More and more I am reinforcing with young leaders that “leadership is a journey, not a destination”, because no matter how much you learn and how long you do it, there is always more to learn.
I’m mean, we’re leading people, not machines (Terminator reference).
People are different, they change, we change, and organizations change; so good leadership is about adaptability and responding to the needs of your team and organization.
Being on auto-pilot is not an option.
Leaders have to be consciously leading and learning all of the time.
And this has never been more true for me as leader than it has recently. In my various leadership roles, I’ve been reminded (painfully, in some cases) that leadership is HARD.
For the next three weeks, I’m directing a service learning project in Dallas, Texas. This is a massive project that includes 3 other staff members and 17 participants coming from eight countries to volunteer.
It’s a real passion project for me and a super huge learning experience.
So now that I’m in Dallas working with the staff preparing for all of the volunteers to arrive, I’ve realized that this is a major opportunity here for me to share my experiences, challenges, and leadership lessons with all of you. Some days I may post on the Facebook Fan Page, LinkedIn, and Twitter and when I have more time I’ll blog about it.
But this is a chance for me to grow as a leader; and it just makes sense to share this experience with ALL OF YOU. And I’ll start by sharing with you the first mistake I made.
Lesson #1 Team building
Bringing a group together to be a strong cohesive team has to be done with intention; it doesn’t happen by accident, even when your group has chemistry. But when the staff and I arrived on site, we started our day by digging deep into logistics, drafting a “to-do” list, and getting it done. By the end of the day, we were all a bit burned out, feeling a bit testy, and disconnected.
I knew I blew it.
And more importantly, I knew better. I had planned on leading a visioning with the team, but I skipped it because there was so much to do.
It is far too common for leaders, even good leaders, to compromise good leadership practices to deal with the tasks at hand, deadlines, and the bottom line. The pressure and time constraints drive the behavior, and leaders skip the stuff we know will make a difference in the long run.
But it wasn’t too late for me and the staff; it is never too late to take a step back and get back on course.
So the next morning I told the staff we needed to talk about US and create a shared vision that we will use to guide us throughout this project. Not only will it guide us, but it will keep us on track and be a constant reminder of the expectations we have for ourselves and one another.
How did I do it?
Crafting a shared vision can be as long or short an activity as your time and skill set allows, as well as the size of your team. Typically, I like to take an hour or two; but knowing we were pressed for time we knocked it out in about 30 minutes.
Here’s how we did it:
Step 1: Share with the group your own vision and motivation for the work we are doing? (I recorded their answers)
Step 2: Ask each person to consider the common ideas and values they shared in Step 1 and finish this sentence: Our staff team is… (record the answers)
Step 3: Ask the group to find the common ideas, themes, and principles in the individual sentence to create ONE cohesive sentence everyone can agree upon.
So what happened with my group…
Everyone shared their motivations, fears, expectations, and challenges. The four individual sentences we created were:
1. Our staff teams is a well balanced group of individuals wanting to give back to the community and our organization.
2. Our staff team is ready to learn, grow, and be challenged.
3. Our staff team is an eclectic group with varying strengths and weaknesses we all recognize and will help to make this experience impactful for everyone.
4. Our staff team is a dedicated group of individuals committed to facilitating the learning of others.
After we shared these individual sentences, we collaborated to create a single unified vision. Here it is:
Our staff team is a strong and funny team facilitating the learning of ourselves and others while impacting the community.
We put it writing and got it up on the wall in our office. Accountability!
Now if and when we get off track, we’ll go back to our vision and make sure that is the leadership we are delivering.
If you want to know a bit more on creating a shared vision watch this short video I made last spring and download the FREE activity sheets to help you with the process.
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