Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit…wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad!”.
What a great line! You never know when you are going to find a pearl. Case in point with this line. I found it in a Steve Berry authored book titled “The 14th Colony”. Thank you!
If you are responsible for leading a team this quote should resonate deeply within you because it is the cardinal rule of all cardinal rules when it comes to setting up others to succeed.
Knowing your team…understanding your team’s individual and cumulative skill set is always the first step. Do you have a roomful of tomato’s, apples, apples or rutabagas? The odds are you have a veritable mix and if you fail to acknowledge the exact make-up of your team you are destined to fail because somewhere along the way you are going to ask a tomato to do something that a potato does quite well.
Oversimplified? Certainly but it is the most common flaw of leadership.
How can you build anything without looking around and asking if you have the ingredients, components, pieces, tools etc.? It doesn’t matter if you are building a team, a cake, an airplane or one of those uber complicated IKEA closets.
So, why do so many leaders get it wrong coming out of the gate?
They have the best of intentions and they certainly want to succeed but getting locked and loaded on one way of accomplishing goals is the fatal flaw. The ability to adapt is everything.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have won appeared in 9 Super Bowls and won 5 (to the shagrin of all non-Patriot football fans)!
They are known for doing things the “the Patriot way”. The Patriot way is the unwavering understanding that adapting to all challenges and doing all you can to put your players in a position to succeed is key. They won’t always succeed but more often than naught..they won’t fail. No one player is the hero every Sunday afternoon. Week in, week out, they find ways to win with different chess pieces on the board. As soon as you think you have the Patriots figured out…they adjust and offer a new challenge to the opposition. They dictate terms and the ability to do so hinges on the knowing what every player can do and cannot do.
So, why hasn’t every team simply copied the Patriots? It’s because the Patriot way requires patience, perseverance, precision and the willingness to make the tough decision. Its a long haul and many teams need to win today which forces their hand. Patience is not a commodity they own.
The Patriots are always in a position to manage the inevitable, difficult times with clarity, with patience and precision. The bar of competency is never lowered! If a player is injured, traded or retires the adaptation begins. They do not rebuild…they re-load.
As a team builder and movie buff, I am always looking for storylines that inspire.
The movie “Apollo 13” ranks among my top choices. Plenty of very smart people want to work at NASA…very few people actually get to work there because NASA wants a specific type of smart.
They don’t only want people who can help get a 45,931kg rocket to the moon and back but rather a team that can get a flight crew back when the 45,931kg rocket craps out which it did for the Apollo 13 crew.
Apollo 13 Flight Director Gene Krantz discussed one of the crucial issues they had to overcome after an explosion on the ship forced the flight crew from the command module into the landing module which was not designed to carry the crew around the moon and back to earth. Somehow they had to re-build a filter that would save the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert.
“The trouble was the square lithium hydroxide canisters from the CM (command module) would not fit the round openings of those in the LM (landing module) environmental system. After a day and a half in the LM a warning light showed us that the carbon dioxide had built up to a dangerous level, but the ground was ready. They had thought up a way to attach a CM canister to the LM system by using plastic bags, cardboard, and tape- all materials we had on board. Jack Swigert and I put it together: just like building a model airplane. The contraption wasn’t very handsome, but it worked. It was a great improvisation- and a fine example of cooperation between ground and space.”
The only way a team can enjoy success is for leadership to know what each team member can do individually, incorporate their skill set into the team and then ask to savor the ask of performing at a high level of competency.
So, to get somewhere, get to know your team! Getting off on the right foot is challenging and rewarding. Getting off on the wrong foot is easy and consumes time and energy. For every step in the wrong direction, there are 2 steps backward to make up for getting lost.
Ken Evraire is an award winning presenter, team builder and coach. As a former professional athlete, he has learned a from great coaches…learned even more from his bad coaches!