Recently I sent out a Tweet that said “When life hands you lemons, a leader teaches you how and when and why to make lemonade, as well as when to stop talking about the lemon!” It has been one of our most retweeted posts hence leading us to make today’s Monday Moment an expanded version of what leaders do when life hands them or their team members “lemons”.
Has life ever handed you lemons? Well, of course! But, when it does, what do you do?
This is perhaps one of the more popular cliches of our time. “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” We get it on a conscious level, but as leaders, what we actually do about those lemons is often something quite different. We resist the need to immediately go a different direction at times, or in other words to start making lemonade. In fact, the more we resist the stuff life hands us that may not be exactly what we asked for, the bigger that stuff seems to get and the longer we procrastinate the shift that is needed, the more difficult it seems to appear. For example, when an employee makes a mistake and you as a leader stand there and tell them about it, ask how they could have done that, or analyze all the ways in which it went wrong, we delay the arrival of a new and different solution or direction. Avoid the temptation to make a big deal, or stir up a fuss about it, and make every effort to find sugar, water, and whatever ingredients you need for some darned fine lemonade – quickly! You can always address the issue once you’re headed in the new direction.
Nobody likes whiners, but it’s not always whining that we hear when lemons have been handed to us. Sometimes what the most well intentioned will do is talk about how bad the lemons of life are, ask others what lemons they are experiencing, and share stories about previous lemons when a new one comes up, so that they can compare history, woes, and notes. There’s no harm in discussing previous hardships in an effort to learn from them, but for employees and leaders alike, when the “ain’t it awful” or “wasn’t it awful” conversation transcends to a level where it’s the primary focus, this only serves to make the problem bigger and more difficult to overcome. Talking about the lemons or life’s difficulties, even if it’s around that office water cooler and done in a way that you think is building rapport, is actually a way of stalling so that no one actually has to do anything to make the “lemon” issue go away or get better.
A strong, and in fact, Contagious, Leader will tell you how and when and why to make the lemonade, but they’ll also share with you a kind warning that it may be time to stop talking about the lemon or in this case, even time to give the lemon back. If an employee comes to you and says they can’t complete their project because someone else in the pipeline created a bottleneck, encourage that team member to head on back to the “bottle-necker” so to speak, and return the “lemon”. Here’s an idea: get an actual plastic lemon and have it used for just such an occasion. The truth is we all make mistakes and much like in a game of hot potato, if the lemon can get tossed around and seen as something a little less serious, the learning will increase exponentially as employee’s get less and less afraid of taking the lemon, which then becomes an indicator that a mistake was made, knowing that it will help them learn and they’ll soon be able to hand it off to someone else. This might add a little humor to the day and allow team members to stop the blame game and go hand someone a lemon. Merely be sure to mention that one must RESOLVE the error or mishap before the lemon can be given away.
What will you do with your lemons today?
Happy Monday and Stay Contagious!