As a leader, you constantly try to assess what the best direction for your team and yourself are. I took the high road by subliminally suggesting the importance of your colleagues before you; a small detail. In truth though, most of your success is tied to the homogeneous mix within your team and not as the chef who ultimately decides what ingredients build the five-star soup.
It has been said that genius leaders aren’t recognized by how they run an entity. More so, the positive views come as a result of an appreciation for how the group functions as a whole. We see teams that pull together and find solutions to unbelievably daunting tasks, and then think to ourselves, “Gosh, the person at the helm must be a genius.”
It’s almost funny how in a couple short paragraphs, two phonetic synonyms have been tossed around: homo-geneous, and genius. I thought about this one day and came to the conclusion, “being homogeneous is genius.”
The very concept of mixing is a genius action in and of itself. Elements combine together to make new substances and form chemicals bonds… or reactions. It is one of the most natural occurences in the known universe. The selling point is that homogeneous mixtures have something in common that brings them together. A goal. A vision. A set of skills. A passion.
The second aspect of these mixtures is the means by which they are combined or synthesized. A team of common ideals come together to create an end product. Carpenters build structures, musicians make songs, development teams create video games and apps. But in the end there is someone directing this mix; a leader who is in charge of the spoon in the soup.
I mentioned in the beginning that the qualities of great leadership don’t fall on an individual’s ability to pick, choose, discard, segregate, or judge. Rather, the effective leadership comes in the way that individuals manage and mix with their team: It’s all about how you stir the soup.
There are a few aspects of this “soup stirring” process that I have found throughout teaching/staffing that form the bedrock of effective leadership through homogeneous mixture:
- Demanding things from others
- Expecting things from others
- Knowing the difference between the two
First and foremost, you must demand something in order to expect something. It is a simple concept that can (and most certainly has been) abused by individuals and companies alike. Have you ever been repremanded by another person on the grounds of, “You did (blank) and I(We) expect you to perform in a certain way.” The end result being the internal monologue of, “How was I supposed to know (blank) was a bad thing?”
The reverse scenario of expecting before demanding is an Orwellian pitfall for many leaders who, instead of focusing on mixing with their team, pick and choose certain aspects that they themselves deem good or bad; We’re back to your five-star soup, chef. Instead of gathering all of your proper ingredients first hand, and stirring them in the best way, you’ve expected a home run dish simply by throwing whatever you please into the broth.
In a more literal sense, a la “1984,” You should know what I want without me having to tell you.
I challenge you to think of a situation in this context that you did/would not gain a personal disappointment from. How can you expect certain criteria of people if you don’t present it to them?
- Demanding things from others
The word Demand is often a scary one, mostly reserved for people who are “bossy,” or “egotistical.” In a working sense it is quite the opposite. It is a term of endearment, “I trust you to meet these prerequisites.” At least that’s how I’ve come to know it over time. Demands are predictable.
“I trust you to meet these prerequisites”
- Codes of Conduct
- Forms of Communication
- Group Ettiquete
- Punctuality and Work Flow
- Other aspects for how a group should mix
Demands are NOT:
- Any form of Perfection
- Unrealistic Qualities
- Extraordinary Outcomes
These two lists should serve as how to discern Demands from Expectations. They are the potential ingredients to your five-star soup. Imagine taking anything from the second list (what demands aren’t) and putting them on a job application. How absurd would it seem to demand perfection from someone as a prerequisite?
Demanding perfection is impossible.
This statement is not meant to be cynical. Not at all. It is a harsh reminder of a natural, human truth: No one is perpetually perfect. But, the amazing realization is that perfection CAN be expected as long as your demands are clear and you stir the soup properly.
One of the big bullet points on exceptional demands is effort. Effort is a variable that members can choose to change from time to time. We’ve all had a day where the sky was the limit and nothing could stop us, just as somedays we want to throw in the towel and not lift a finger. Effort can also be viewed in subjective terms: one person’s 100% is not the same as another’s.
Perfection, however, is an absolute. By definition it is the best possible outcome with no errors. To have perfection immediately is nothing short of a miracle. Did you ever master something on a first attempt? Was your first project the pinnacle of human achievement? Was ultimate knowledge bestowed onto you at an initial inquiry? Probably not.
But. Have you worked hard? Have you stretched yourself? Have you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into something you found meaningful? Have you given the best shot you could? Absolutely. Which of these outcomes would you want demanded of you? Which of them would you demand of others?
The first step to achieving exceptional leadership is demanding effort from your team, and yourself.
“I trust you to meet the prerequisite of giving one-hundred percent of your effort.”
Effort is one of the many demands that make up the ingredients of a five-star soup. That fact that we chose to demand such a thing from each other is what gives us the ability to expect things like perfection. To expect unrealistic qualities such as “incomparable,” or “unrivaled.” To expect extraordinary outcomes like “the highest rated,” “the most products sold,” and “the greatest valued group.”
What you demand of your team and yourself is the bedrock of building a community of passionate, problem solving, self starting individuals who reach for outcomes that can be expected. It is the banner that hangs behind the knight’s roundtable in closed confidence, and the image that is projected wall-to-wall in the public eye. They are the ingredients of a five-star soup.
However, as a leader, you have the final caviate to this reciepe. You are in charge of the spoon. All of these aspects can only be mixed homogeneously if you work to stir them in the right way. Too slow… too “lax,” and deadlines are missed. Corners are cut. Ingredients, DEMANDS, are not assimilated into the broth properly. Too fast, forceful… too strict, and team members feel rushed, or on edge. Your ingredients haven’t had time to be maximized to their fullest flavors.
The rate at which you stir these ingredients is a metaphor for how strident you are with your demands. It goes without saying that demands become useless if they aren’t held; if they aren’t stirred in the right way.
As a leader, CEO, director, or whatever title you choose, it is up to you to find the ingredients for the kind of soup you wish to make. You must learn how to mix these elements together in the right way. There will be bonds, and there will be reactions. Sometimes something will fall into the soup that no one saw coming. But if you have your demands in order, and you stick to them in the best possible way, there is no telling what kind of genius concotions you can make in your kitchen.
If you work with people by demanding the best of them, and the best of yourself, the only thing left to expect is perfection.