It happened more than a decade back. We were at Offsite for a yearly strategy meeting. As it happens we had a team-building exercise during that offsite. In one exercise, we’re divided into three teams. I was leading one and there were two more people. Leaders were taken to one side by one organizer and explained what is expected and how to achieve it. Other team members of organizers were with the team members. Now we were brought back we were taken to our teams. We were surprised they were blindfolded. We were told that whatever we were taught get the same thing done from the team members. Conditions – they cannot open their eyes. You have to only guide them on what to do. You cannot touch any material. If we need some help, we’ve to guide and speak with the organizing team member.
My team came second; the team that came third had our senior leadership rep in the team. Experience sharing started, this time team members were given the first opportunity to speak. The senior rep said – “Though our team came third however we were aware of what we were doing. Our leader explained what we have to do.” This comment was a bit surprising for me, I was not allowed to speak. So, one of my team members started sharing experience – “He said we were not able to understand what we were doing as we were blindfolded”. Now, this was even more surprising – every team’s team members were blindfolded, only leaders and the organizers were not. Leaders turn came – I said, I am surprised with my team member said he did not know what’s happening, everyone knew we were making a tent right? The way you explained to us, you must have taught how to make it when you were teaching us. I am thinking why you blindfolded the team members?
So the organizers said, it is good that you came second, missed your top position only by few seconds. However, why did you think we taught you and the team members same thing? Is not it that you assumed team members were taught the same thing? I said yes I assumed they were. The organizer said – you were good at instructing your team, therefore, you were second. However, you did not win the trust of your team; see an open disagreement is there.
I came to know that I was very good at instructing people. I had learnt it when I was in NCC, though I learnt only little there – I missed another learning big time. I realized in this incident that to become a good leader I needed to improve. Never assume anything; this was one of the biggest lessons for me from that offsite. Many people, as I did in the scenario, assume things such as and expect good results from others. We expect certain behavior from others that we take for granted. Every individual is different so few things must be communicated as much a good leader makes it easy to understand the vision – communication is the key to that.
Recently it happened that when I spoke with a friend of mine, he said why do you communicate these things before making a decision? I felt a bit uncomfortable to answer the question. I realized he did not have the experience I got more than a decade back. I hope I am learning good lessons with each interaction to become a good leader.
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