Getting the “Golden Eggs”
All leaders are charged to accomplish two things:
1) Bring out the best in their people.
2) Get results (accomplish the mission).
The truth is that most leaders naturally focus their attention on only one of these domains at the expense of the other. Highly effective leaders are able to strike a balance between their task orientation and their relationship orientation.
Think about The Golden Goose fairy tale. The reason you have the goose is to get the golden eggs to support your family and to pursue your dreams. But if you don’t take good care of the goose and keep it happy, it will stop laying the golden eggs. So, the real moral of the story when it comes to leadership, is that members of your team are golden geese, and it’s up to you to treat them in such a way that they want to lay golden eggs for you.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
When I was a young Army officer deployed to Bosnia in the early 90s, there was a period of time before my unit started going out on missions where we were comfortably settled in our operating base with all the creature comforts. I figured morale should be high under these circumstances but instead, soldiers were anxious and getting into trouble.
My commander coached me to realize that high morale does not come from being comfortable, but from accomplishing challenging missions.
Years later, popular neuroscience revealed that our brain releases dopamine (the feel-good reward chemical) each time we accomplish something rewarding. In turn, we learn to crave that feeling and want to do more of the reward-producing behavior, reinforcing the lesson I learned in Bosnia.
Similarly, I worked as a Field Supervisor for the Census. I had twelve canvassers who walked all over the land encountering barking dogs, irate property owners with guns, heat so intense that their handheld computers would malfunction, and general exhaustion. But these folks LOVED what they were doing and couldn’t get enough of it. The work was challenging, and it was anything but comfortable. At the end of each day, we celebrated their victories and shared “war stories.” They were singularly focused on accomplishing the mission. I did everything I could to support them, help them troubleshoot challenges, overcome barriers, encourage them, and recognize them for their ingenuity and dedication to the mission.
So, how do you bring out the best in your team while also driving results? Consider the following three areas of focus:
If you naturally focus on tasks, do your people know that you genuinely care about them as human beings and want what’s best for them? Or deep down inside do they feel like you are just using them for your own needs? If they know you want the very best for them by offering them real challenges to develop their abilities, while backing it up with genuine support, they will go the extra distance to lay the golden eggs.
Challenge Those Around You.
Maybe you make the mistake that I did as a young officer, thinking that if you just make everyone comfortable, they will perform well and be happy? In this case, remember that people need to feel challenged to feel good. If we are not helping our employees grow and develop by coaching them to step just outside their comfort zone, then work will feel boring and they may disengage.
Be Available, Attentive, and Responsive.
Finally, when interacting with your team (or friends and family for that matter), there is an acronym which can help you prepare yourself— AAR. This stands for Attentive, Available, and Responsive.* If you can bring your full attention to the other person, really be available and curious about what is on their mind, and then respond with compassion and skilled leadership, your team and organization will be vastly more productive, engaged, and satisfied.
*Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist
Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach. His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.
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