When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor E. Frankl
While growing up my parents had just a few ‘wants’ for me and my brother. They wanted us to be men of honor and men of faith. They also wanted us to treat others as we wished to be treated ourselves. That was it, pretty simple, and yet at times hard to achieve.
The challenge they wrestled with, as most parents do, is that at times they wanted those things more for us than we wanted them for ourselves. The challenges of adolescence, discovering our own path and direction, making good, and at times, not so good decisions…was all part of the process. The good news is that they stuck with us, focused on helping us learn to think for ourselves, and provided the gentle correction needed along the way. It may have been a bit bumpy at times, but the journey was worth it all.
As leaders, mentors, and coaches we face the same challenge. At times we will seem to want success, growth, clarity, etc. more for those we lead than they seem to want for themselves. From personal experience, it can be quite frustrating. Why can’t they see what I see, believe what I believe, and know the potential they have? If they would only do what I say it would be so much easier…or so we think.
Here’s the question. What is the best approach to bring those we lead along their personal and professional path? How can we accomplish organizational goals and help our teams become all they can be? How can we help those we lead to want for themselves even more than we want for them? As with parenting the steps are pretty simple (maybe that’s why we over complicate them at times).
Step 1 – It’s their path, not yours – it starts with listening.
At times I’ve caught myself focused on what I believe people want vs. listening to what they want. It’s different than when we were kids. We all have the ability to self-direct our personal path. The key as a leader is to listen to those we serve, provide the insights they desire, and help them discover their personal path.
Step 2 – It’s their journey, not yours – help to build roadmaps.
As with life, our careers are a journey. Sometimes in the fast lane, other times just idling along. The way that we plan where we will arrive in time is directly associated with the roadmap, the path that we take. Each of those we lead will require a different roadmap, there is no ‘one route fits all” to achieve success. Each team member is uniquely formed and gifted, no two are the same.
Step 3 – It’s their destination, not yours – get ready to step out of the picture
I remember when one of my senior team members received their first significant promotion. For some crazy reason I thought (if but for a second) that they achieved this because of the work I did with them. Wow, was that a crazy thought. It had very little to do with me, it was all them. All I did was light their path, help them build their personal roadmap, and hang around to celebrate from the sidelines as they reached their destination. At the time it was a little bitter sweet, but looking back, great joy in knowing that I was able to help just a bit along the way. They discovered that they really did want it for themselves.
The key was to simply cast the vision, provide guidance along the way, encourage positive behaviors and be there to listen. Much like my parents wanted for me, my role as a leader was to simply treat others as I wanted to be treated.
The key to overcoming the challenge of wanting more for others than they seem to want for themselves, is to help them see the full potential of the destination. To help them build the roadmap and teach them how to create a path to success. Their success can become part of your leadership legacy.
Question – Can you name those on your team that you seem want more for than they want for themselves? Have you taken the time to listen to their dreams, and help build their personal roadmap as they define their potential destination?
Leading is hard, it’s a full contact sport. You will get knocked around, but it will be well worth the effort and in the end…you may leave a legacy of leaders in your trail.