When I was a kid, there was a cartoon called the Wonder Twins that I would find myself watching on a Saturday morning. The premise involved a twin brother and sister who were superheroes. Their “superpower” was to put their fists together, say “Wonder Twin powers activate, form of a…” and become whatever they said they wanted to be, supposedly they would become something that would be beneficial for fighting whatever enemy they needed to fight at the time. As a kid, I thought everything they turned it to was cool and innovative. As an adult, I look back on these transformations as very odd and peculiar. Recently I stumbled upon a video, of an episode, of the wonder twins where they were fighting some kind of evil and they did their thing, put their fists together and became… an octopus and an ice-covered unicycle. Yep you heard me right.
What in the world do an octopus and an ice-covered unicycle have in common? Absolutely nothing. But this did get me thinking, beyond how weird it is, but it got me thinking about the teams we lead. Our teams are made up of a combination of very different skills, talents, emotional maturity, experience, and passions… octopuses and ice-covered unicycles. Great leaders lead through differences, take those differences and make them work together to achieve the vision. If we combine our talents, perspectives, and gifts to lead with one voice we have a different kind of influence with the next generation.
Let’s look at how we do this.
- Don’t Change them Challenge them. Too many times leaders attempt to change their team to fit all of the differences into one paradigm. As leaders we should not try and change those who are different, we should challenge them to work together and use the strengths of their differences to help one another achieve the vision. Malcomb Forbes once said, “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together.”.
- Encourage Collaboration and not Competition. Great teams work in collaboration with one another and not competition with one another. Leaders have a responsibility to take the differences that exist among a team and build a culture where status, money, affirmation and individual wins are secondary to working together for the same desired outcomes. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Hellen Keller.
- Embrace Differences and not Dysfunction. Let’s be honest an octopus and an ice-covered unicycle are very dysfunctional together. I’m not even sure how they would work together but they did, and it turned out good. Leaders must focus on the differences and the good those differences can bring to the organization and not the dysfunction that may or may not be associated with them. Sean Covey is quoted as saying about differences; “Fruit salad is delicious preciously because each fruit maintains its own flavor.” For example, you may have a player that has some different personality traits and if you fought against those traits it may highlight the possible dysfunction they may bring to the team. Instead focus on how the differences can be used to bring good to the team.
Make sure you encourage your octopuses and your ice-covered unicycles to work together and if you do you have a much better chance of achieving what it is you set out to achieve.