My family really enjoys doing puzzles. It gives us an activity that we can all work on together and separately that doesn’t involve technology. Sometimes it’s a very passive activity. We’ll work on it for a few minutes and walk away. Other times it’s the three of us going at it for a 30-minute session. I realized that puzzles can teach us a bit about leadership during my most recent puzzle session with my wife.
Sometimes in leadership, you walk into a mess
When you first open the box to a new puzzle, it’s a chaotic mess. The fun of puzzles is putting it all back together and establishing order where there was chaos. Life in your leadership walk will be exactly the same. Sometimes you’ll walk into a 250 piece puzzle size mess that you can easily put back together and other times it will be a 3,000 piece monster that takes a team effort to accomplish.
Knowing that problems are going to happen and embracing them instead of focusing on how they impact you, will help you get the puzzle together quicker.
Be clear on your starting points
You’ve got all the pieces spilled out on to the table. Now what? You’ve got to pick a clear starting point and go from there. My wife loves to knock out the edge first and doesn’t like to even look at anything else until that is done. Only after the edge is put together does she then plan what her next focus point will be.
It can be overwhelming when you walk into a very complex challenge or problem. Assess the situation, and chose what you feel is the most logical and impactful starting point. Communicate the plan to the team so that they can be effective in their work towards the common goal.
As much as you may want to, you can’t do everything at once. Sharon often reminds me of this point as we work on our puzzles together. (And that’s how this topic came to be!)
Embrace other people’s styles
We all have our own unique styles and ways that we go about accomplishing a goal. Make sure to embrace other people’s styles as you work toward the goal. Sharon and I are very different in our approach to how we work on our puzzle. She pulls out the pieces, organizes and works on sections. I have the odd ability to look at the pile and pull out individual pieces and know where they fit. Together we make a pretty good combination in reaching our goal.
If we bickered about our different approaches, we would become very ineffective to the point that it could impact our relationship. Instead of fighting someone’s unique style, look for ways that the person can contribute in a positive way to your team’s effort.
There are no easy walks for a good leader. Be prepared for those times when you walk into a mess. Formulate your plan, embrace your team’s unique makeup and have fun along the way.
Make a better tomorrow.