One Saturday morning recently, I found myself finally able to understand that some team members are just not wired to wake up at the same time as their peers.
I was home at our kitchen counter, and watched my kids come downstairs in their usual manner.
…My son likes to wake up early and goes straight for the cereal.
…My youngest daughter usually comes downstairs rubbing her eyes, but is determined to get ready on time and never be late or miss a chance to play.
…Then, there is my older daughter. She enjoys sleep a bit too much, and can be found hibernating in her room until after noon on some Saturdays if I let her.
And although I had gotten up early that morning out of frustration, bothered by the different levels of enthusiasm, responsibility, and leadership that existed on the basketball team I coached, I realized that the players on my team were much like my children.
While I had always preached that our basketball program should feel and treat each other like a family, this particular reenactment was not what I had envisioned!
What I had finally noticed, though, after weeks of being upset and irritated that season (and for many seasons prior to that one), was that EVERY player on my team, just like my children at home, probably woke up at different times.
Think about that.
Not all flowers bloom at the same time…
I had been disappointed in one team member more than the others, because he was very talented but still refused to take the reins of leadership the way that I had hoped he might as an upperclassman.
But that morning, watching my children all get up at different times, was for me an epiphany.
I realized that the player who I had been most frustrated with was simply growing at his own pace. And it reminded me of the bamboo plant that was sitting on the counter beside our sink.
I had given a small bamboo plant to each player on a team I had coached years earlier, and the story that I shared when I gave them the tiny bamboo plant was that some bamboo plants (although not the kind I had purchased) could grow up to 60 feet in under six weeks.
Sixty feet is an amazing height to reach in just over a month.
But, I continued, it takes a long time before the bamboo reaches the point that it is ready for that explosion of growth. Bamboo can only grow in height or width proportionately to the size of the supporting root stem it has established!
There is a saying about newly planted bamboo:
The first year it sleeps…
The second year it creeps…
And the third year it leaps!
It takes three years for the plant to establish the root system that allows it to shoot up so quickly, but the root system growth must occur first.
The impressive growth in a cluster of bamboo plants is preceded by a great deal of unseen energy spent on underground growth. And that is how it is in our development as people.
The player I was frustrated with was still establishing his root system. It was not my job to berate him for his unwillingness to lead – it was my job to recognize his stage of growth and encourage him to continue growing – while I sought another voice to be the leader our team needed.
When he someday became ready, he would shoot up and claim the reins of leadership, if not for our team, then perhaps for another one in his future. But wanting somebody to want to lead does not make them a leader any more than wanting somebody to wake up sooner makes them hop out of bed.
You can yell and scream and be unpleasant, but then they just become irritable and sour instead of waking up positive and productive.
People wake up at different times. And as much as we may want to set a loud alarm clock to buzz them into action, effective team leaders eventually learn to accept people for who and what they are.
Don’t waste your time trying to wake them from their sleep.
Let them continue to develop at their own pace, and make a far more productive use of your time and energy by identifying the bamboo plants in your organization who are showing signs of leaping into their growth stage.
Love people were they are, and encourage them to become what they might.
As a leader, if you would like to schedule a day for all your team members to have a great time while building communication and leadership skills, consider a business teambuilding event to improve team motivation and relationships.
Help your people develop their “root systems” and know that, in time, you will see the growth and activity you desire!
If you are part of a business, school, or athletic team that needs to improve communication, inspire accountability, energize morale, and transform your group into a more productive team, contact him and get started improving your organization today!
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