When you approach an entrance what does it tell you?
It’s a question that doesn’t come to mind regularly at all. If you are in the design profession; either A+D (Architecture & Design), Urban Planning or even Industrial Design you deal with entrances as part of your day to day life. As you design and by the nature of your work the feeling you wish to articulate or the message that your design wishes to convey all starts at the entrance be it an entrance to a structure or space, an entrance to the public realm (a park, or plaza or a complex) or the experience of opening a beautifully articulated box designed to reveal a treasure inside.
As an architect or a designer you treat an entrance as the portal to the building or a space. It acts as the first point of contact. The articulation (how you apply materials) drives the impression that the occupants feel when they first experience it (see it) and the configuration (its layout and structure) inform the message that the space wishes to relay to its visitors. The tactile nature of the materials, the logic applied to the sequence (how you access and pass through the space) and its visibility from the public realm have a symbiotic relationship with a single purpose; to entice you inside.
When you experience a beautiful, functional and well positioned entrance the sum of its parts are almost non-existent. You flow through the space effortlessly and are able to focus on the need at hand; what brought you there. You are left with only the sense of purpose. It is simplicity blended with a clear understanding that anything unnecessary has been removed. The superfluous is eliminated.
If an entrance confuse you, leaves you wondering where to go or elicits concern for your safety the relationship between the space, material and its visibility are out of sync. There is an issue with alignment and the sum of its parts do not work well in relation to each other. There is conflict.
Take a good look.
The next time you are going somewhere test out these ideas. Did you even really notice the transition? Of course, once you are inside; a hotel lobby or retail environment, an office space, a park or plaza or a home for that matter the functionality and personal flavour of the environment is what you experience. That’s where your real journey starts. The entrance serves as the gateway to your experience but not as the experience itself.
In a way, teams are similar.
Above we made reference to three distinct factors that make up a good entrance; articulation (material choice), configuration (the sequence – the way in) and visibility (can you easily find it). When we look at a team these three factors relate directly to the ability of the team to be highly effective and successful.
The words you use may change and that’s ok because it’s really about the feeling these words articulate. When we are in the flow there is no way to put your finger on it. It just happens. We just feel it and only now are we thinking about the structure of that feeling.
Here’s how we define our team using these three factors.
Articulation drives clarity (we know who we are), breeds effectiveness (we know what we need to do) and enhances distinction (we are all like-minded but distinct individuals).
Configuration is structure (we know our roles), purpose (we have a singular vision) and cohesion (we work in unison helping each other succeed).
Visibility defines atmosphere (we have open and spirited personalities), accountability (we bear the responsibility equally) and we are receptive (we manage change and pressure in unison).
How does it all come together?
Time. The time invested in building and maintaining the relationships necessary to have a team that seems to function effortlessly, as in the entrance, the sum of its parts almost invisible, is critical to its success.
There are no overnight sensations. You have to chip away at the stone and you really need to keep at it. Willpower is the key ingredient here.
The care to ensure the tools (both tangible and intangible) required to perform are available, the autonomy to make the decisions is understood and the trust to get it right need to consistently be visible as the core tenets of the team. Leadership comes from within; each individual contributing equally to the goals and responsibilities of the team.
Issues of dissention, negative feedback without constructive influence or issues with singularity, whether ego driven or through fear of loss of control, need to be addressed by the team collectively. In this way the team, almost organically, will weed out negative influence through its social, inclusive and open structure.
Leadership is maintained through elevating, recognizing and growing ability through collective participation. The weak link in the chain must always remain visible in the same way that the leadership needs to remain invisible. The only way this structure survives is though the understanding that the team is a collective and are collectively responsible to each other. The delivery of their service and product relies on the whole team functioning at their best within their respective roles.
As a leader, no matter your position in the team, your efforts are your own. You are, simply, the sum of your efforts.
- You don’t need to draw a map.
- You don’t need to tell everyone they are equal.
- You don’t need to talk about responsibility.
- You don’t need to show someone how hard you are working.
- You don’t need to tell someone how to do it.
You simply need to be there. Be there to help, be there to grow, be there to encourage, be there to support and be there to correct course. Our job, as a leader, is about anticipating what’s going to happen and not about reflecting on what has already happened.
By nature, your prime responsibility as a leader in this framework is to help people to understand the consequences of their choices in a way that is inclusive, encouraging and demonstrated by example. This may mean it is not you that finds the answers. It is your job to guide the person in the right direction and if that direction is not toward you and you inherently accept and understand the choice then you have a real sense of leadership.
Just as an effective entrance is ubiquitous to its purpose and its function is virtually invisible to its inhabitants your role as a leader within your team is ubiquitous to the purpose of the teams existence.
To me, that is the essence of a leadership role in a team.
There’s nothing funny about that.
- How do you define leadership in your team?
- What words best describe your leadership style and why?
- Why are you just staring at this question?