Leadership Lessons from a 12 Year Old!
Updated: Feb 10
We received a puzzle of the month gift this year. My step-son and I enjoy doing puzzles. I find them relaxing and meditative while spending time with him. He enjoys them because of the winning feeling after finding the perfect piece and putting the final piece in to complete the puzzle. One day he asked what we should do with these puzzles as we finish them. I was just planning to dismantle them and put them away. "What do you think we should do with them?", I asked. Excitedly, he jumped up and said, "We should frame them and every year we can display the puzzle of the month that we're in to remind us of how hard we worked!"
What can I learn from this? 1) Even though the outcome was the same, we had a different purpose for doing the puzzle. Mine for meditation/relaxation and quality time while his was for the sense of accomplishment. 2) Due to our differences in purpose, the next steps we each envisioned were not aligned. I was satisfied with internal reward and he needed recognition. 3) Imagine what would have happened if I had dismantled those puzzles without talking to him first! My assumptions almost led to a very disengaged child which could have caused him not to want to do puzzles with me again. Hmmm...not at all what I want.
When it comes to leadership, how many times I was clear on alignment of purpose between myself, as the leader, and the team. Though the outcome was clear, were we always aligned in our reasons for doing it? Would the outcome by itself fulfill that purpose or did I need to do more as a leader? Did we celebrate in a way that they needed?
If you are a leader, here are some questions to ask your employees as you embark on your next goal or project:
1) Establish their purpose - Why is this goal or project important for you?
2) Clarify the outcome - How will you know when the goal or project has been completed?
3) Recognition - Upon achievement of the goal or project, what would be a rewarding way for you to celebrate or be recognized?
And, if you are worried that they will ask for something unrealistic , I challenge you to consider, what the cost is of you not asking them. Maybe nothing or perhaps misalignment, lack of motivation, disengagement, and over time, turnover... indirectly, all very costly.
Instead, I would encourage a transparent conversation about what is realistic. Let them know up front about your intention and any criteria, for example, budget, or timing. Most people understand and are usually satisfied with a small form of recognition...a thank-you, a lunch, their picture in the company newsletter, or maybe they would just want to do a puzzle with you!
Asking these kinds of questions up front can go a long way in building a trusting relationship with your team, leading to better engagement and retention.
What are your leadership "aha's" from this post? What would you add?