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I propose a leadership lesson from a visit to the zoo

There are many things we can learn from kids. There are many things we can learn as parents and implement to our leadership toolset. And finally, there are many things we learn as leaders and can and should apply to our parenting skills. One common theme is the language that we use. There are many situations and aspects that use of language matters. In this coffee journey, I am going to focus on one. We learned it during our last year trip to Zurich Zoo. I propose a leadership lesson from a visit to the Zoo. Wait. What?!?

We are on the son and dad Europe trip with my older son. We landed in Memmingen and going through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, to visit some spectacular places that we carefully planned. We’ve been on the road for a few days, and today we have an easy day in Zurich. But today is a big day. My son wants to be in charge of today’s planning and execution of our trip during the day.

Good leaders versus bad leaders 😻😾

During the morning briefing, we learn what is the difference between a good and a lousy leader. The good leader listens to other people and takes their opinions into consideration. He or she proposes the best course of action but also encourages different views. He or she wants to help others to be better. Weak leaders cover just a manager or a supervisor role. They plan everything, don’t listen to others and only apply the plan without any consideration of others.

The good leader listens to other people and takes their opinions into consideration. He or she proposes the best course of action but also encourages different views. He or she wants to help others to be better. Click To Tweet

I decide to really pass the command of today trip to the young adept of leadership. I am going to intervene only when the situation is going to be wrong, threatening our health.

I propose a leadership lesson from a visit to The zoo
Taking a change of the mission! Full ownership.

It was during yesterday’s diner when he mentioned the zoo for the first time. For me, the idea of wandering the whole day in one place is far from the perfect, but this is our trip so everyone should be participating in plans. Notably, I am serious about him leading today’s journey.

I propose – the language of a true leader 🀝

Today, during our breakfast, the zoo idea seems to be even more attractive.

  • “I want to go to the zoo” – he informs me with confidence.
  • “Good, however, you need to present your idea in a way that we both will participate in the decision” – I am reminding him about the topic of the conversations that we’ve just had.
  • “I propose that we will go to the zoo together.” – he corrects himself.
  • “Good, remember though, that we promised our girls (mommy and little sister) that we would bring souvenirs from Switzerland. Do you think we should buy them first, or when we are going back from the zoo?”
  • “I propose we will deal with it first, so we don’t need to remember about it later”.

I liked his mature plan. It was evident, we would forget about souvenirs later, or we would be super tired after the long day in the zoo. But what surprised me even more, was the language he used. He proposed instead of forcing his idea.

Put learnings into action πŸ†™ πŸ—Ί

We quickly adopted a new way of presenting our plans and corrections. We rented a car as the primary means of transportation on our trip. My son’s first idea was to just drive the car to the zoo. I knew it was going to take longer, as we would likely be stuck in city-centre traffic. I proposed we take a tram instead. It was going to be a learning opportunity and good fun as we do not have the trams in London.

Tram in ZΓΌrich, Switzerland πŸ‡¨πŸ‡­ 2019
Tram in ZΓΌrich, Switzerland πŸ‡¨πŸ‡­ 2019

We started to execute on our plan, or I should say my son’s idea. First, a quick detour to the city centre to buy some souvenirs. That was easy. We travel by tube in London, and this knowledge is transferable.

  • “We need a ticket and a tram map”. – I hear the command from the leader of the today trip.
  • I propose we go to the nearest station and we will acquire all needed things” – I am adding, stressing first two words.

A few minutes later, we are in a tram πŸšƒ going to first stop on our journey. In the meantime, we study a map and find at least two alternatives on how to get to the zoo. Before we got to the city centre to buy magnets and t-shirts, we had already established where we need to change and what tram lines will take us to the zoo.
The whole trip with a break for shopping, ice creams and coffee took us about 45 minutes. We even enjoyed a little concert of classical music.

Zoology, biology and leadership 🦍 πŸ•Š

I could summarise the rest of the day as the one big lesson in biology, zoology and of course leadership. My role was mainly to be a free encyclopaedia (thank God for mobile internet).

The animal world is practically dominated by the approach that the strongest wins. Lions and gorillas are perfect examples of the “jungle laws”. In contrast, the penguins are an example of a slightly different approach when it comes to leadership within their families and herds.

Both parents raise a small baby penguin. Both parents exchange the responsibility of feeding their offspring. First, daddy penguin goes on kilometres long journey in the freezing cold to catch some fish and bring it to the little penguin. When his back, mommy penguin embarks on the same journey, just to share responsibilities associated with feeding their baby.

Food is important πŸ₯—πŸ₯¨

I also had a critical role of the negotiator for stops to apply food and water rations, as the young commander in charge informed me that he was so excited, he did not need to eat or drink.

Perfectly designed dining area, ZΓΌrich Zoo, Switzerland πŸ‡¨πŸ‡­ 2019
Perfectly designed dining area, ZΓΌrich Zoo, Switzerland πŸ‡¨πŸ‡­ 2019

In the end, right at the exit, we discovered a vast playground and a restaurant.
The playground was very cleverly designed. Instructions for this place can be summed up in a few points:

  • buy a meal
  • everyone eats everything from their meal
  • everyone means everyone
  • no access to the playground until the portions disappears from the plate
  • after lunch, small monkeys πŸ’ are allowed to jump on the playground
  • gorillas and other parents can now enjoy the afternoon coffee and moment of silence, while the youth are jumping and burning calories in the huge playground situated in the way that is visible from almost every table in the dining area

We came back to the hotel, practically taking naps in the tram. Then, we reached our room and implemented the shortened cleaning procedure. We were thankful for another day full of experience and packed with lessons. We are going to fell asleep as soon as sloths, which we have seen in the zoo.

It is interesting how much we can learn in the zoo, both about animals and about ourselves.

Implementation to leadership β˜•οΈπŸŽ“

Propose your ideas πŸ€²πŸ’‘

  • use proper language “I propose”
  • the best idea should win
  • implement data-driven decisions
  • Check the lean coffee voting system
  • if you do not agree – offer counter proposal
  • if you are not convinced – say it – but we need to move forward, and someone’s else idea win – you need to support it like it was your idea.

Challenge and be prepared to be challengedπŸ”¬

  • it is not personal when people question the ideas that you are proposing
  • challenge everything – if it has a strong base – it will defeat itself
    • it is not a competition though – if someone is struggling to provide solid arguments, try to be emphatic and find why they thought it was a good idea in the first place
  • always try to understand “why”
  • if this is your concept being challenged, be prepared to have good “whys.”
  • it is your responsibility to understand “why” we do what we do if you don’t understand ask -> challenge.
It is not personal when people question the ideas that you are proposing. If this is your concept being challenged, be prepared to have good "whys." Click To Tweet

Today I propose a leadership lesson from a visit to the zoo. Do you have some other lessons learnt in various situation of your life?


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