/NOTE/ The following is a guest post by Dennis N.T. Perkins, and is excerpted from his book, Leading at The Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition (second edition)
In difficult leadership situations, we are often tempted to ignore or isolate individuals whose personalities rub us the wrong way or who have a knack for stirring up trouble. Although this is an understandable reaction, it is the wrong one. It only creates space for further problems, and rejecting dissidents is ultimately detrimental to the organization. A more productive response — however counterintuitive it may seem — requires doing just the opposite:
- Identify those individuals or groups that might be undermining your leadership.
- Be proactive and keep troublemakers close by.
- Find ways to minimize the negative impact of their behaviors.
- Make sure these people are engaged, in some way, in the decision-making process.
This post is going to be a bit more reflective (and personal) because it’s my birthday.
April 27, 1966
Like pretty much every person in the world, I can’t remember the day I was born. I love the one-liner from Stephen Wright, “I wrote a diary as a baby. The other day I was re-reading it. It said, “Day One…still tired from the move.” That makes me laugh…every time.
When you’re younger, you can’t wait for your birthday because there are probably going to be gifts involved. It’s the other great holiday to receive a present. Unless, of course, you were born on December 24. Then you face the whole “combined gift” thing. But as you get older, at least for me, it’s become less and less about what I will get and more about what I have given.
With all this talk of trying to motivate the people around you, I’m concerned that all we’ll do is create a bunch of overachievers. Overachieving is over-rated.
In order to be fair and balanced, I think we need a good lesson in how to demotivate people. It’ll do their over-sized egos some good. Toughen up the masses.
Besides, recent studies show that we’re spending WAY too much time trying to boost everyone’s self-esteem. So let’s step back a bit from the compliment and think more in line with containment.
I really think it might catch on. When was the last time your heard of a conference where they brought in demotivational speakers who gave demotivational advice? The goal would be to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator. The theme could be – United & Conformed: We Are The Weakest Links!
Do you know people who are too excited and too positive? Why not spend some time demotivating them. Here’s just a few suggestions:
Give them MEANINGLESS work.
Nothing says, “You’re not important” more than assigning the mundane tasks to the same person over and over again.
One of my favorite activities in early elementary school was Show & Tell. It was fun to see different students bring in their treasures and share them with the rest of the class. Sometimes, it even involved “live animals!”
But just think how uneventful Show & Tell would be if it’s just Tell. In the real world, we call that a lecture. Attention is always harder to get or maintain in a lecture.
This is why Show is greater than Tell. I think you need both. But if you’re going to increase your influence – if you want your message to be more memorable – put more energy into showing. Give people an image they can latch onto through your example, behavior, or actions.
If you’ve got a minute, then hit play to find out this week’s tip to increase your influence.
Got A Minute? #9 – Show > Tell
Got A Minute #9 from tim milburn on Vimeo.
Want more? Check out the Got A Minute? Video Series page.
Did you learn anything this year?
My hope is that you have taken the time to think about your student leadership experience. I am amazed at how many students will invest an entire year in student leadership and then just walk away. Do you know how many valuable lessons you might have if you just take the time to think about what you’ve just experienced?
You may find yourself sitting in an office somewhere trying to interview for a position. The interviewer will ask you about the experience you just had in student leadership. What will you tell that person?
Change is necessary for improvement and growth but it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens daily.
When it comes to change, the only person you have the opportunity to change on a daily basis is you. So when it comes to personal growth, there needs to be a daily appointment on your calendar that you have with you.
Have you ever gone for weeks, maybe even months, without seeing a friend of yours? When you finally get together, you spend the first hour of your conversation catching up, talking about all that’s taken place since you last met. The same is true with the relationship you have with yourself. If you’re not taking the time to reflect on how things are going on a regular basis, you’ll begin to lose sight of who you are…or worse…who you are becoming.
When you lose sight of who you are becoming, you’ll only engage in these internal “catching up” conversations with yourself when you come face-to-face with a crisis.
Instead of asking yourself what went wrong, isn’t it better to have a regular check-in where you are able to identify what’s going wrong?
“Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them.” – Joseph Joubert, French Moralist & Essayist (1754-1824)
The world is full of people who are good starters. What we need is more good finishers.
The student leadership year is much more fun when you finish strong. You get to end the year with celebration, a sense of accomplishment, and the satisfaction of a job well done. When you end your year wrong, it just ends.
As you plan your exit strategy from your student leadership position (and I recommend you create one), here are some of the reasons you should aim for a strong finish.