Our success as leaders is deeply connected to what kind of meanings we give to everyday events in our lives. Two people can observe the same event but take away two completely different experiences from it.
In our biologically-driven urge for finding purpose and creating meaning, we can choose to attune ourselves to taking leadership lessons from situations that may not on the surface seem related. Yet, when we take a moment to be mindful and reflect, we find that valuable lessons are there, just waiting for us to find them-- like a carefully hidden Easter egg on a spring lawn.
It was the Easter holiday, and Bruce Holoubek, Founding President of Contracted Leadership, and his wife, Coreyne Woodman-Holoubek, Creator of the Progressive HR Blog, were laboriously, but with great love, placing little toys and candies inside a tremendous amount of pastel colored Easter eggs, and scattering them around the sprawling lawn. Although this repetitive work took several hours, they felt satisfied and happy as they observed how, within minutes, a group of young children scattered in a competitive swirling frenzy to gather as many eggs as possible. Their two daughters, aged five and two, were in that group.
At one point, Bruce and Coreyne’s hearts swelled: they watched their five-year-old turn around to find her two-year-old sister struggling through the search with a much emptier basket. The five-year-old dropped her own basket and ran to help her sister. She continued to help her for a fair amount of time before coming back for her own basket. After the children gathered every last egg, they came into the house and formed a circle on the floor. Inside that circle they emptied out all of their treasures-- all into one heap and began to divide the eggs equally among one another. For all of the race and competition they showed during the hunt, there they were, working together as a close-knit team.
Watching the children that day, one could have thought about how generous and nice they were, but as someone who constantly finds himself thinking about how to better develop leaders, Bruce Holoubek thought about what we could learn from the entire experience. He came to the following:
1. When developing emerging leaders not only shout you set them up for success, but you should set them up to teach the same to others. Even if that means putting away more time into preparing than into the execution of the task.
“My wife and I put many more hours into setting up for a good hunt than the relative fraction of time it took to conduct the hunt. Measuring success by the amount of time put into preparing can only be measured against the lesson learned and not so much against the action completed.”
2. Encourage your emerging leaders to understand that sacrificing their own agenda for the betterment of the team plays great internal and external rewards.
“When my five-year-old stopped looking for her own eggs and began collecting eggs for her sister, a special bond was furthered even more.”
3. Help your emerging leaders understand that when the situation becomes more challenging the resilience gained by remaining steadfast will far offset the unit return per unit of output.
“Even when the kids were exhausted, they continued to push on and find more eggs. The biggest gain was that they further learned resilience, something that will stay with them for the years to come.”
4. There was a time for competition within and there's a time for unity on any team.
“In the yard the children were competing to find more eggs more quickly than their friends, but in the end, they unified and collectively shared the benefits of all their efforts.”
What everyday moments have you lived that gave you pause to reflect on a larger lesson? Please share your story! We’d love to hear it.