When delivered with sincerity two of the most difficult sentences to speak are probably “I apologize” and “apology accepted” or another reasonable proxy of the pair. The first has one admitting to fault, where the second releases it. If only our lives were like the sitcoms where no matter the trouble husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and their children, or co-workers get all the loose ends tied up in a matter of sixty minutes or less. Everyone hugs and the camera fades out.
Unfortunately admitting to and forgiving fault isn’t something most of us are good at. But when this exchange doesn’t occur that can create a toxic cycle inside an organization. But, how does an organization reach a state of honesty?
Pride must be put aside. The issue is that humans are savagely self-protective, it’s an evolutionary reaction to a threatening world. No longer is the danger an apex predator, but our image among our peers. None the less, we fight for it tooth and nail. So, breaking through pride is to against our instinct. It will be difficult. Second, one needs to not take things personally. Everyone makes mistakes. And most mistakes are hardly so terrible as to warrant defining a person.
We have to unburden ourselves of these very human experiences. Helping our peers and mentees realize that everyone needs to go through this process for the greater good is an essential activity for any leader.
The first thing to expect when there is a sudden, unexpected void in leadership is uncertainty and concern. There also might be a sudden gap in experience and knowledge. It is important to remember that sudden change can make even the most productive or cool-headed people act unlike their usual self. Stability in an organization is key and leadership provides that.
While this won’t help those who are currently experiencing a leadership void, planning ahead for the eventuality will, hopefully, help an organization experience very little transitional drama. Having a clear, public plan in place for succession in leadership roles is the easiest way to prepare for both expected and unexpected leadership transitions.
Current leaders should be grooming one or several people to take their place and make it plainly know who is in line for what positions and why. The succession plan should support the values and goals of the organization that are already in place. The people in line should also be supportive of these values and goals.
If one’s organization is in the unfortunate position of not having a plan in place when a leadership void occurs there are some things to be done. Quickly finding a respected, knowledgeable and senior member of the team to take charge will calm many people’s concerns, even if this role is temporary. Keep open lines of communication and avoiding feeding rumor mills is essential. All members, but especially senior members, of the team need to step up and lead by example.
As much as possible all members of the organization should do their part in keeping up the status quo as the team reorganizes itself. Most importantly everyone should remember as disastrous and chaotic as a sudden void in leadership may feel, it is not the end.
One of the most interesting aspects of leadership is that all people bring something unique to the table. Many articles on leadership will talk about qualities like integrity, effective communication or influence, while these are all good qualities, maybe even all necessary qualities of a leader, they don’t mean much if a leader doesn’t put their people ahead of themselves.
In the early days of being in a leadership position many will think that their title is all they need. That with the title will come automatic respect and and inclination to follow whomever bears the title. Many “young” leaders must learn is that leadership is something one must work hard at.
Sometimes “young” leaders will have a peer come to them and confront them about their selfish attitude, but not always. Not only is it a leader’s job to support their people through constructive criticism, feedback and support, but the leader needs to be self-critical and realize that their own attitudes and practices do affect the team.
When leader is doing well their success should be visible in the success of those they lead. The leader should acknowledge these accomplishments in both private and public. The leader should know their teammates, not just their name, position and responsibilities—but the real person outside their responsibility to the team. Leaders must leave their own ego at the door; your teammates are going to accomplish things you cannot and that is OK. Having a peer be able to move on to another opportunity, in part because of the leader’s mentorship should be viewed as a leader’s greatest accomplishment. Give your teammates an environment in which they can become the best possible version of themselves.
In doing these things all members of the team will be viewed as successful when success comes and when it does not, the environment to move on and try again will have already been fostered.
In all aspects of our lives there are always two sets of opportunities in front of us—one set governs where we are, a current job, a current relationship, a current volunteer activity, a current hobby and then there are those things only available if we actively seek them.
Whatever those new things are that we seek, if we find them and develop them we become more versatile. It could be that what we have currently (a job, relationship, volunteerism, hobby) provides us with the tools to become more versatile. Sometimes we need to actively find new things to learn, new skills to develop, new networks to tap into.
If we only remain qualified to maintain our current job, relationship, volunteer activity or hobby we are vulnerable to or unprepared for change.
Every day we should set out two lists of tasks for ourselves: one to maintain that which we already have and one that will allow us to expand the boundaries of our experience and knowledge.
It doesn’t matter who you are—an entrepreneur who created your own job, an employee, a community organization leader or member, a high school or college student, a retiree, or a stay at home parent—you have the capability, this very moment, to prepare for what comes next.
As the summer weather starts to settle in, those people in leadership roles might want to take advantage of a nice day through outdoor team building activities. Getting your team out into the sunshine can be a nice change of pace and a reenergizing experience, especially for a team that mostly works indoors and/or sitting at a desk.
A scavenger hunt might be a common activity; however, one can turn it into a team building exercise. Especially when you encourage people to work with those they don’t normally work with. Leaders can use this activity to break up social cliques in the workspace.
Making the scavenger hunt task-oriented with problem solving activities is another way to increase the team-building aspect of the activity. This might include puzzles and riddles as well as searching for particular objects. Each team should receive an identical list of tasks and there should be a deadline by which all tasks need completed.
The “human knot” is another fun activity that is well suited for a sunny, outdoor space. Depending on the number of participants, you may want to break people up into several groups. The instructions are simple—everyone should stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle and facing each other. First, everyone sticks out their right hand and grabs a random hand across from them. Then the same with their left hand. The goal is to untangle the knot without releasing hands. Success is dependent on team work and communication.
An “egg drop” using office supplies is another possibility for a game—instructions for variations on egg drops are available online. But the gist is that teams will use common items from the work space to construct armor for their raw egg. After a set time limit is up, each team will drop their egg from the same height to see which team constructed the best armor. Obviously, this messy game is easier to clean up outside.
These are just a few examples of team building activities that don’t happen in a meeting room around a table. Try them out. That nice weather will have people’s attention wandering from common, indoor activities.
When we speak about success, leadership, the workplace and other goal oriented parts of our lives we typically think of distractions as bad. How to avoid all those things that lead our attention away from responsibility and personal betterment have been a large part of the conversation of success. But what if distractions weren’t all bad—which seems to be the popular narrative about distractions in America.
According to an article in Psychology Today distractions can very much be a good thing in many situations. The article suggests that distractions are one of our primary coping mechanisms for dealing with physical pain. Not only that, but also mental pain such as anxiety. In children, pre-surgery anxiety is very common. In one study, three groups of children were studied for pre-surgery anxiety. There were three groups: one was given an anxiety medication; one group was given nothing; one group were given video games to play. The study found the video game group to have the least amount of measurable anxiety. Another study found that adult patients given video games to play experienced 50% less pain during wound cleanings.
But clearly distractions are also bad at time. How can we tell the difference? Dr. Jane MacGonigal has written extensively on the subject of distraction and she suggests that we simply ask ourselves whether we are using the object of distraction as an escape from our lives or are we using it to enhance our lives?
In the workplace, in a group as the leader, is a particular person or group using a distraction as a means to avoid uncomfortable conversation, to avoid boring or challenging work, to disengage from useful problem solving? Maybe it’s OK for your employee to play Words with Friends for fifteen minutes to ease their anxiety about please an important client. Maybe some off-topic conversation at a creative meeting is just want the group needs to relax and be able to share the ideas they think might be good, but are afraid of.