I was brought up in the northern Adirondacks and I really love the mountains, streams and lakes of that region. They have a very distinct character of their own that you just don’t find in any other region of the United States. The climate is classified as alpine and that means it has a long cold winter, lush spring and summer and a vibrant, colorful fall. This magnificent variety is what gives the area its divers character and it gives the people their rugged independence.
The code that Adirondackers have always lived by, and this includes me, is “just do it yourself ”. This iron-willed, self-sufficiency may serve a purpose in that harsh climate, but I have discovered it does not lend itself so well to building a healthy, productive, collaborative team. The problem is that the nature of people on a team quite often reinforces the “just do it yourself” mentality. They arrive late, they don’t fulfill their obligations, they neglect their responsibilities and they often have their priorities in the wrong order. In short, they just don’t do what they said they would. Thus I, or other team members, have often been forced into double duty because we had to pick up the slack.
Here is the rub. In a normal company you could fire an employee who demonstrated such behavior and no one would think twice about it. In fact they would breathe a huge sigh of relief. However, it’s not that easy when your team is made up of volunteers. They are doing it because they want to help and the fact is they probably should be doing something else when they are helping you. The key that unlocks this difficult situation is quite simple….. it’s vision!
If a team has a clear vision, and each member understands how they play a vital part in fulfilling that vision, you have won half the battle. What is my part? Why is my part so important? How does it affect the whole team if I don’t do my part? How does it affect the organization if my part is left undone? When every person on your team can answer those questions, and believes in their importance, you have set the gold standard for excellence and this changes everything.
A genuine leader builds a team that knows what it’s there to do, and every member is fully invested in doing it. This is what unlocks the amazing power of others. No matter how skilled you are, how dedicated you are or how gifted you are, it always takes others. It takes others for each of us to reach our full potential. It takes others for every team to fulfill their vision. It takes others to reach the high place where we all serve in excellence as one, and achieve the goal that has been set before us.
Perhaps today is the day you need to rethink your leadership strategy. Lay aside your frustrations, reject the “I’ll-just-do–it-myself” mentality, and begin to recast the vision with clarity into those around you. Take the time to consider how to pull out the untapped potential of others. If you do, you may once again find that wonderful passion you had when you first began. Best of all, you will unleash the amazing power of others to do what only they can do, and that is what team work was always meant to be.
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