Coach’s Challenge for 2/9/09

Good day, team,

At the end of last year, I received a holiday card from one of the people who helped redesign my Web site. Her name is *Lyza, and among her many talents, she is also becoming an accomplished printer. I don’t mean digital printing, I mean learning how to print on an old press using traditional printing methods.

The card she sent was an example of her most recent project, and what a gift it was! It was a pleasure to hold it in my hand: Beautifully printed words on a vanilla-colored hard-stock paper with a nice look and feel.
As I read the message on the card, I recognized it as the work of Lao Tzu. In case you’re not familiar with him, Lao Tzu is considered the father of Chinese Taoism. He lived in the 6th century B.C.E. and is the author of the Tao Te Ching (The Book of Changes). If you’re not aware of him, I encourage you to read some of his writings. They are filled with timeless philosophical messages and beautiful poetry.

The card read:

True leaders
are hardly known to their followers.
Next after them are the leaders
the people know and admire;
after them, those they fear,
after them, those they despise.

To give no trust
is to get no trust.

When the work’s done right,
with no fuss or boasting,
ordinary people say,
Oh, we did it.

Lao Tzu (Verse 17 from the Tao Te Ching)

This interpretation comes from Ursula LeGuin, a famous contemporary author who lives here in Portland.

I read the card and I must admit, at first, I didn’t completely understand it. I understood the part about trust and those two lines were printed in red, so they jumped out at me. But the first two lines still puzzled me. So I put the card on my desk in a place where I’d see it each day and decided to wait until I had some time to actually think about it.

Today, I had some extra time to reread the card, and I finally did understand the message.  But I also had to ask myself if the first two lines were true. I thought about the people I’ve known in my life whom I consider true leader and it dawned on me that there is some truth to these lines. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they were not known by their followers, but these leaders were known to people in much more subtle ways than you would expect.  That is, they didn’t come across as “the boss,” nor were they heavy-handed in any way. They didn’t elicit fear from or intimidate team members, and they were often not the greatest salespeople in the room. They just had a way about them that made other people want to be around them. And they were really good at making decisions that enabled the entire team to be involved in the process. I don’t mean they always achieved consensus, but people wanted to participate with them in whatever they were doing. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that generally everyone who knew them wanted to be a lot more like them.

True leaders inspire people to want to work, to want to be better, to want to get involved. They have a way of increasing our desire to be more than what we are, and they show us what we can become. If they do this in such a way that, in the end, the team gets the credit, then everybody comes out on top.

Your challenge this week is to identify what leadership qualities you have and how your qualities benefit others. If you’re in a leadership position, how would the people who report to you describe you?  Would they say that they fear you?  Or maybe they would say that they admire you.  Do you trust the people who work for you?  Do you trust the people you work for and with?  Do you notice that when you don’t trust people, they’re leery of you as well?  How often do all the team members feel that they’ve been an integral part of your company or project’s success because, as their leader, you inspired them to fully engage?

This week, try focusing on your leadership qualities and skills. Find out how much of the work is about you and how much is about the team. Be honest with yourself. Try moving out of your comfort zone by trusting people you’re not exactly sure about and see if it helps the relationship you have with them. I think we can all strive, as Lao Tzu said, to feel that sense of mutual success “When the works done right, with no fuss or boasting.”

Have a good week!

Kathleen

Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2009 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

* Many thanks to Lyza Danger Gardner with Cloud Four for sending me the card and inspiring me to write this challenge. To see the card, click on this link:  http://flickr.com/photos/lyza/3105948822/in/set-72157607176565799/.

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