Expert leaders understand the importance of correctly identifying the cause of problems. We do an activity called Balloon Toss that clearly demonstrates this principle. The object of the leadership experiment is for a team of 6-8 individuals to keep 10-15 balloons in the air and in motion at the same time. The balloons are fed to the team one at a time, the balloons can't be tied together and the team members must keep one hand behind their back the entire time.
After the first round of competition is over (most teams don't figure out the best strategy during the first round), we discuss how to improve their chances of success during the second round. We begin this by discussing possible answers to the question, "What was the main reason you were not able to accomplish your goal?"
The leaders normally begin to list conditions, instead of causes. The say things like too many balloons, we could only use one hand, we didn't have a good plan, etc. These are true, but most of the conditions they list are unchangeable within the constraints of the activity (just like most of the conditions we are faced with as leaders every day.)
Once the leaders get bogged down in discussing conditions, they handicap their ability to 1) recognize a cause and 2) make any real improvement in their strategy for round two.
The primary cause for not achieving their goal of getting all balloons in the air at once was that the balloons were out of control. Once the leaders recognized this primary cause they were better able to creatively discover the best strategy for getting all balloons in the air at once!
Your job as a leader is to step back and look at where you and your team have your focus - is it on unchangeable conditions or solvable causes?
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