Like many things in nature, teams should characterise symbiosis.
A tree needs soil to grow, providing it stability and vital nutrients. But also the soil needs a tree for the goodness it brings to it also. The leaves of trees fall and decompose, enriching soil; the roots break up the soil providing air pockets and water channels.
A tree needs the air to breathe, but the air also needs the tree. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen. One large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.
A leader should not see their team’s service of it’s purpose as something that has a one-way benefit. As much as a team benefits the leader and the purpose, the very fact they are involved brings huge benefit back to each individual.
We all want to feel like we are adding value. To be included brings great satisfaction, fulfillment and development back to those involved.
Therefore, people genuinely want their leader to include them. Even, and maybe especially, in things that help their leader out personally.
I have found when I single certain team players out to help me in certain projects that I would have usually carried out myself, there is great delight. Their sense of value is raised because they were the person chosen, and their gift or personality strength has been recognised, but also there is an esteem built in them knowing they are adding value to the things you find important.
Team players actually want to know they are of use to their leader. It is a genuine desire in most of us to want to help. Its the way we feel we have purpose on the team.
Include people, let them help you. By that I don’t just mean give them a job on the team, but let them help you. They want to.
So why do we at times fail to do this?
1. We have always done this task alone
2. It is faster to do it alone
3. I don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on already busy people
Ok, so let’s let’s look at these arguments :
1. To be honest ‘we have always done this task alone’ or ‘we have always done it this way’ should never be an argument in the mind of a leader. A leader has not become a leader by doing what has always been done. A leader’s job is not to simply maintain, but to create and re-create. So let’s knock this one out straight away.
2. It may actually be true that it is faster to do it alone. But when has speed been the primary objective of any task a leader does? Surely effectiveness, creativity and development should trump speed (although, of course, efficiency should not be ignored).
‘2 brains are better than 1’! When we involve others we exponentially increase the creative thought process applied to that task or project. We improve the excellence and effectiveness of the outcome, by involving others. Pooling ideas, skills and new concepts should always create a better outcome
3. This is actually a very interesting one. I have found that often busy people are the most efficient people. They are often the most motivated people. They are often the very people who want to be included further. Where someone is motivated there is not a problem with finding time for more. Of course there are limits to this, but a leader should not always be opting someone out before that person has been given a chance to opt in. Your inclusion of them could be the very thing they are waiting for. It could be the very thing that helps them develop to the next level. It could be one of the more motivational things you will have done for them.
Let’s see it from their point of view for a moment. They get to see they are valued. They get to work with the boss. They get a chance to experience a new challenge. They get to do something new. They get to feel stretched. They get to step outside of their job description. They get a new challenge. They get to feel singled out. They get increase ownership. They get to be included in your world a bit more. There are so many up sides.
The task or project we are asking them to be involved in doesn’t have to be a stretch for them. Whilst offering them a stretch is important at times as its an investment in their personal development, it is not the only reason people love to be included. Even a more mundane task can be interesting to be included in, again for all the reasons above. We are wired to want to help, we are wired to want to serve the greater purpose, and we love feeling valued. It is a privilege to feel our leader, our boss, needs us.
When you let them do something that helps you personally, their sense of value rises, they come closer to your world and grow.
Don’t be afraid to stretch them deliberately. None of us got where we were without stretch.
And let’s not forget – we need them! A great leader is aware of what we don’t have. We just can’t and should not do it all on our own.
To see this blog in context take a look at Become the Leader you want to be Led by and go to point 5 where we talk about Leader as Coach.