I recently competed in two 3 day volleyball tournaments in successive days. The contrast in the two teams was interesting, including the very real differences in leaders and leadership styles, and the communication and presence involved.

One team was very collaborative, no one leader driving the offense or defense, no one person dominating court time or time outs. I liken this to practice groups where the designated leader allows open forum of conversation, and ideas for the betterment of the whole are advanced with strategic thought.  Consider The Starfish and the Spider, where the authors ponder the success of “leaderless” organizations.  In reality they are discussing the comfort in leading or following, which requires trust, vulnerability, and respect.  What a disruption in our society, a pause and reframe on our traditional dominant leader-driven culture. And disruptors provide opportunity for creativity, new ways of solving old problems (billable hour, anyone?) – in this case, a Gold medal.

The other team was driven.  We had a mission, a purpose, and every point won or lost was significant to the self-appointed leader. She was a contrarian – anything brought up in a timeout that wasn’t her idea was shot down with some counter play. After our first 4 matches some of the team stopped talking. And what happens when a team isn’t communicating?  That’s right, it’s not “winning”. I recall clearly a rally which ended without a single voice speaking on our side of the court, even though we won the point. This lead to no celebration, no energy, no vitality in moving to the next point.

Imagine the partner meeting with your contrarian. Or, maybe you are the contrarian?  Do people go quiet after you speak? Do you know who silences you when they speak?  Growth opportunities for all of us. Consider how you can speak up anyway, maybe in a one-on-one setting. Self-awareness is hard sometimes, and our best teachers are those on our team.

Second team finished with a Bronze. Everyone seemed happy with that, sometimes it’s about moving on. That’s easier to do with a one-time event, and in your firm with day-to-day interactions necessary to advance your firm, your challenge is to stay present, celebrate the point, talk with the contrarian, be a disruptor, and learn about yourself. One day at a time.

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About Judy Hissong

Judy Hissong is the President of Nesso Strategies. A former law firm Chief Operating Officer, she helps firms become more profitable by developing leaders. Her mission is “world domination for Good.” By creating actionable, lightbulb moments that leaders want to share and spread, she intends to improve the world one person at a time.

Judy Hissong