My dad passed away on July 3, 2015. This year, to honor his memory, I decided to wash the car. Strange you might say...but I have many childhood memories of washing the car with my dad. Although my dad had many laudable traits, patience was not one of them. Washing the car usually resulted in one or more of my brothers and me getting yelled at for some odd reason or another.
I set out to break the cycle. My six year-old was eager to wash the car and be a good helper. As we gathered up the materials and headed out to the driveway, I made a pact with myself that I would not yell. I would not get irritated. I would not get mad.
Washing the car ensued. David, always wanting to be the good helper, asked if he could give the car a pre-wash. I let him. He didn't see me bending down in the front of the car to scrub off the bugs.
I was soaked. But I had not failed at my mission (yet).
We continued to work together. As we were about halfway done with the car, it all started to make sense to me. If I clearly explained my expectations, and if I showed him how I would like the task to be completed, my irritation completely subsided. Those times that he set off on his own without clear direction, I found myself fighting irritation.
David was promised a popsicle for helping. As he was in the house devouring it, I had some quiet time alone with my thoughts. What a great lesson in leadership. Clearly, methodically, intentionally explain your expectations. As leaders, how many times do we do this, assume our people know our thoughts and expectations? I know for me, I continually operate in a presumptive mindset. I assume those around me know my thoughts and my expectations. And, often, when these expectations are not met, I well up with irritation. Yet, the irritation should and will reside with me.
As leaders, we must continually communicate our expectations. Begin with the end in mind; what needs to be communicated? How are you going to communicate? Where are the blind spots in your communication? How will you assess if you have effectively communicated?
The leadership lesson I took away from the car wash was not earth shattering. In fact, one friend I shared this nugget of wisdom with said, "No duh. That's leadership 101." While I do not argue with this statement, there are leadership lessons all around us. We need to be intentional and reflective in our thinking to grasp them. And, most importantly, to to take these learned lessons and implement them.
As you take time to reflect, what might be some dysfunctional family cycles you need to break? As you pinpoint those irritation moments in your life, is it a result of your failed communication plan? What areas of your leadership communication need to improve? As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, To Thine Own self Be True.