Author Jim Collins, who wrote the business classic “Good to Great,” told us to make sure we had the right people on the bus.
The analogy has become a bit of a cliché in the business world, and leaders and consultants everywhere are talking about getting the right people on the bus and getting the wrong people off the bus.
But here’s the thing. If you want a great team, what you DON’T want are passengers. People who get on the bus and are happy to go along while someone else drives.
Who’s putting in?
What you want are participators. People who each play a role in getting the team or the business where it needs to go. People whose efforts are integral to the success of the venture, of the project, of the day-to-day. If they’re not integral, why are they there?
So you don’t want people on your bus.
You want people on your boat.
Everyone pulls together
Imagine a boat with four oars on one side, and four oars on the other. Eight oars for eight people. The rowboat is on a river, pushing into the current. There are rocks behind it.
What will happen if no one pulls on their oars? The boat will drift downstream, into the rocks. But when each of the eight member oar-pulling team works together, they keep each other – and the boat – safe, and in the process they move towards their destination.
Do you have enough people manning the oars? Have they been taught how to row well, and how to row together?
Are they doing it?
Rowing in time
If you’ve ever been in a rowboat, you’ll know that if you only row on one side of the boat, it cannot go straight.
The same happens with a team. Sometimes a few people aren’t pulling strongly, or at all, and the boat moves off course. The people who are still rowing will never be able to get the boat in a bee-line towards the destination without everyone rowing in time, and with a similar, balanced amount of effort.
And if you have some people who aren’t rowing, and others rowing way too hard to compensate, and this goes on long enough, then what you end up with is exhaustion.
The hard workers burn out. The ones who’ve kept the boat moving – your star rowers – just can’t take it anymore. They either stop rowing and ship their oars out of frustration or because they simply cannot take one more stroke, or else they jump ship, swim to shore, and start looking for another boat.
Who is at the helm?
At the helm of the boat, guiding it towards the destination is the captain, the leader of the team. The captain’s role isn’t to row. The captain’s role is to know what the destination is, share that with the team, and keep his or her eyes on where the team is in relation to that destination. The leader need to notice who’s rowing and who’s not. Whose technique needs some help. Who needs a bit of encouragement, a bit of a nudge, or a rest.
Everyone is important
Leaders, get your team off the bus, and into the boat. Put an oar in their hands.
Have you ever noticed that it’s easy to figure out what other people need to do differently, but it’s really hard to work out what you need to do differently for yourself?
Last week I presented to a business group on the four main behavioural styles.
The presentation was videoed, and my 11 year old son Ben watched the playback with me.
As soon as we’d finished watching the presentation Ben picked out with absolute accuracy what style his little brother was, and what style his dad was.
But then he said to me, “Mum, how come I can pick out Dad’s style and Daniel’s style, but I’ve got no idea what mine is?”
I know who you are, but who am I?
The reason he couldn’t figure out his own style isn’t because he’s 11 years old.
Over and over again, in workplaces everywhere, I see people who can learn the basics of a behavioural style model and apply it to their colleagues, even to their clients.
But they can’t, for the life of them, apply it to themselves.
It’s so prevalent, in fact, that I gave it a name – Own-Style Blindness, or OSB for short.
The benefit of knowing your style
It’s a real gift to know your own style. It’s a real gift to be clear on who you are and why you do what you do.
When I realised that my style fit well with focusing on people development rather than becoming a technical expert, it freed me up from needing to know all the detailed, technical aspects of my work and allowed me to focus on what I did best.
It also, though, helped me identify where people who had different styles then mine were exactly who I needed around me so that all aspects of the work that needed to get done would get done. Not just the bits that I liked or was good at.
Even my team felt the impact
The unexpected benefit was it made my whole team stronger.
Because once I could recognise my style, it made it so much easier to recognise other people’s styles and I was able to adjust their roles to leverage their strengths, which made them happier employees.
Their productivity skyrocketed and they were putting in huge amounts of discretionary effort without me ever asking them to.
So how do you discover your style and overcome Own-Style Blindness?
The quickest, most valuable and reliable way to identify your style is to get profiled through an assessment like Extended DISC®, which is what I do with my clients.
When you work with someone who’s trained to give you the assessment and then take you through the assessment results specifically for your benefit, you get incredibly deep insights into your style, and how it’s impacting your work right now, and how it’s impacting the people around you.
But if you want a quick taster right away, you’ll see a link at the bottom of this article for a one page overview of the four behavioural styles that you can download.
So here’s what you need to do.
Download the behavioural style overview sheet.
Have a best guess at what style you think you are – remember, though, you probably have OSB – Own Style Blindness – so it might not be obvious to you.
Give the cheat sheet to 5 people who know you well – people who see you at work, and outside of work – and find out what style they think you are.
Now that you know your own style, you’ll start to notice how much easier it is to see where other people’s styles differ to yours.
You’ll also be able to recognise people whose styles complement yours specifically because their style is one you’re not strong at.
And when you can leverage that, you’ve found one of the key ingredients of an outstanding team.
Have you ever been frustrated when you need someone to make a decision, or take an action, and it just takes way too long?
Some people are easy to influence.
Back in my corporate days, there were some people I could have one conversation and the job was done. For example, if it was a boss of mine, they’d make the decision I needed them to so I could move forward with a project. Or if it was one of my staff members, they’d agree to take on a task I needed them to complete.
But there were a large number of people who I needed to practically hound – or at least that’s what it felt like – in order to get any sort of agreement from them, on just about anything!
And then I learned that people are convinced in different ways, and that most people are never going to make snap decisions. And it was such a relief to know that it wasn’t necessarily me that was the problem. Well actually, it was. I wasn’t factoring in the different ways people make decisions into my communications.
So let’s go through four ways people are convinced.
The first type of person is what’s called an automatic convincer. These are people who are easily persuaded of just about anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a pushover, though. It means that they don’t need loads and loads of information in order to make their mind up about something. If it makes sense to them, they’re in and they’ll say so. You know where you stand with them right away. These are the people who you can resolve things with in one conversation, often.
The second type of person is a number of times convincer. And that means they need to hear what you have to say a certain number of times before they’ll be persuaded or before they’ll make a decision. They want to see things from a number of different perspectives in order to feel comfortable with making a decision. So you might need to have two, three, or four touch-points with them before they’ll make any sort of decision.
The third type of person is what’s called a period of time convincer. That means, really they need some water to pass under the bridge before they’ll commit to anything. They’re not going to spontaneously say yes, but they haven’t said no either. Period of time convincers need to sit with things, they need some time to soak things in. Not even necessarily to do serious analysis. They just make decisions after a period of time.
There’s a fourth type of convincer, and frankly, this fourth type’s hard to work with. They’re what’s called a constant convincer. These are the folks who want you to “prove” yourself over and over and over again, and they’re almost never convinced of anything.
By the way, this isn’t just true of leadership in the sense of getting your team members to do what you need them to. The same thing happens in sales.
Think of going to buy a car. If you were at the car dealership, would you be driving away from the lot as the owner of a new car on the day you first went to the dealership? Some people do – automatic convincers. But if you need to go for two or three test drives before you take the plunge, you might be a number of time convincer. Or if you need to go away and think about it for a week, but you don’t need to take another test drive – you just need some time to pass – you’re probably a period of time convincer. Constant convincers probably need someone else to come to the car yard with them and make the decision, because they’re rarely satisfied on their own and struggle to make a decision.
Not everyone is automatically convinced.
I see a lot of people who are disillusioned when after one conversation with someone, they haven’t got an outcome. They want everyone to be automatic convincers. But the reality is, most people aren’t automatic convincers and getting them on board takes a bit more work.
Once you know that there are a variety of ways people make decisions – and you take a moment to consider people in your team, or clients you’ve had – you’ll recognise that people you work with tend to fall into one of the four categories.
Your challenge is to structure how you communicate with them to fit how they make decisions – and as a result, reduce your frustration when it doesn’t all happen right away.
What? Leadership lessons from Stephen King? He’s not a leader ….
I grew up playing softball – a lot. I remember, as a young girl, sleeping with my new glove under my pillow to soften it up. Night after night you could find me throwing the ball around with my older brother, focusing on getting both accuracy and power into my game.
Last week, as I played backyard cricket with my two sons, I noticed exactly why my elder son’s accuracy and power were lacking as he threw the ball to the keeper (the catcher in softball.)
But when I made a gentle suggestion about moving his elbow further back before the throw, he immediately dismissed me as a non-expert.
Because I had never played cricket.
The value of cross-contextual learning
Stephen King is a mega-huge, mega-successful, mega-prolific author. He’s a master of communication and a devotee of persistence. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, think that if the guy’s going to share how he succeeded, as he did in his book “On Writing,” there might be some valuable lessons for those of us who aim to be successful in other realms, such as in leading people.
So here are 5 nuggets of gold from Stephen King that wise leaders would do well to consider.