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Meeting People Where They Are

As leaders, we often see how things should be and strive to make it so.  Visions are necessary. As are having a compass or guidelines, must haves and BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and all of those things that give us structure and space to create and innovate and accomplish cool things.

So what if your team is just surviving each day, barely hanging on by their fingernails, trying to get to where you already are? The possibility is that in an attempt to inspire (cajole, bribe, plead… ) your team to greater heights, you are not meeting them where they are on the journey. Imagine being on a mountain-climbing expedition, and your guide, in his exuberance, is already a mile ahead of you on the climb while you’re still at basecamp packing your backpack.  You might be feeling a bit frustrated, perhaps even angry and bitter for signing up for this trip. 

One way to find out if you and your team are in sync is to get to know them.  Some humility and transparency are helpful when you are trying to motivate the hearts and minds of others.  If you are a driver and not sure how to meet folks where they are because you have a lot of stuff to get done in a short amount of time, here are a few thoughts about how you might slow down and allow your team to catch up:

  • Remember that it’s not just about you.  And it’s not about what you believe people should be. It starts with getting to know who they are right here and right now. Start with making time to really get to know your team. I’m sure you’ve met that leader that does a drive-by check-in, running by you in the hallway with a “Hey how are you doing? Yea, me too!  See you – busy, busy… catch up soon!”  It feels pretty disingenuous when leaders do not make time to connect, cancel one-on-one meetings, show up late for meetings with their subordinates and don’t really know their team.
  • Plan for time to learn and develop, both for you and your team. Be curious and ask questions, rather than making assumptions and acting only from your gut. Gather facts (not the same as opinions). Dig deep and do your due diligence, even if it takes some time. Operating from facts rather than opinions and emotions can help you make better decisions and reduce team drama.
  • Know the difference between support and co-dependence. You can support, develop and hold people accountable for their work without removing responsibility. You may be able to do a task better and faster, but that doesn’t teach anyone else to master a new skill.  You can become a barrier to attaining your own vision by not sharing responsibility.

Once you meet your team where they are, it will be easier for them to follow your lead. They will respond better to a challenge that stretches them and moves them toward your vision in a way that allows them to be with you, rather than a team that never leaves basecamp.