How to tame the squirrels in leadership

Leadership has less to do with position than it does disposition. — John Maxwell
Last week, I shared with you my great disdain for squirrels. In case you missed it, I am an avid birder and my backyard is somewhat of a bird sanctuary. That being said, my yard also is a haven for those pesky and unwelcomed squirrels who come and wreak havoc and leave.
Over the years in leadership, I have discovered there are plenty of squirrelly characters in the workforce. Yet unlike the squirrels in my yard that can’t be tamed, your approach to the various squirrelly characters that you come across in leadership is another story.
What are some characteristics of squirrelly people in leadership?
To recap the main points from last week: They are self-serving and make decisions based only on what’s good for them; they stick together and sow discord since negative people tend to attract negative people in the same way as positive people; they are indecisive and lack direction, vision, and a sense of purpose. That being said, they drive everyone else crazy.
Finally, they destroy to get what they want and are not team players. Squirrelly people are only in it for themselves and they don’t care about the consequences of their actions.
So, how do we tame these squirrelly people in our organizations? Here are a few thoughts.
Train them early and often
Leadership development is the key to success for those squirrelly members of your team. Having the skill sets to do a job are not necessarily the same as the skill sets needed to be a productive team member. So long as you are content with the squirrelly team member simply because they can do their job with a high degree of proficiency but is otherwise a toxic person to be around, then you have some serious leadership gaps to fill.
Don’t look the other way when it comes to squirrelly behavior because someone can do the job. People who can do the job are a dime a dozen. If they aren’t compatible with other team mem-bers, they can be replaced. It’s on you as the leader to train and help them reach their potential.
Hold them accountable
So, you have a squirrelly person on your team, now what? As you train and work with this per-son, hold them accountable for their growth and development. Work with them on a growth plan both personally and professionally. Help them see the connection between the two — how they compliment each other. As they begin to grow and develop in their leadership skills they will gain new confidence and increase their value to your organization.
When people in your organization have a clear picture of the value that others bring to the table, it creates trust and momentum. When your people trust each other and can create together, it’s magical. But each team member has to be valued, trusted, and held accountable.
Give them margins to fail and succeed
Let’s face it — we may not all be squirrelly, but we all have our quirks and pet peeves. I do. But, as we work with those squirrelly people in our organizations, let’s put their value into perspective.
Not all squirrelly people need to be written off. They just need to be given opportunities. And sometimes, like us, they fail, stumble, and get it wrong. But isn’t this every successful leader’s journey?
Everyone on your team — the squirrelly and the quirky — can add value and help move the ball forward. They just need to be given a chance — some grace. Will all of them pan out and remain with you? Perhaps not. But as you train and raise up leaders and hold people accountable, the odds are in their favor if you work hard.
Final thoughts
It’s been said that leadership is a journey, not a destination. See the journey for what it is — full of opportunities to grow and develop as leaders who make a difference in their world. Embrace the misfits and the squirrelly people along the way. There’s room for the willing, the accountable, and the teachable.

©2020 Doug Dickerson


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