November 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm #173490
As I prepare a handful of index cards for tonight’s Scout meeting, I’m reminded of a basic function of leadership: to make other people successful.
Nine year old boys need a little prompting, but don’t we all? Sometimes a little nudge from someone who wants us to succeed is all we need. Once we put ourselves into motion, the rest falls into place – especially when someone believes in us.
Tonight, my boys need to tell a crowd of parents and younger Scouts about what they did and learned since our last big meeting. They’re the older kids in the Pack now, so they’re talking on a bit of a leadership role. Standing up, setting a good example, using outdoor voices to reach the back of the room are all part of the program.
Boys at this age take to this stuff naturally. They can be real hams. But they don’t always know exactly what is expected of them. Not knowing exactly what to do can put a damper on their energy. Put them in a position where they know what’s expected and they’re unstoppable – sometimes unbearably so.
They’ve all practiced their stuff, but to do it in front of a crowd with little or no warm up is a tall order. So… the index cards.
The idea is each boy will get a card. On it, their role (and a little prompt like “use your outdoor vice”) is clearly spelled out. Once they read that, they know what they are supposed to do. They do it magnificently.
Sure, I could stand up there and explain everything to the crowd. I’m told I can put on quite a show. But I want the boys to be the stars of the program. I want them to feel the thrill of success and to gain confidence in their abilities. I have a responsibility to them.
Often, as leaders, all we have to do is give a little prompting. People have it in them to be successful if they are given clear expectations and a gentle (preferably invisible) nudge in the right direction.
Gentle nudges can come in as many different ways as we have the imagination to dream up. A former Executive Officer on mine used to leave little sticky notes on people’s computer monitors or keyboards – thanking them for a specific thing they did. A former hospital Director for Administration once called me on the phone just before a stressful interview and gave me very specific guidance about what to say – or more importantly, what not to say.
As long as a gentle nudge is specific enough to give a person an idea of what’s expected of them or what constitutes success, people can really shine.
What specific “Little Nudges” have you given or received that allowed you or someone else to be successful?
November 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm #173498
So much in life depends on having “scripts”. We shy away from opportunities because we’re not sure what is expected of us, or “what piece fits there in the puzzle”. And often, all we really need is a barebones script to give us that first step, and know that the next one actually isn’t as difficult as we might have thought, before we saw that script.
Developmental psychologists like to refer to what they call “scaffolding”; a term derived from the work of Russian developmental theorist Lev Vygotsky. Scaffolding can take place in virtually any domain, at any age, and refers to semi-structured tasks that provide such “little nudges” beyond the person’s comfort zone, but with the semi-structured nature reducing the likelihood of failure. I guess a prototypic example might be the way we get our pre-school children to “help” with cooking (“Okay, now pour in the flour. Now stir it carefully. Good for you!”). The pre-measured amounts and big mixing bowl allow them to participate in the overall task – and feel like it – without much risk of failure.
And is the case across the entire lifespan, those things we experience at least a little success in, now begin to appeal to us a little more, such that we become willing to take more chances, attempting more, and learning more as we do so.
Nothing succeeds like a little success.
A decade back, I had the pleasure of visiting the office of our Prime Minister (who was not in that day), and sitting at his desk. Much like your former Executive Officer, I was tempted to leave a little sticky note on the desk that would simply read “Good work! Mark”. I didn’t, in the end, but…..I’m pretty confident he didn’t need it.
Tell your scouts there’s a guy a few hundred miles away who thinks – heck, who knows – they’re going to do a terrific job.
November 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm #173496
I like the idea of “scaffolding.” It there just to get things started. Afterwards, it is removed and the structure stands by itself.
I love to hear a story or two about someone who either provided scaffolding to someone else or was given scaffolding to get started. Nice metaphor, Mark. That works for me.
November 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm #173494
PS – If I can find a way to work in the story about a guy a few hundred miles away who believes in them, I will!
November 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm #173492
I don’t think you outgrow that need for index cards as a remind of keeping your focus – call it a “nudge” that you can give yourself. I’ve read several books that advocate for the use of index cards to track and monitor goals or to write down the names of people that are on your team to keep in mind their work styles / preferences or specific areas where they need coaching or encouragement.
I’m not sure I have a specific recent story, but I definitely meet regularly with friends and professional associates so that we might review our goals and give one another the nudge we need to keep moving toward them.
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