I can’t remember the first time I led a team, but I know I was leading volunteers.
It’s one of the extraordinary things about volunteering in community organisations and churches – you get all kinds of opportunities you might not otherwise get to learn skills, including leadership skills. I led volunteers, followed volunteers and worked as a volunteer, for years, before I ever led in a professional setting.
But I would argue that even when everyone is getting paid, there’s a degree to which we’re all working with volunteers, whatever our roles.
My experience has been that a culture of perfectionism in a team is toxic, and ultimately leads to lower outcomes overall, while a culture of excellence leads to both team health and great outcomes.
So how do we distinguish between the two?
Where is the line between excellence and perfectionism?
“Once upon a time a colony of penguins was living in the frozen Antarctic on an iceberg near what we call today Cape Washington…”
So begins John P. Kotter‘s classic organisational-change fable, ‘Our Iceberg is Melting‘, in which the Emperor penguins Fred, Alice, Louis, Buddy, the Professor, and No-No (we all know that guy, right?) must confront the challenge they are facing, and learn to successfully change as a result.
Widely considered to be THE change guru in the world today, Kotter is perhaps most famous for his eight step process for leading change, which he first put forth in his classic book, ‘Leading Change’. In ‘Our Iceberg is Melting’, Kotter took those same eight steps and placed them in the context of a simple story, to great effect – it, too, became an instant classic, selling more than a million copies over the last decade.
Businesses and organisations around the world have utilised the principles modelled by Kotter’s plucky penguins in order to execute change and reach their goals, and so too can we, as we face a New Year and all that we might hope to achieve within it.