Three leadership lessons from green Skittles®

skittlesI love Skittles®.  In fact, I use them as a fun prop in some of Organization Impact’s workshops.  After all, who doesn’t love candy?  Today’s article is proof that learning can occur ANYWHERE…even in a bag of Skittles®.

I distributed a snack pack of the candy to each participant prior to our session and told everyone to feel free to munch on our edible prop.  As we began class I noticed a small pile of green Skittles® on one young lady’s desk.  I couldn’t help but ask her about it to which she replied, “I don’t like the green ones.  And I’m not too crazy about the yellow ones either [smile].”  The class laughed about it but then that little scenario brought up a good point.  In our leadership roles, are there tasks we would equate to those green or yellow Skittles®?   I think the honest answer is yes and that my friends, inspired this leadership focus.

Signing on to lead anything – especially people – is a tall task.  Some compare it to adult babysitting while others describe it as the hardest, most rewarding job they have ever had.

Yes, leading others is difficult. And if you think about it, there are probably some tasks associated with this role that you might equate to those green candies.  You just don’t like them.  Guess what?  That’s okay.  Every role includes some aspects that may never make it to our favorites list.  And it’s important to be honest about those tasks we either don’t like or even feel we are not quite good at.  But is it okay to dismiss the tasks we don’t like?  Afraid not.  But I believe there are some things you can do.

Be brutally honest
I had a colleague once who, regardless of the task needed on our community involvement project said, “That’s not my special skill.”  You don’t have to excel – or even like – every aspect of the job but don’t fall into the trap of not doing it. What are the aspects of your leadership role your dislike?  Name them but don’t stop there.  Dig deeper to understand what it is about that task you dislike.  Does it involve difficult personalities?  Or perhaps it forces you out of your comfort zone a bit?  Or, maybe it’s time consuming and feels like a waste of time?  Start here.  Always begin with WHY.

Let efficiency & effectiveness win
After being brutally honest, you may discover the reason why you dislike certain tasks is because they feel like time-wasters or do not produce results.  For those items, be bold and either stop doing them or force those items to become more productive (wasted meetings, broken-record conversations, etc.)  You become a more efficient when that happens.  And for those tasks you dislike because you don’t feel you excel, ask yourself why they matter and take small action steps.  For example, you may not be a “warm and fuzzy” social interaction person.  That’s okay.  You team doesn’t need a hug from you, but they do need a daily hello (that is sincere) and regular interactions to know they matter to the team.  Those tasks contribute to not only your effectiveness but your team as well.

Surround yourself with diversity
Differences are good, especially when it comes to skill sets.  I am so thankful for my accountant because her mind works in ways mine doesn’t (at least naturally).  She sees a column of numbers and they “speak to her”.  Me?  It’s a sea of decimal points.  Her natural strengths complement me.  And I hope I do the same for her.  For those tasks that are draining, who do you know who possess an ability to excel?  Talk to them, ask them questions and gain tips and tricks that help them do well in that area.  If you struggle with providing coaching feedback to an employee, ask a colleague who does it well to practice with you. His/her natural insight will provide an insight or perspective you may never think of.  That diversity of skill may be the red Skittle® to your green one.  And it’s that one step that can help that task grow for you.

Red, orange, purple, yellow and green – all are found in a bag of Skittles®.  What is your favorite?  Chances are you eat those first [for me it’s purple].  In leadership, those are the tasks you likely excel at.  Keep doing those.  And what about your yellow or green?  It’s okay to not like them as well, just ensure those important tasks aren’t being ignored.  After all, Skittles’ slogan, “Taste the rainbow,” wouldn’t work without ever color.  Now…who wants some Skittles®?

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