When is the last time you got on the balcony? 

When is the last time you got on the balcony?

Let’s travel inside a typical work day for most.  Do you ever get to work and start diving right into everything going on or get wrapped up trying to sort through everything let from the prior day?

Many times, our focus is to just dive right in and we do not realize everything going on around us. Ronald A Heifetz once said, “Leadership is both active and reflective. One has to alternate between participating and observing.”

When we are on the stage with our teams we are very active. We are in the moment, rolling our sleeves up and doing what needs to be done to lead our teams forward.  When we take a step back and get on the balcony, we become reflective.   Think about it for a minute!  When you are on the stage, you see what is directly in front of you, and beside you but when you get on the balcony, you can see everything happening across the stage and audience.

If it has been awhile since you have stepped onto the balcony, think about starting your day there. The view will help you more than you realize.


Technical Problems and Adaptive Challenges

The most common cause of failure in leadership is produced by treating adaptive challenges as if they were technical problems. What’s the difference?

Technical – may be very complex and critically important but there are known solutions that can be implemented by current know how.

Example: Replacing a piece of hardware due to complete failure.

Technical can be resolved through the application of authoritative expertise and through the organization’s current structures, procedures, and ways of doing things.

AdaptiveCan only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits, and loyalties.  Through adaptive change people experience loss.

Making progress requires going beyond any authoritative expertise to mobilize discovery, shedding certain entrenched ways, tolerating losses, and generating the new capacity to thrive anew.

Let’s think through this…

You have a relative in good health at the age of 80 who lives alone and still drives at night. You begin noticing each time he returns home, there are new scratches and dents in his car.  The determination has been made that he is no longer fit to be driving.

Is this Technical or Adaptive? BOTH

Pay for cabs
Find alternative rides
Loss of independence
Remove part of her identity


Where is the leader?


Let’s clear our minds for a minute and visualize a beautiful green turf football field, players dressed sharply in their game day gear with thousands of fans cheering in the stands, it’s game time!

Every player is in their position, the kicker takes his position and as he runs towards the ball he suddenly stops, picks up the ball and takes off running into the other teams end zone! BAM! He slams the football on the ground and his teammates crowd around him and celebrate the play.  But for some reason those thousands of cheering fans are now silent many with their mouths wide open. What in the world just happened?

The crowd is still quiet as the players line back up and because the fans are no longer cheering you can hear the quarterback say, “down, set” and as the ball is snapped to him, he spreads his legs and holds the ball on each end, swings it back between his legs and tosses it 10 yards.  At this point, the fans have no idea what is going on and are starting to get upset but yet back on the field the team is proud of each other, celebrating another awesome play.

The fans now turn their attention to the sideline to see what the coach’s response is to all of this but to their shock they do not see a coach?  How can we be playing a game with no coach?

Now imagine the Coach = Your Professional leader, Fans = You Customers and the Players = Your Team.

Do you know why you do not see football games played this way? Because these players have a leader, their coach. Someone that is teaching and guiding them, who built a team based on the players strengths and when it is time to play the game they are standing on the sidelines watching them execute with the knowledge and tools provided to them.

Because the fans (customers) are so upset and disappointed, they are not able to see those players on the field were actually working together as a team, cheering each other on and celebrating what they believed was success.  How can they be upset with them? It is obvious they thought they were playing hard and meeting expectations.

Now let’s take our minds into the professional setting for a moment.  Too often you will find many teams placed together with a goal to deliver winning results. The team forms, every takes a position and the plays begin but somehow they are failing fast, just like the football team. As the pressure sets in because the customers are not happy, the dysfunction starts to rise within the team and many times leading to players who no longer are working together but working against each other, the time continues ticking away, the money is falling out of the wind and now suddenly the high performing team placed together is seen as incompetent, poor performers, I think you get the point.

But I have one question. Where is the leader?  Do you understand the value a leader brings to a team?

A leader understands the vision and also understand the people on the team.  They understand their strengths and opportunity areas and work hard to drive confidence, as they focus and position the team to use their strengths.  Leaders stand behind people as they make decisions, sometimes the wrong ones, but they coach in the locker room and support and empower them on the field.

They teach them what they need and stand on the sidelines and allow the team to execute.  When they see things not going correctly, you will hear them from the sidelines telling the team what to do and when unfair calls are placed against the team, they take a strong and passionate stance against the one who “threw the flag or bad call on the team”.

But you know what else the Leader does, they build leaders within the team.  They build the “Quarterbacks”.  They give them the knowledge and confidence to call an audible and change the play when needed.

So what are the top qualities of a good leaders?

Someone who can see and build on someone’s strengths and not put them in positions built on their opportunity areas.

Someone who not only teaches but builds confidence in their team to know they can change the plays if needed by empowering them to make decisions.

Someone who is the team’s biggest fan, clapping and jumping or yelling new plays to keep the team moving.

But the biggest quality of a leader, a leader who has built a team who can perform when the leader misses a game and win without them. A leader builds the NEXT MAN UP.

So the next time you see a team tossing the ball in the wrong direction or celebrating a total disaster, ask yourself, “is it really their fault?” “does the team really think they won?”, “are they displaying passion and excitement together regardless of how bad they have failed?”.  Maybe we are watching the football game described here and did not pay attention to see the team was trying but there was no leader on the sideline.

Great leaders, build great teams, that win together!