On Saturday, March 9th, a group of people pulled plastic folding chairs into a circle at Jacob’s Well in North Brunswick. People of varying ages, ethnicities, and genders, all gathered to grow together towards leadership. Wish you could’ve been there? Not to worry! You may have missed the conversation, but the wisdom can still be yours. Here are five things you missed that you can start applying right away:
1) You will Fail: Plan on it
No one wants to think about failure when they embark on a project they’re passionate about, but if the fear of failure paralyzes a leader, their project may never launch at all. Better to fail fast, and “…Get that nonsense out of the way, so you can move forward with your vision,” according to workshop attendee Rachel Cohen. Conflict is an opportunity for communication, each unsuccessful tactic is a step towards the winner. Make sure you have some insurance, though, by anticipating the challenges you’re likely to face and building in the time to fail, problem-solve, and try again.
2) Build a Constitution
Define your goals, timelines, and measures of success. Agree—as a community—on your behaviors, and protect—as individuals—your boundaries. By setting clear guidelines (that everyone understands and agrees to) at the outset of a process, a leader—or any team member—can reference earlier agreements to dispel distraction, resolve conflict, or reinforce protocol.
“Enforcing discipline from the view of the collective good, and how these behaviors affect others and not just oneself, I think is something I wanted some validation on,” said Blakely, another workshop participant. Not all leaders may enjoy enforcing expectations, but setting them out explicitly before conflict or distraction arises, smooths the process.
3) Clear is Kind
In setting expectations, establishing boundaries, and addressing conflict, clarity is not only key to achieving your desired results, it’s an empathetic tactic. In a moment of conflict, it can seem kinder to obscure criticisms to protect the feelings of those involved. But, without clarity, behaviors won’t change, and all parties suffer. By taking the time to develop your ideas, and to communicate thoroughly and effectively with your team members, you show them they are valued, and give them a chance to respond, create, or resolve conflict from a place of knowledge rather than uncertainty.
4) Remember Your Audience
Ask yourself: Does this serve my audience, or myself? All too often, art-makers get distracted by ideas that spark in our minds…but might not uphold the vision we outlined in our "constitution." At times like this, it’s great to re-visit those agreements, but also to remember why and for whom we decided to launch this creative process in the first place. Will my vision be clear to my chosen audience? Will it impact them the way we intended? Will it connect to their experience, or introduce them to new ones? If the idea makes you happy, but has nothing to do with your audience, its allure is only superficial, and it ultimately does you a disservice.
5) Ideas are Cheap
At one point during the workshop, participants were asked to brainstorm three concepts for the best superpower. Then they were asked to rip up two of those and throw them into the center of the circle. Sometimes, creators and leaders fall in love with their first idea, simply because it came along first. Does that mean it’s the best idea? No way! By using brainstorming tactics like writing down and then ripping up our concepts, we can practice thinking beyond the first idea to the best one.