Good Leaders Make Success Happen
Courtney Lynch, August 22, 2016
Hands down, the highlight of my 10-year-old daughter Kara’s summer was attending Dog Camp. Kara and our golden retriever Jake spent a full week working together to learn tricks, agility and teamwork. The camp was held in a simple red building with a large grassy field behind it. No frills, but lots of heart. The pinnacle of the entire week was the dog show held on the last day of camp.
A couple of weeks prior to dog camp a client asked me to spend a day shadowing the leader of one of their key business units. The unit had been experiencing some people challenges and they wanted me to have an opportunity to informally share thoughts with the head of the business on potential strategies for overcoming the issues at hand.
The day the client picked for my visit happened to be the day before the dog show. My plan was to head out to the West Coast, spend quality time with the client and then fly back, arriving home right before the camp finale. Lucky for me the plan worked and I was able to settle into my seat minutes before the show began.
Driving from the airport to dog camp I had a lot on my mind. The senior manager I spent time in consultation with the day before had intrigued me. He and his team weren’t seeing eye to eye and their lack of alignment was impacting business results. An extremely intelligent person, he was struggling with demonstrating some “simple” leadership fundamentals. A culture of candor wasn’t present on his team. Problems weren’t discussed openly and accountability was fleeting. Camaraderie was absent and anxiety was high. The manager was very self-aware and had a strong commitment to do whatever he could to turn things around. Together we strategized on next, best steps. Yet, at one point, he expressed how skeptical he was about the pathway to building trust we were discussing. How could simple practices like sharing clear intent and expectations, holding others accountable to standards, practicing empathy through listening, understanding and acts of service, begin to make a difference? I assured him leadership wasn’t about being complex – it was about being effective.
My flashback to the meeting ended as the dog show began. The director of the camp stood front and center and shared a brief introduction. She spoke about how as a little girl she had dreamed of attending dog camp yet one did not exist. As a retiree, she decided to create one. She applauded how hard the kids had worked at camp and how through the week they had learned to lead their dogs and each other. She discussed how the kids had overcome a lot to design their show. She had been clear with the goals, had coached and mentored them, yet ultimately the results were all theirs. At the end of her speech, Elvis Presley’s, “Hound Dog” burst out of makeshift speakers and the kids and dogs took the stage. The show was spectacular! It was simple, humble and modest. Mistakes were made, accountability happened and feedback was shared throughout. Little leadership practices were evident everywhere. I only wished that my client had a chance to see the impact one inspiring leader had on so many kids (and parents) in such a brief time.
Good leaders, demonstrating simple fundamentals, can make success happen anywhere. It’s easy to think that the actions and behaviors of one person can’t have enough impact to turn a group into a high performing team. Yet, that’s always how a great team, business unit, company (or even a dog camp) is built – one leader at a time.