Leading and managing people will always be challenging. Ensuring your team is performing, delivering good financial results, executing strategy, managing multiple and often conflicting priorities, and driving innovation is not easy. To be effective, today’s leader requires perseverance, patience, exceptional people skills and a whole lot of energy.
Are there particular people within your company that seem to cause tension and conflict or simply stand in the way of progress? I’m guessing there are. Human relationships are dynamic and never straight forward. It’s human nature to become frustrated at particular relationships within your work environment. Sometimes there are certain people you would rather leave behind and it might even be tempting to think about moving companies or positions within your organisation so that you no longer have to deal with certain people. The problem is, that chances are, you will.
There’s no greater stage than the one you are on right now
There’s a great speech given by Barack Obama where he reflects on the concept that no matter what level of leadership you are working at you are going to encounter the same people. “Here’s the interesting thing that happens when you’re president, or when you go through the experience of being president. “I need to get more knowledge, more power, more influence so I can really have an impact. And so, you go to the state legislate”. What Obama goes on to reflect on, in a hilarious description you can watch in full here, is the fact that as he progressed through the levels all the way up to presidency, he still has to deal with the same “knuckleheads” at every level. He couldn’t escape them; even at a global level sitting at the G20 with other world leaders, he encountered the same people.
Obama goes on to say “the nature of human dynamics does not change from level to level. In fact, most of what you need to learn you can learn from Dr Suess. You have the Sneetches, the ones with stars think they are better than the ones who don’t have stars and they’ve got an attitude. There’s the Lorax who tries to tell people ‘don’t cut down the trees cause then the fish are gonna die’ right? I mean, it’s all pretty much there and .. the way power works at every level, at the United Nations or in your neighbourhood, is do you have a community that stands behind what you stand for? And if you do, you’ll have more power. And if you don’t, you won’t.”
The mistake we make as leaders, is thinking that we can’t make it work at the level we are currently at. That if we just move to the next level, or a new company, or a new country, then we can make it work, then our work will be easier and we won’t have those familiar ‘knuckleheads’ getting in our way. The lesson from Obama here is that there is no greater stage than the one we are on right now. We have to evolve and learn and make it work within the community we have right now. If we don’t master it, then we will encounter the same people, the same challenges again and again until we work through it.
Everything you needed to learn about the world, you learned by the time you were 5 years old
There’s a great book by Robert Fulghum called ‘All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten’ that echoes this theme. If more leaders abided by the things they learned in kindergarten, wouldn’t the world be a better place? As Fulgham outlines; “These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):
1. Share everything.2. Play fair.3. Don’t hit people.4. Put things back where you found them.5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.8. Wash your hands before you eat.9. Flush.10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.12. Take a nap every afternoon.13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”
When you think about it, these basic learnings are (or at least should be) at the foundation of everything we do in a community; be it our own neighbourhood or our workplace.
Fulgham goes on to say “Think what a better world it would be if we all -the whole world- had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are-when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” Ain’t that the truth?
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored leadership workshops? I’d love to help. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.