Tribal Leadership

TLI One: Disembodied Geniuses and an epiphany!

I spent the last two evenings working on executing on my strategy with various degrees of success.  As I was struggling with recording my podcast on Monday night, my mind started to wander to Elizabeth Gilbert and disembodied geniuses.  What an incredibly good teaser for people outside the course!  To learn more about what I am talking about, please read on!

On Monday night, I decided to start recording the first podcast for my website.  I worked on it close to an hour with no results to show.  It was fun and maddening and just as I started blaming myself for not getting through the recording, I flashed back to the Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity we watched last week.

I started thinking back on those disembodied geniuses she was telling us about and decided I needed to one of those to help.  I started by looking for the “Disembodied Geniuses” category in the Yellow Pages but could not find it.  I also considered posting an ad in the classifieds section of my local newspaper but in the end, I decided it would be faster if I just made one up for myself instead.  To make it easier to communicate, I even gave him a name…  Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce you to my own personal Disembodied Genius:  Jim Bob!

To give some context to this post, Figure 1 below shows the assets and challenges I identified in an earlier post for doing my recordings.

Figure 1: Assets and Challenges of my outcome strategy

Figure 1: Assets and Challenges of my outcome strategy

This week, I discovered my Powerpoint deck did not address the challenge of not being able to improvise a fifteen-minute podcast.  There was still a fair amount of improvisation going on.  I had a long chat with Jim Bob (good god I must sound nuts right now, but I am enjoying myself) and we came to an agreement.  We agreed if I took the time to write a script for my slides, Jim Bob would help me get through the recording unscathed.  So I did that for the first slides and got five minutes of usable audio for less than ten minutes of recording.

If you take another look at Figure 1 again, you will see that I identified “I want it to sound natural, like when I do a live talk” as one of my challenges for recording the audio CD.  Originally, I was afraid that scripting it, as per Jim Bob’s suggestion would add this pitfall to recording the podcast.  I weighed the pitfalls against each other and decided I could overcome making it sound natural more easily than to deal with the improvisation issue.

To make it sound natural and not as if I am reading from a script, I decided to give myself creative license when I am recording.  I can change words going through the script but having it takes away part of the hesitation I had.  To address my stumbling issue, I decided to just stop for a couple of seconds and restart from the top of the last paragraph each time I stumble.  When I do the post production, I will keep the good parts and edit out the rest.

I was reflecting today on places I worked and the cultures I met.  I came to an interesting epiphany doing this reflection and I wanted to share my observations on a group of people that shows an interesting paradox.

I once worked in an organization of about twenty people split in multiple teams.  When thinking back to the management team, you could see stage three (I am great) thinking where some managers would talk terms of their own personal success (perceived or real).  Most teams in the group performed at stage two (my life sucks) because those managers enjoyed having them there.  They systematically immediately squashed any perceived threat to their decision making ability by reaffirming their authority.

Despite the environment they were in, one of the teams found a way to consistently work at stage four (we are great…).  The core values of their manager, who valued teamwork and collaboration above all else encouraged them to work that way.  The team had growing pains when they started working together, but even through those growing pains, they found ways to work through their differences and collaborate.

Here comes the epiphany…  As I was reflecting on this group, I realized the paradox between the stages at which the teams performed but I had a hard time putting that last team at stage four.  I came to realize the difficulty came from my personal definition of greatness.  To me greatness is perfection, or at least achieving something at a very high standard.  Using my high personal standards, this team did not achieve that, at best, they were good.  When I stepped back and took a closer look, I came to accept that stage four is not literally about “being great”, it is really about the “WE” part.  I broke it down to the following short list:

  • Their collaboration level
  • Their personal interactions
  • Their ability to work together
  • Their ability to deliver “something” consistently

Another example came to mind after I had this epiphany.  I thought back to a conversation after the call last week when I spoke with the trainers about the content of these blog posts.  I am aware what I write here can have an impact if someone interested in the class reads my blog before signing up.  If I consistently write bad things, that person may not sign up because of my impressions.  I was very careful when I wrote about not liking the second class because of that.  When I asked them about it, one of them answered: “You know Steffan, it is ok.  No matter what, we know we are great!” My realization about the team I discussed earlier made me look back at that statement in a different light.  Today, using the criteria I outlined above, I can confirm they are great!

On a personal note, the participants in the course are really great!  After hearing about my challenge defining one of my strategies in the course, a few people e-mailed me to talk about their experiences and offer advice and help.  I am really grateful to you guys for taking the time to do that!

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