I enjoy looking at my “Memories” on Facebook each day. These are select items that you have posted on the particular date the past few years. Recently, the above photo showed up, reminding me of a day six years ago in which I learned a valuable lesson – not to underestimate my team members.
For the majority of my career as a leader in a Fortune 50 organization, my team members were located in the same town that I was. They might not be in the same facility, or the same building or floor of the campus I worked at, but they were always in the same town. But in the last year and a half of my career, that changed. First, I had an opportunity to lead a five-person team in Atlanta, and later, I also had the pleasure of working with one person in our Phoenix facility. Although I sadly was never able to make a trip to Phoenix, I was able to visit the Atlanta team four times. During those visits, one of the things we made sure to do was some type of team activity to better get to know each other. The first we did was the Escape Room.
If you are not familiar with the Escape Room activity, let me give you a brief overview. You and your team are placed in a locked room. You have to solve a mystery within one hour in order to “escape” – or win the game. I have to admit that as an introvert, such an activity is not my favorite, but leaders who are introverts have to learn how to manage around those situations in which they are not necessarily comfortable.
This team activity took place just a few months into my relationship with the new team. For three of the five team members, this visit was the first time we had met face to face, though we had communicated several times on Skype. In my mind, I had already made some initial assessments about each person – who was a leader, a driver, or more of a follower. What happened during the Escape Room activity was eye opening for me.
The individuals who I had observed having leadership skills demonstrated those skills during the activity. But what stood out to me were a few team members who were on the introverted side. They really took charge during the activity, and I got to see them in a whole new light. The lesson it taught me was not to be so quick to make judgements about team members. Not to “put them in a box”, we might say.
My advice to leaders is not be too quick to make the mistake I did, which was based on my observations of the work these team members were doing and my conversations I had with them. Put in a different situation, their “performance” in the team activity opened my eyes to their potential.
For team members who feel that their leader has put them in a box, talk to your leader about a new assignment in which you can better demonstrate your skills.
Leaders, have you underestimated one of your team members in the past and learned lessons similar to mine?
February 20, 2023 at 7:07 am
Good post, Bill, and fun story!
February 20, 2023 at 10:38 am