Holiday leadership learnings – hidden skills.

Holidays and daily work routine; it sounds like pure opposites. It sounds like comfort – discomfort, like exterior – interior, like left and right, like capable – incapable. In this first blog in a series on holidays and corporate life, I’ll share my experience on hidden skills. On hidden capabilities. We all have them and seem to demonstrate these only in very special circumstances.

TIREDriving down in a small valley in France a steep dirt road, I got a flat tire. Yes I agree, I should have rented a MPV; but I didn’t. And after all, it’s not such a disaster. Until you experience that in this godforsaken place, there is also no mobile network. And the nearest village seems to be a 30 minutes’ walk; so there is no option as to change the flat tire myself. Me and technical skills; you must be joking. But I went well structured through the process; starting with reading the car’s manual. And I managed it; in less than half an hour.

With slate and old rocks, I have also paved a walkway to the riverside of our holiday house. At the annual party of the local fire brigade (in this desolated village that’s 4 people -including the mayor and his much younger wife), I performed as a stand-up comedian and got the audience laughing. ‘The audience’ was a massive crowd of circa 20 people; but I enjoyed it. And –perhaps not special to you- I made a dish of goose liver with caramelised apples and cranberries. Never ever cooked before; apart from a sunny-side-up.

So I learned that I can do other things, other than putting my smartphone to my ear, other than presenting on progress reports, other than disgorging corporate buzzwords.  And why don’t we tap into these hidden skills of our business teams? Because they are hidden is the answer. But that’s not good enough an answer for real leaders. Successful leaders delve deeper and engage with their staff; or in other very basic words, they listen to them.  And ‘listening’ is more than just being there. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – S. Covey

There is also nothing wrong with the old management approach of ‘throw him in the water and he’ll swim’. As long as you are there with them as a life coach. Or appoint an experienced buddy or mentor to get them through a completely new project. Great leaders can let go of their expectations and take measured risks when bringing people out of their comfort zone. Empowering leaders treat their staff as ‘partners’; not just as employees. They create a favourable environment in which people are encouraged to grow their skills and to demonstrate new ‘tire repair’ capabilities. And mostly, these leaders get rewarded with surprising results; and remarkable team satisfaction.

Who says that your Accounting Manager can’t fix the flat tire of the stuck innovation project? Who says that your pay-roll supervisor can’t pave the path to an improved communication strategy?

Do you know the unexpected skills and capabilities of Patricia, John and Paul? Do you know what great contributions they could bring outside their comfort zone? Asking, listening, showing genuine interest and ‘giving it a try’ are a basic but excellent start.

Picture credits from 
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