot. Be cautious when forming your reputation, because it will be around for a long time.
If you have moulded your image as a leader already, know that it takes humility and patience to restore any kind of damage to your reputation. People will forgive mistakes made when a leader selects the wrong task, makes a bad decision, or heads in the wrong direction, provided that leader owns up to the error and humbly bares the consequences. The same people are less forgiving when the fault made by the leader is character-based and violates the Leadership Code.  

In talking about team development, we must not only look into leadership, but we must start with it. The leader is the cement that brings cohesion to the team. The difference between a bad leader and a good leader is a legless team that goes nowhere and a team that leaves a legacy.
Do not confuse personal capacity development of the leader with team development, even though the two intertwine. In the ideal world, the leader develops his/her capacity before the team forms. In the real world, the leader is often compelled to develop as the team evolves because there isn’t time to wait for the leader to grow before initiating the team.
As far as team development is concerned, the sky is not the limit. The limit is the leader. The team cannot and will not grow beyond the leader’s capacity, and so the leader inherits the relentless responsibility to remain current, fresh, and relevant. A leader becomes willing to grow when he or she understands they are the team’s lid. There is no set time frame in which a leader must develop. Some leaders are ready to lead a team early, some reach leadership maturity in their old age, and others develop somewhere in between.
The leader doesn’t have to be the best person in every skill required to achieve the objectives. If that were the case, there would be no need for team members. People with varied skills and abilities make up the team, use those that have the skills to perform the relevant tasks. The leader should recognise a task is within a team member’s ability and delegate it accordingly. The leader must however be skilled at leadership and in team development. As the curator of the vision, the leader must ensure that all the team’s decisions and efforts align with the vision.

 As it stands, the leader should be capable in three major responsibilities:
Self Development – make sure personal growth allows for team expansion.
Vision Curatorship – the responsibility of ensuring the team remains on course is and will always belong to the leader. We will discuss this at length in the following chapters.
Capacity Identifier – the leader must allow members to lead in areas where members have pre-identified strengths.

These three responsibilities remain with the leader, who may share the load with other team members but always retains accountability.

A mission worthy of value

A mission worthy of value

With money too tight to mention, most people work to survive, with mission a million miles from their mind. On special occasions, people reach for the vision they hold dear, even though it is cobwebbed, starved, and fading. They squeeze out a dose of hope and put the vision back on the shelf of "maybe someday.”
The majority of people do not live out their mission daily. This does not interfere with the fact they have a bold, shiny, meaningful vision, like my friend Steven. The ugly reality is that people without a mission rarely, if ever, get the chance to attain their vision.

I only discovered the power of mission in my forties and now frantically labour to play catch up. Don’t allow yourself to walk the same path as I did, learn from my mistake. Learn from my message, which is - foster a healthy mission from as early as possible, for as long as possible.

As a young boy, the Huntsman preferred to be outdoors. His parents introduced him to hobbies and activities that took advantage of his preference. His father took him riding in the woods, stopping at the shooting range to fire off a few shotgun shells. His mother called him to help feed the lambs and let him raise his own chickens. These experiences taught him skills and helped shape his attitude towards life.
When it came time to choose a career, the Huntsman’s boyhood activities had a big influence on his decision. When consulting with the Huntsman’s parents about possible career prospects, they pointed out his interests and abilities at tending the flock, raising chickens, and living from the land. The Huntsman chose his career because he enjoyed what it entailed, and to some degree, it was already part of who he was.
The Huntsman’s career choice didn’t surprise his friends and family, they expected it. At the time of making that decision, the Huntsman was no expert. Quite the opposite, our Huntsman was just a beginner and he knew his skills and ability would have to be developed and refined.

Your mission may be something you go to work to do or it may be something you do only on special occasions. Maybe your mission is still on that “someday” shelf. In any event, it is most likely something already a part of you, a part of your make up, part of who you are.
Walt Disney drew faces on flowers in primary school, long before the Disney enterprise was established. Teaches reprimanded him saying that flowers don’t have faces in the real world. He answered them with, "In my world, they do."
Charles Dickens had to go to work at the age of ten to help his family survive. He saw it as the time that he lost his youthful innocence. This theme repeated itself in his books, including Oliver Twist, which brought him fame and fortune.
Marie Curie was born into a poor family in Poland, a country that believed education was wasted on woman. That didn’t stop her throwing all her time and effort into studies resulting in two Nobel Prizes for her work in Chemistry and in Physics.
"Life is not easy for any of us," said Marie. "But, what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained."

Take a moment and ponder this question: If forced to do a job, any job, a job of your choice, but you had to pay to do that job; which job would you do? Why would you do that job? What satisfaction or contentment would that job bring you?
Mr. Padma Shri Jadav Payeng planted bamboo and trees along a sandbar near the village where he lived in India. Snakes washed up on the beach after a flood in the area, and died on the sandbar, due to a shortage of shelter from the sun. Just fifteen years old at that time, Mr. Payeng saddened by the loss, walked into the barren area daily, and planted trees to establish a forest.
Now, at age 47, Mr. Payeng’s forest covers more than 1,360 acres that gives shelter to a wide range of snakes, birds, deer, rhino, and tigers. No one wanted to help him, no one believed anything would grow or survive the sandbar, yet Mr. Payeng persisted. Forest Conservation Authorities say, "We are amazed at Payeng. He has been at it for thirty years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero.”
What would you do daily, without pay, possible without recognition, because you were passionate about the benefit it would bring?
Your daily mission may not be as laborious as Mr. Payeng's mission. It may not draw the discouragement of teachers like Mr. Disney's mission. It may not result in a single Nobel Prize, in the spirit of Ms. Curie's achievement; nevertheless, its value is just as great.

Even though it is your mission, it is not for you to determine its value. The people you serve with your daily mission will benefit from it and it is up to them to place value on what you do.
Through the years, countless people have laughed at cartoons of flowers with faces, at dancing bees, and talking mice. It is the value those people put on Walt Disney's work that gave birth to an empire! Walt Disney would be an unknown name if you and I didn’t enjoy what he did daily.
Your mission has the potential to affect one person's circumstances, changing their world, or it may affect the entire world in which we live. Let your mission see the light of day. Believe in your mission, and believe in yourself enough to let others benefit from what you do.

Mission has multi-faceted rewards for those that purposefully seek and live it out. You will grow in knowledge as you seek to become better at what you do. You will grow in reputation as you grow in knowledge, and people will seek out your advice and counsel. You will feel like your days have a reason. People will benefit from your mission and that will feel like the best part of the reward! All I can say now is… FIND YOUR MISSION! Tally ho, the mission!