Leadership Lessons from Squeakers

I’m sure some of you are reading this simply to discover what a Squeakers is.  I’ll satisfy your curiosity and not string you along.  Squeakers is one of our two dogs and as you’ll see below, Squeakers is not going to win any beauty pageants any time soon. He’s, also one of two males in our household (yours truly being the other) who needs to lose weight.

One of my daily exercise routines for the last several years has been to walk/run a 2.6 mile route through our neighborhood. When I arrive dressed in my gym shorts and tennis shoes ready to go, Squeakers gets extremely excited.  He knows I’m headed out for my walk and hopes maybe, just maybe, I’ll take him along today.  More often than not, Squeakers is disappointed because I rarely take him with me.  The fact of the matter is that even though he needs to lose about 20% of his body weight, frankly I don’t enjoy taking him with me!

Now I realize this makes me seem like an extremely insensitive person.  At times I ask myself, “Why don’t you take him with you more often?” When I look at the matter objectively, I can see that Squeakers really enjoys walking; he needs the exercise and it is good for him. So, why don’t I hook on his leash and wander the neighborhood with him?

During one of my outings in which I gave into Squeakers pleas to go with me, I realized Squeakers and I have conflicting goals for our neighborhood walk! My goal is to get moving, get my heart rate up, and burn as many calories as possible.  I want to complete the 2.6 mile track as quickly as I can. On the other hand, Squeakers’ goal is to scratch, sniff, wander from side to side on the street, explore new things, meet new friends, scratch and sniff some more, and, apparently most importantly, leave his “watermark” on as many landmarks as he can find.

Perhaps you have experienced conflicting goals in your organization, department, or even your household.  Every relationship comes with the potential for conflicting goals.  In order to be a successful leader, you must successfully manage these conflicting goals.   This process begins with the identification of your goals, personal, professional, and relational.  The next step is to help those you are leading to identify their goals.  Often you’ll find that these goals differ.  One person may have a different goal because their role requires it.  Another may have a different goal because they are not required to see the big picture or long range plans of the organization. Whatever the reason, these differences can cause reduced efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace.  Different messages may be sent to team members or even customers causing confusion, employee distress, unmet expectations, and financial loss.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1.      Do I have my goals clearly written and outlined with actionable and measurable steps?

If your goals are not clear to you, how can they be clear to those you lead? By the way, my exercise goals are very clear to me; however, Squeakers doesn’t have a clue.

2.      Have you clearly communicated your goals to your team, department or organization? 

If you believe you have, take a second look.  Did you communicate not only the WHAT but also the HOW and the WHY? In his new book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains that communicating the WHY is as important, if not more important, than communicating the WHAT and HOW of your goals, initiatives and vision. The WHY provides the passion that fuels the WHAT and the HOW.

3.      Take time to talk to your team members.  Do you know what their goals are for the organization, the department or the team? Have you stopped to consider what their personal goals are?

Knowing what matters most to your team members can help you avoid conflicting goals and give you insight as to how you can help them be successful. According to John Maxwell, there are three silent questions followers ask their leaders:

  1.  Do you care for me?
  2.  Can you help me?
  3.  Can I trust you?

How would you answer these questions?  Listening to their goals and communicating your goals is one way of assuring the follower that the answer is yes to all three questions.

4.      Have you provided training to those you lead so they can assist you in achieving your goals?

I hadn’t given Squeakers the proper training so we could exercise without him being distracted.  Furthermore, my avoiding taking him with me did not help. Do you avoid taking your team members with you because they might slow you down in the short-term? Do you think this a good long-term strategy?

If you are struggling with Conflicting Goals in your relationships, ask yourself these questions.  Meet with your team to find solutions to these conflicting issues together.

BTW, Squeakers is delighted to be exercising with me more often and he is slowly getting better. Who knows, I may have an exercise buddy after all.  Perhaps if you take some of your team members with you on your journey, you might develop some great future leaders along the way.