Turtles all the way down
Eleven and a half year ago I got an assignment while being on holidays. I was in Ecuador and a shaman told we that I shall bring the holistic understanding of living and how the world functions back to Europe. He explained me that in his world the sun travels and that earth is balanced on 4 pillars of which each is protected by a giant turtle. The essence is, that everything is in balance and that we are part of a bigger universe.
A few years later I heard about “turtles all the way down” a little story from an old lady who told a scientist that his detailed scientific view of the universe is rubbish as there wold is carried all the way down from turtles.
Why are those two memories coming up now? At the very moment I’m preparing a seminar on brain friendly learning in which I shall use all the latest news on how our brain works to allow trainers a better transfer of knowhow and impact on changing learnings habits. And all of a sudden I remember my assignment I’ve got years back. Being a pharmacist I can explain how the brain works down to neurons. Neuronal plasticity, hemispheres and limbic systems are given terms for me. But do I really need to go that deep into details? Is a pictures like turtles holding a world not better to pass messages. Do details not blur the perspective of a holistic view? I have to admit, I need to reflect on that – and by coincidence today Is a lovely sunny day where I can watch how the sun travels the sky. Kathrin
Are you a leader? What a question. I think yes I am. But what do others say about me? Maybe I do not have time or I do not dare to ask. In that case it’s always good to reference with some public advises about leadership. On the web I found the 10 Essential Business Leadership Skills by Ben Yoskovitz, founding Partner at Year One Labs and I love to share them with you. Here what he says:
1. Lead By Example. You can’t be an aloof leader, someone that’s never around and incapable of getting your hands dirty. One of the best ways to lead is by example – pitching in where needed, lending a helping hand, and making sure that the work you do is clearly understood by your team.
2. Passion. A leader without passion isn’t a leader. He’s a paper pusher. Or a taskmaster. Or a government employee… Passion drives a lot, and you can inspire so much in others through your own passion and enthusiasm. That doesn’t mean you have to be constantly cheery, it means you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and what your company is doing.
3. Be Organized. A disorganized leader isn’t leading, he’s chasing his own tail. Disorganization breeds nothing but more disorganization. If you’re frazzled and messy, your team will be too. When you’re organized you’ll be much more productive and so will everyone else.
4. Delegate. You can’t do everything. A great leader needs to be able to delegate effectively. The key to delegating successfully is giving employees ownership of the work you assign them. They can’t just feel like they own the work, they really have to.
5. Take Ownership and Responsibility. Although you’ve just delegated work and truly given your team ownership, you also have to take ownership and responsibility at all times. Your team has to know you’ll be there for them through the good and the bad times. That doesn’t mean you absolve people from making mistakes or ignore crappy work/effort, but it does mean you take responsibility for the big picture.
6. Communicate Effectively. Everyone knows great leaders have to be great communicators. But there are certain points of communication that many people forget. For example, it’s critical that you communicate to employees how their work matters in the bigger picture. Are they a cog, or does their work truly make a difference? Communicating success is also something leaders forget to do. People need affirmation. They want to know they did a good job. You just have to tell them.
And be precise. Insecure leaders will often ramble; uninterested leaders cut things off to quickly. Whether you’re giving praise, providing constructive criticism, or defining goals and to-dos, you have to figure out how much to say and in what order. Be precise, specific and concise. Get to the point.
7. Be Brave and Honest. Cowardly leaders will shy away from any number of situations that crop up regularly when running a team. The project your team has worked on for 6 months just got shelved. Now what? Or you have to talk to someone about their lack of effort recently. Do you ignore the problem? Or maybe it’s time to take your product into a new market. Do you hobble forward, scared and nervous, or do you grab the market by the throat? Leaders are brave. And honest. Tell it like it is. Don’t sugarcoat, don’t obfuscate. Don’t be a jerk either. You have to learn how to present things to your team in an honest but balanced manner.
8. Great Listener. A huge part of being a great communicator is being a great listener. If all you want to do is talk, you’re not a leader. Keeping people motivated means listening to them, asking them questions, understanding their issues. When you listen more, you can respond more effectively and get to the heart of things much faster.
9. Know Your People. You have to know your people. You don’t have to be best friends or even socialize outside work, but you do have to know what makes them tick. You need to know something about their personal lives because their lives outside work matter. Their lives outside work drive a great deal of their success (or lack of) at work. Keep track of simple things: birthdays, marriages, children, etc. The more you know your people the more common ground you’re likely to find, the more you’ll be able to connect.
10. Be a Follower. Benjamin Disraeli said, “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” That sums up many of the other points so beautifully. Great leaders are followers too. If you’re a leader without following, you’re a dictator. And as fun as that sounds… Being a leader-follower means finding value in your team, getting inspired by your team, encouraging your team to communicate, brainstorm and be open.
That are the ten point Ben lists. How are you doing with them? Overall I’m sure nothing new is there. For me the mix & balance of those elements over time make the success as it’s quite hard to do everything at the same time. I do admit that in the last few weeks I was quite self absorbed and did not have enough time to be a good leader. However I tried my best and I took advise 7 & 6 into account and was very transparent with my inability. Now things get better again and I even have time to write a blog.
To close my thoughts: for me being a good leader is to be aware that you are human yourself and that dignity is essential to accept that others follow you by free choice – then your followers make you to be a leader at start. Kathrin