When Crap Lead to a Leadership Breakthrough

A friend of mine told me a story I have not forgotten.  He was traveling up a mountain road stuck behind a cattle truck.  He wanted to pass but could not get a clear shot when one of the cows let fly and covered his wind shield in well, fertilizer.
“I nearly crashed…the stuff doesn’t respond to wind shield wipers well.”  He said.

“What did you do?” I queried.

He laughed and said, “I prayed as I pulled over; ‘crap, God why me?’”

“I was really pissed,” he continued.  “I envisioned my paint job being ruined, I smelled like a barnyard – that was going to go over well in my next meeting. Then something strange happened.”

“What?” I asked.

“I don’t way to say God talked to me” he began “…don’t think I am loosing it, but it was like God was talking to me and answered the question I asked in my self-pity, ‘Because you were following too close much like you do with your team, back up enough to coach and not be blinded by the stuff that happens.'”

The encounter changed his approach to leadership – he moved from micro managing (stage managing) his team to holding them accountable for their roles while trusting and mentoring their decision-making processes.

It is amazing what happens when leaders hold their teams to account for outcomes and then mentor them along the way pushing decisions back to the right people when those people attempt to slide out of responsibility.  He stopped retaking delegated authority and then resenting the fact all the work landed on his shoulders.

He took the crappy experience to heart and his team became one of the most effective and efficient management groups in his industry – and they started having fun.  Actually leading and not dictating and micro managing changed the way he viewed his team.  He respected them more versus resenting them. He trusted them more instead of being constantly suspicious of their activity.

On the flip side his team started trusting him.  Understanding mentoring as a leadership activity is the back story about what he learned.  Check out these other two articles and think about how to put mentoring to work in your leadership situation.  http://raywheeler.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/mentors-developing-highly-effective-leaders/ and http://raywheeler.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/4-ways-to-mentor-your-team-to-success/

But, be careful.  No one is exempt from crap happening – make sure your positioning as a leader accounts for the unexpected and that you have the mentoring skills to lead others through the mess.