Leadership can be as simple as Mother Goose Management. Here are 6 lessons you learned a long time ago, that when applied, will make you a better leader.
1. The lesson of Alice and the Cheshire Cat: If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter what path you take.
Leadership is about going somewhere. The first questions to answer at the beginning of any initiative, whether it is a large change effort or a simple project, is “Where are you going?” and “What is your vision?”
In organizations where people share a common vision, daily activities have meaning and people are able to make decisions based on where they want to be in the future. If your focus is solely on the path instead of where you’re going, you react only to the most pressing problems and you might get “somewhere” but not necessarily where you want.
2. The lesson of the Tortoise and the Hare: Sometimes you have to go slow in order to go fast.
Taking the time to set things up in the beginning will speed up your implementation.
When you’re excited to get going, it can be hard to take time out to bring everyone onboard. But there’s a price to pay if you don’t – having to redo work, duplication of efforts and wearing people out. It’s costly and demotivating.
Not only is it important to make sure everyone understands and agrees with the vision and goals, but also how they will work together to achieve it.
There will always be a dynamic tension between the “just do it” crowd and those who want more time to think things through. These two groups need each other in order to take intelligent action.
You don’t want to plan forever. But taking the time in the beginning to charter the course and to “Set Up Your Team for Success,” will get you to the finish line faster.
3. The lesson of Stone Soup: People are the key ingredient to business results.
Hungry strangers told the villagers they could make soup from stones. They boiled the water and added stones as the villagers watched curiously. The stranger said it would taste a bit better with some vegetables, and a villager brought some. The other stranger said it would be even better with a pinch of salt, and they were given some. In the end, the soup was delicious.
Business strategies are the water and stones. People are the carrots, onions and salt that make things work. People are not just an ingredient in the organization – they ARE the organization, and you can’t make soup without them.
Too often companies identify their business strategies without considering whether the people are prepared to implement them or whether the culture is aligned.
4. Dorothy’s Lesson in Oz: The journey is as important as the destination.
The lessons learned in her journey through Oz were what allowed Dorothy to achieve her goal to return home.
Pay attention to the process. The process by which decisions are made influences the quality of the decisions as well as the likelihood of support and successful implementation.
You may have made the right decision, but if others involved don’t feel good about the means used to arrive at it, it may never be implemented. If people feel their concerns are unheard or not valued, they are unlikely to fully support any decision, even when it’s a perfectly good solution.
The journey creates the opportunity for the necessary dialogue that results in common understanding, appreciation and commitment. It is important to pay attention to the process along the way.
5. The lesson of the Little Red Hen: Those who create it, support it.
No one helped her bake the cake, and in the end, she ate it alone.
Unless you intend to eat your cake alone, you must actively seek involvement of others right from the beginning.
Through involvement, people develop deeper understanding and commitment. It rarely works to just announce what needs to be done and expect people to follow through.
Unless people really understand the “essence” of the initiative, they may make decisions that pull in the wrong direction. And even when they do understand, if they don’t believe it’s important, they will not act strongly and consistently in ways to support it. It’s important for key stakeholders to be involved early on.
Remember the adage: Tell me and I will forget; Show me and I may remember; Involve me, and then I will care.
6. The lesson of Sleeping Beauty: People need information and autonomy.
Sleeping Beauty’s parents thought they had everything under control because they had destroyed all spinning wheels. But when their daughter did come upon a spinning wheel, she had no idea what it was or how to protect herself. The first time she touched it, she pricked her finger, fulfilling the curse that the kingdom would fall asleep.
Preparing for future challenges is important, but it needs to be tempered with the deep understanding that it is impossible to control everything.
A parental approach will put your organization to sleep. Prepare your people with the knowledge, skills, information and resources, and then give them the freedom to use their own judgment, or they will not be prepared when they need to take action on their own.
This is a revised and expanded version of an earlier post.