The words were out of his mouth before he even realized what he had said.
Evan had listened to his team complain about dwindling business for so long that he was at the end of his tether. They had speculated about competition, whined about customer buying trends, and found seemingly every conceivable excuse for why business was down. They had blamed the economy, customer attitudes, and even the current administration for the downturn in profits, but they had neglected to look at the one thing that could turn things around. The mirror.
People need a leader. Leaders make us feel safe and that there is a plan for our path. Every person on the team has a role to play, and each one is willing to do their part. The leader’s job is to know what those parts are and to tell the team members which ones belong to them. If you are a leader, you cannot simply tell your team to “Do something.” It is not a lack of willingness that promotes inactivity. It is a lack of direction. As a leader, you have to be in front of your team. You have to be the dog in the very front of the pack (You know, where the scenery does change). You must be visionary, inventive, and insightful and have answers to questions that may never be asked.
Leaders, you may not even have a team to lead, but you know that others follow you and look to you for direction, vision, and encouragement. You spend time in your head, developing ideas and strategy, and you bring those (sometimes not fully developed) ideas to others with a passion to make things happen. Sometimes you get frustrated when others lack the vision you have to take action. This is where true leadership gets hard. Ideas are great, and we need a lot of them in order to find the few that will become a part of our success.
We hope for a perfect stew, where every ingredient knows precisely how much is required and blends perfectly with the others. The truth is that the chef (You) has to determine that before it all goes into the pot. One by one, we carefully add each critical element and cook at the right temperature so we aren’t eating stone soup for dinner.
It is your job. Your job is not running reports, participating in meetings, or even licking the wounds of an injured coworker. It is planning, assembling, and tending the stew. You can’t tell the potato (with all its rich flavor and unique texture) to “Do something.” You have to show it how it works together with the carrot, celery, peas, beef, and even the occasional bay leaf to create a masterpiece.
One last thought, Potatoes. If you know the role of a potato, don’t wait for the chef to tell you. Be an outstanding potato. Be proactive and support your leader in creating results. Come to the proverbial table with new ideas (recipes). There can definitely be too many cooks in the kitchen, and there can definitely be too few.
Now, Do Something.