A Guest Post from Kalani Parnell
Although my television viewing fluctuates between the discovery channel and the cartoon channel, from time to time I have found myself immersed in a game show called “Minute to Win it” (MTWI). For those of you who aren’t yet fans, in this game show partners compete through 10 sixty second challenges in an attempt to win $1,000,000. These deceptively difficult games, played with household objects, range from Bounce, wherein the competitor must get 20 ping pong balls into 20 pint size glasses in consecutive order with one bounce per ball, to Chop Stack, where four lip balm tubes must be stacked on top of each other using chopsticks.
As I watched, mesmerized by the balanced and steady hands and heads of the participants, what struck me was the level of engagement, support, and motivation that each partner received from the other. The connections between the behaviors on this game show and what I believed about leadership were immediately apparent.
I have the distinct privilege of addressing a wide variety of organizational executives on the topic of leadership. Whether my audience is an intelligence agency or a couple of distillery owners learning survival skills in the middle of a jungle, I discuss the five principles of leadership covered in the book “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner. Although a multitude of leadership models have been developed and taught world-wide, in my opinion, these five principles are foundational to the journey of becoming a great leader and in bringing out the best in others.
1) Modeling the way
Inequity is easily spotted by performers at all levels, and the moment they notice what’s being asked of the goose isn’t being ascribed to by the gander, many will begin migrating out of the organization or to a lower level of performance.
On MTWI, you won’t see either partner putting out less than their best effort. It’s not just the success of one person hanging in the balance because when one fails, the team fails. Period.
2) Inspiring a shared vision
On MTWI, the teams clearly know and share what the vision is…one million smackers! As the games get progressively more difficult and often, “game lives” are lost, some teammates can become paralyzed with fear that they won’t be successful.
This is where the pep talking begins in earnest…not just from the team, but from the audience! Everyone is attempting to inspire the apprehensive contestant to continue on in an effort to succeed in achieving his/her goals.
How often in our organizations, I wonder, do we rally around those who have recently failed in the same way, reminding them of the noble nature of our vision and that they are still treasured and believed in?
3) Challenging the Process
At times during the game an approach to success is clearly not going to work within the allotted 60 seconds. Challenging the process becomes a natural reaction where the teammate will offer up alternative tactics in an effort to support the team. Based on performance, sometimes goals are challenged and revised so that the team can still walk away with some measure of success (money), and sometimes they push on and risk it all in pursuit of the initial vision.
Whatever the team decision…the process was challenged in getting there.
How agile are we as leaders? How often do we let go of the tactic that isn’t working or one paradigm of thought that just isn’t relevant anymore, and replace them with something new?
How often do we make realistic assessments of our performance toward a goal and admit that we’d taken on too much? When was the last time we decided that despite the difficulty, our belief in the goal was renewed, and we pushed on?
4) Enabling others to act
In MTWI, much of the time the success of the team rests on the shoulders of one team member. You support him, you cheer him on, you make just in time suggestions. Ultimately you have to trust in his capabilities but also prepare for the possibility that he may not be successful, in spite of his best effort.
5) Encouraging the heart
This is a predominant leadership trait I see in MTWI but one that is much more difficult to see in organizations. I have come to realize that I can’t just hire great people and set expectations. I’ve got to be their biggest fan.
Telling people face to face that you believe in them in some meaningful way can be such a powerful motivator, but so many leaders believe that expressing appreciation, adoration, reverence, etc. somehow makes them appear vulnerable…or “weaker” than their team. I think this is unacceptable. Just watch MTWI and try to tell me the downside to encouraging someone’s heart!
As I’ve considered the connections between this entertaining game show and real life related to leadership, it occurs to me that the above Leadership behaviors can be seen demonstrated within one minute of time, just as the game show title suggests.
I propose we all take up a challenge:
how many of these five principles we can demonstrate with our employees in one workday?
Then, let us watch and see who truly wins!
About the Series
I have declared May, “the month of fun”! I’ve always enjoyed watching game shows and I know there are lessons to be learned while watching some healthy competition! That being said, I’ve asked some trusted colleagues to write a guest post about a game show and their lessons learned as it pertains to their career. I hope you enjoy them!
About the Author
Kalani Parnell is the Organizational Development Coordinator at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Organization in Anchorage, Alaska. He can be reached via LinkedIn or via Twitter.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Kalani for nearly 7 years and have shed many tears, guffaws and “aha moments” since that time. A Master at telling stories, Kalani has always inspired and taught me things about leadership, teamwork, and perseverance. He has been a source of knowledge and encouragement to hundreds of executives, managers and leaders throughout his career and is highly coveted for his LEAN Six Sigma knowledge, Quality Improvement expertise and his facilitation and public speaking talents. I am honored he has shared his perspective on leadership and hope you have enjoyed it.