Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
In my last post, Time to Clean the House, I tried to relate the childhood struggles of cleaning your room with some of the adult challenges you may face at work dealing with a messy situation or a difficult project. In this next post, I reflect back on the childhood trauma associated with being the youngest of five kids and trying to find ways to work with my brothers and sisters to get the job done.
If you were fortunate like me, you grew up in a large family. With 5 of us kids and me being the youngest, the older ones were constantly looking for ways to complete their chores, but with the least amount of effort on their part. In my 53-year-old mind, I remember myself as being the victim to my older siblings' cunning and more worldly approach to getting things done. Plus, I was the baby of the family and widely known as the sweetest of the Brown kids. So, I’m pretty sure I never pulled these stunts myself.
Below are some of the approaches that I remember my siblings taking to help with chores when I was a kid. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
I was convinced for many years that my middle brother was a magician for his uncanny ability to walk into a room and in what seemed like a manner of minutes, would walk out with a clean room. What seemed to be a monumental task of cleaning a room that would take me the better part of a day, he always seemed to knock out in a manner of minutes without a sweat. Of course, only a 5-year-old could fall for his tricks as my mom would walk in, open the closet door and quickly step away as balls and stuffed animals came tumbling down. She would move the bean bag to reveal a pile of matchbox cars. Shoving things under the bed or into the closet may at first glance give the appearance of a clean room, but the experienced manager, in this case our mom, knows to open the closet door and look under the bed when inspecting. The Magician doesn’t address the clutter, they just hide it.
They like to spend more time talking about what they did then they actually spent cleaning their room or doing the chore. But they want everyone to know what they did and how arduous the task that they somehow, through the grace of God and their own perseverance, was able to overcome. Many times, the Martyr may be related to the Team Player. But related by marriage, like a cousin Eddie. They willingly help you do the chores and may or may not talk about it while it is happening, but afterwards, they go into full Martyrdom mode!
While I do remember the Banker making an appearance once or twice during my youth, they would typically barter for my labor by offering up one of their treasures of such value that only big brothers can accurately describe. My more recent experience with this was watching my oldest son constantly “hire” his siblings to perform tasks throughout their childhood. What started as simple chores, turned into hauling hay, building fence and numerous other jobs with promised riches. But what I witnessed was the transformation of the Banker to the Wealthy Nigerian Uncle scam!
“But Mom… have you seen Bob’s Room?!” Honestly, not sure which sibling did this the most, because I’m sure we were all guilty of it at some point. But when Mom came to you about your room, your first reaction was to pull out the deflect and distract strategy in hopes that she would walk down the hall and transfer her wrath from your direction to that of your slovenly brother. Even the most experienced parent can fall victim to this trickster as they know just how to play on the emotions and push the right buttons.
Typically, this is the oldest child. They take the leadership role because hey, it’s not their first rodeo. They will typically call a family meeting and lay out their detailed plan showing how an organized and aligned approach will achieve the goal of a clean house. Further, to guarantee participation, they will show that by allowing people to use their strengths, they can get all of the chores done faster and more efficiently giving everyone more time for something fun. If necessary, The Strategist has been known to provide donuts or other extra benefits to coax them to action. The Strategist is a master of keeping their hands clean and callus free.
The Team Player
The classic, “many hands make lite work” person who always seems willing to lend a hand to get things done. They seem to make the chore run smoother and it always takes less time than it would have done alone. The best part is that the Team Player always seems to make the work fun. Now, you need to be careful, because sometimes what at first seems to be a Team Player, is actually someone in disguise. A regular Scooby Doo villain if you will.
The Ghost starts out as the Team Player and get you to agree that the two of you should work together to clean both of your rooms. Making it easier to get done and it will be more fun to work together. Somehow, they always start in their own room first. They work hard and provide direction to you as you work and show great appreciation for your help. Then, it’s time to move to your room and BAM! The Team Player transforms into The Ghost and is gone! Their room is now clean. Their goal is accomplished. They really have no reason to continue to help clean your room. You are left frustrated, tired, and facing your own room to clean - alone.
Not to be confused with The Team Player, the Helper volunteers to help with the best of intentions, but typically becomes a distraction and not much of a helper. They tend to look through everything in the room, get distracted and start playing around. Sometimes they morph into Scope Creep and spend their time re-sorting or expanding the scope from cleaning the room, to reorganizing or even going as far as renovating the room!
Ultimately, when things need to get done, taking ownership of the outcome is a great starting point. It takes ownership of all family members to create and maintain an environment that is free of clutter, organized and optimizes harmony in a living space. It is this same ownership in that family unit that translates to work teams and their ability to clean their room for the greater good. For work teams to be effective, time needs to be spent to make sure it is a strong team, with clarified roles and responsibilities, that are willing to work together for a common goal that can keep your room clean Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.