The hardest part of leadership (or any collaborative project) is reading minds.
I know. I know.
Mind-reading is a sham—something you pay a nickel to experience at a carnival, but the reality is it would be a helpful skill in many facets of my life
(father, business owner, baseball coach).
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve headed to the office, house or a ball field thinking everything was going smoothly.
Then, I actually walk through the door/gate.
After a few moments, it’s apparent that something is not quite right.
Not everybody is happy.
Like all good leaders (i.e., wimps), my first reaction is to ignore it, give it a chance to clean itself up. Maybe the party in question is simply having a bad day.
More often than not, one bad day leads to several and, ultimately, I’m forced to deal with it head-on.
As a younger man, I would first try the always useless “dance-around-the subject approach.” I would pleasantly ask if “Everything was all right?”
The dead-end answer was always, “Yep, I’m fine.”
Now, of course, you’re not fine. In fact, I can’t even hear what you’re saying over the message your body language is shouting at me.
So, as a slightly more astute 40-year-old, I now ask the more direct question, as in “What’s wrong with you?”
Although it’s normally the same answer, some version of “Nothing, I’m fine,” the line of questioning has changed, which gives me the opportunity to follow up with something like, “Obviously everything’s not fine. You’re acting like the world is caving in on you. So, what’s really going on?”
If I’m successful (which means I’m talking with somebody with lots of life experience) I get an honest, straightforward answer that leads to a solution.
But honest, straightforward answers are normally in short supply.
So, there’s usually a few more minutes of dancing around the issue before we dig up a solvable problem—my brother is constantly punching me when you’re not looking, I’m batting eighth and have always batted third, whatever.
What constantly amazes me about this process is how simple it is to solve the problem once it’s identified. It also amazes me how often poor communication led to the problem in the first place.
A solution, sometimes painfully achieved, is the end-result of collaboration— something the agencies featured in this month’s issue know all about.
Inside, you’ll find an amazing array of outdoor adventures, sports and activities stories, which more often than not, take place in facilities built and maintained by both public and private stakeholders—which means leaders at all levels worked tirelessly to find a way to move everyone in the same direction.
That’s an awesome task—one that could only be accomplished by truly powerful mind-readers.
Rodney J. Auth