A Beach Ball Lesson in Leadership

Beach Ball

Summer is around the corner and soon colorful beach balls will be seen around pools and at outdoor concerts. I never thought about leadership when I was batting that ball around with friends. However, I recently I was listened to Scott Fay, a John Maxwell Team faculty member on
a coaching call describe how he uses the ball to help leaders communicate more effectively. You see, the beach ball has 6 wedges of different colors –all of equal value to make up the ball. But at any given time that you are holding the ball, you can only see three of the colors. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t there, you just can’t see them.

How Does This Relate to Leadership

Much like business, we have our view or perspective of people and situations. That perspective comes from the information, knowledge and research we have gained along with the experiences we have had related to the subject at hand. It may even come from our cultural beliefs or upbringing. And sometimes, we can hold those beliefs or perspectives close like personal possessions. We get into trouble when we forget or ignore that our staff may have perspectives that are different, yet could be as valuable if not more, than our own. Their perspective could keep us from making some big mistakes.

I remember years ago when I was an Operating Room Nurse and the Radiology Department made a departmental process decision that affected other departments without first getting input from those departments. One day, our Operating Room Supervisor received a memo stating that the following Monday, all x-rays would be delivered at 7:30am. We were stunned. Our Open Heart surgeons began operating at 7am and needed those x-rays well before they made an incision. The Radiology Department made a decision based on their perspective alone which cost them significant hours in re-work having both financial and emotional implications.

Lessons Learned.

A good leader listens and asks questions. They are curious to learn and understand. Leaders talk WITH employees not AT them so they can be equipped to make smart and informed decisions. Good leaders ask questions about issues before they ask questions around solutions.

The next time you are considering re-vamping a process in the organization or making a change, consider asking your team the following questions:

  • Did we consider every angle? Whose perspective are we missing?
  • Who might this decision effect? In what way?  (consider other departments, vendors and customers)
  • Have they been included in the discussion? What benefit would that add?
  • What assumptions are we making?
  • What information might be missing?
  • What might be the financial or emotional impact of our decision if we rushed to judgment?

Our goal in business is to work smarter, not harder and smarter means listening and challenging employees to add value. When we do things TO people, we diminish their creativity and innovative thinking. By engaging others, we can get a broader view of a problem or concern, where it might not work along with some creative solutions. Research shows that employees will go along with change in most cases even if they don’t agree, because you invited them to the table, shared your decision, and explained why. SO if you want to gain respect and trust -engage, explain and be clear on future expectations.

When we seek out the perspective of others, we teach employees to do the same. We add value to our organizations by promoting teamwork, building social capital, trust, and a commitment to excellence.

Next time you walk around the shop or the office, ask employees what they think. You will be surprised at what you will learn.

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