It’s that time of year again when the natural world hunkers down, casts off its excesses and prepares for new growth through the fruits it has produced with the summer sun.
On Autumn days like these, I try to enjoy the musty smells and sounds of the woods and fields when I can, so dusting off the walking books and enjoying the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’—as Keats describes it—is one of those pleasures to make up for last warmth of summer.
It is my favourite season of all.
It also stirs metaphors in me as I walk and one that recently came up was when I stumbled upon a small pile of fallen apples which then cascaded into a stream, as a torrent of yellow and orange and red. I was able, like the ‘Poohsticks’ of childhood, to watch them as they tripped along through a shallow stream, finding their own way through the flow. Some rushing quickly, some slower and others, stuck, needing time to be found and released.
It made me think of how when we lead people, we have to be aware not only of our own—often challenging—need to create results within our businesses, but of the needs of those we lead too, so that they can become their very best.
Each individual is unique and brings with them skills and talents that are invaluable, for they are all different. Whilst we may enjoy these assets in our teams, as leaders we also have an obligation to understand better the needs each individual has to be their best. As leaders we have to be flexible and seek to understand each of them and their ways.
The apples in the stream find their own way. Sometimes all the way out to sea; sometimes staying close to where they fall into the water. Some move quickly as the current flows at their pace, some find a place to call home and flourish there.
As leaders we need to appreciate our view of the world and understand that it is not a view that everyone shares. We have to be aware enough of ourselves to accept our own shortcomings and that others need us to know their way of being so that they can perform of their best. We have to be humble enough to understand that there are other ways to succeed and we do not know everything. Humble enough to accept that we need to change sometimes too.
This is a difficult challenge for many leaders, for whom ‘my way or the highway’ is the mantra. Exceptional leaders see that whoever they are has to be big enough to know that there is a plethora of different ways to see problems; to generate ideas; to communicate effectively; to succeed.
There are many different apples in every leader’s team. Ensuring that we lead with understanding and nurturing will enable us to get the best outcome for each individual and, ultimately, the performance and results which are the best.
Despite what the trendy phrase says, there is an ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’. Great leaders know how to make the most of every individual they have within their care.
The best leaders appreciate the varying flows each apple needs.
Martin Haworth is a coach, trainer and writer (of things that sometimes just pop up for him!). In his time as a manager, he recalls the very moment when he stepped up from a 'doer' to a leader! He lives in Gloucester, England and travels extensively as a Leadership Trainer and Coach with TNM Coaching.