As I wrote yesterday, there’s a big difference between a Team and a Committee.
We have an incredibly powerful team at Two-Brain. Some of them get to stand onstage, and some work like crazy in the background.
While I’m not scared to work with powerful people, I have often scrambled to lead them. Most of the time I spend with my business mentor (Marcy Swenson) revolves around leadership challenges. That’s just what happens in Tinker phase!
The leadership team at TwoBrain is made up of smart, driven people. But they’re not all the same. As John Maxwell said,
“Managers treat everyone the same. Leaders treat everyone differently.”
Now, I tend toward the left-brain type. I like data and proof and black and white. I can empathize with problems (I get choked up over my clients’ struggles at least once per week) but I have to work really hard to see things from another person’s perspective. So that’s exactly what I do: I work hard to understand how to help them; what they need; and what to do. I get coaching to speed up my learning process.
The greatest thing a leader can do is ask, “What do you want NOW?” because people change.
Then ask, “How can I help you with this?” because sometimes they might not need help; they might just need an ear. Or they might legitimately need help, and you can guide them to the solution. As I’ve learned, simply telling people “this is the answer” is helpful when you’re managing people, but less helpful when you’re leading other leaders.
Your job as leader is also to set the example. If you’re working a 16-hour day and never taking a vacation, your team will believe that’s model behavior. They’ll copy you for awhile, and then resent it. You MUST be an example: work hard, but take time off. Put your family first, and then do what’s best for your clients. Let them know what “best” means. You teach them how to treat you.
Finally, your job as leader is to measure the pace, not to sprint ahead and demand that others keep up.
Last summer, I was training for my first 100km cycling race. I loved the training, and one of the milestones I set for my progress was a full loop of St. Joseph Island. I was born there, and it’s an amazing area for cycling, but I’d never completed a full circuit of the 70k loop. I mentioned my plan to my friend Ray, and he offered to come along. He brought our mutual friend, Dr. Steve Roedde.
Dr. Steve is a leader. He retired to St. Joseph Island after leading an ER team in a major city hospital. And he’s an amazing cyclist. He offered to lead us around the Island.
Now, the front rider in any group of cyclists has to burn about 30% more energy than the guys behind him. The second and third rider can sit in his slipstream and “draft”. Until you’ve done it, you wouldn’t believe it’s possible, but sitting on Steve’s rear wheel made the trip a lot easier.
After we climbed a huge hill, I offered to take the lead and let the others draft me for a bit. Steve knew I’d never be able to match his work capacity, but graciously let me pull in front. I fought hard for five kilometers before letting him pull up front again.
When we reached a flat, windy area, Steve had to measure my pace and slow down for me. Looking at his bike computer, he tried to limit himself to 225 watts of output, but I couldn’t keep up. So he lowered himself to 200 watts, but I still dropped off his slipstream. Finally, he slowed to 180 watts and I hung on for dear life until we pulled over to buy popsicles at a convenience store.
Steve said, “I thought you were going to be fine at 200 watts, but you were probably too tired. No big deal: you’re a diesel. By next year, I’ll be able to say ‘Go that way and hold 225 watts for six hours’, and you’ll nail it. I’ll be jealous of you.” He told me exactly what I had to do to win, and then made me feel like I was on my way.
(By the way, after training all winter, 225 watts is no longer a problem. I’m not really a “diesel” yet, but I’m good enough to consider myself a serious student of cycling–just as I consider myself a serious student of leadership.)
No one is going to match your hours, energy or output. They shouldn’t. Instead, you should tell them how to improve; make them feel like they can get there; and buy them popsicles every 50k. That’s how you lead a powerful team.
Tomorrow, I’ll give you some point-by-point instructions about guiding your team to greatness.