tip tuesday

Throughout my career, I have had so many iterations and teams and, to be honest, not all have worked well together. Trust me, I wanted them to. I did everything but pull out my own eye teeth to get them to work sometimes, but many of them just… didn’t. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t?

The truth is, even as a leader, I can’t force it to happen. Kind of like how you can’t force yourself to fall in love with someone, even though they look like “the one” on paper. The magic is either there or it isn’t.

While I can’t force teams to work well (or play nice) together, it is my responsibility to pay attention to what is going on and to listen and act appropriately. That, however, doesn’t mean I should believe I have superpowers that can fix people and situations.

I used to believe I had superpowers and could fix just about anything. I really believed if I gave a team my all… if I made sure everyone had proper training and opportunities to grow, I could change negative attitudes and build up deficiencies and skillsets.

Sometimes all of this “fixing” and hoping would work, but more often than not, the whole situation would blow up in my face like a bag of cartoon dynamite.

Here’s a great example:

I had an employee who handed in her resignation and I refused to accept the fact. Why did I refuse to accept reality? Because my ego convinced me that I could fix what was impacting her performance level, low contribution to the team, and what she was able to give to students. I let my ego guide my leadership and the cost was huge. The employee left anyway, other team members resented the effort I had put into her needs and attitude, and overall morale took a hit.

I learned a very important lesson: I have no superpowers, I can simply bring out and enhance what is already there if the employee has the motivation to learn, grow and contribute.

From then on my very human superpower was going to be OK-Ray Vision. You know, instead of super powerful X-Ray vision that can see through solid steel, my OK-Ray vision would allow me to see any cracks starting to form in my team’s foundation so I could address them. My OK-Ray vision would help me identify programs that needed improvement and employees that needed guidance, encouragement and honest feedback.

How to Develop Your Own OK-Ray Vision

So, it’s now mid-June, and the focus for this week 3 of summer vacation is to begin to develop your own OK-Ray vision. I’ll let you in on a little secret: the quickest and most effective way to develop OK-Ray Vision is to honestly answer a few questions:

  • What’s working and what’s been holding your team back?
  • What are the internal things that have been festering and causing decay to your foundation? These could be things like ineffective processes or bad communication.
  • What were the signals (that something not-so-great was going on) that you chose to ignore?
  • What signals were kept from you, by whom and why?
  • In what ways can you motivate and inspire your team to repair these cracks for themselves moving forward?

Developing your OK-Ray Vision is an important first step to addressing any lingering issues before the start of the new semester. Of course, you’ll absolutely need to follow through and have those tough conversations and make some tough decisions because it will be better for individual employees, the team as a whole, and most importantly, the students.

Having OK-Ray Vision will help you identify and assess cracks in your foundation, and that is critical to your ability to lead effectively.

Debra Griffith is an Associate Vice President at San Jose State University 
Consultant|  Speaker | Coach |Strategist |Trainer