People Aren’t Ducks

Ducks in a RowAs I was working with a client the other day, I could tell she was just not into it.  I asked what was wrong and she answered that her team was “just not lining up.”  I immediately thought of these ducks I took a picture of on vacation.  Why?  I don’t know, but I went with it.

“Like ducks,” I said.  “You want them in a row?”  “YES,” she enthusiastically replied.  I took a deep breathe before I answered because I knew she wasn’t going to like what I had to say.  “People aren’t ducks.”

We went on to have a great discussion about controlling people.  In a business setting, as people get higher up the corporate food chain, they are asked to manage people and they assume that means that you tell them what to do.  That only works in the military and it works because people know that’s what they signed up for.

My client fired back that on this particular day, she was irritated because she had to take minutes at her team meeting.  She asked for volunteers and no one wanted to do it.  “So I did it to be nice,” she said.  “And now you are totally pissed at them,” I said.  “How nice is that?”

When people don’t do what we want them to do, our tendency is to fall back on two easy roles.  The martyr or the dictator.  The martyr says fine, I’ll do it myself and I will never ask for any help ever again.  The dictator over time gets so angry that they start living the “it’s my way or the highway” mantra.  Neither makes a good boss or a good leader.

My client admitted that she usually went to the martyr role, but wasn’t sure what else to do.  We brainstormed for a few minutes and came up with the easy solution of rotating the minute meeting task in her group.  There are six people, so now everyone one on her team gets to be miserable for two meetings a year when they have to do the minutes.  (Seriously, no one likes that job.  I think in all my years working, I met one person who actually liked taking minutes.)  Now instead of being mad at her team for not being the perfect little group, she now has a solution to present to the group.  Leaders present solutions and they find ways to work with the dynamics of the team they have, not force them into a perfect little line.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, you might find yourself immersed in the most difficult team setting of all, your family.  Someone might forget that side dish they promised to bring.  Uncle Pat will tell you you’re carving the turkey wrong.  People will do things you don’t want them to do.  People will say things that push all your buttons.  It all comes down to how you will react.

Remember what thanksgiving is about.  Gratitude.  Be grateful for your “team” and don’t treat them like ducks or even worse turkeys.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!


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