Don’t act surprised. You knew that “Frozen” was going to be a subject at some point, so it’s better to do it sooner rather than later, right? I promise I’ll try not to reference “the song” any more than I have already in the title… but I make no promises.
Release Date: November 27, 2013
Situation: Kristoff and his reindeer buddy, Sven, have safely delivered Princess Anna back to the castle of Arendelle in hopes that she can receive True-Love’s Kiss from Prince Hans in order to melt her frozen heart (and save her life). Unbeknownst to the inter-species team, Hans has double-crossed Anna and left her to die so that he can become the ruler of Arendelle (once he kills Queen Elsa, of course).
As our pair is leaving town, Sven stops and protests, clearly showing that he wants Kristoff to go back to Anna and tell her he loves her (the guy, not the reindeer). Throughout earlier parts of the film, Kristoff would give voice to Sven’s thoughts and the reindeer never complained. In this instance, however, Sven makes his own sounds of protest to leaving. Kristoff’s reaction of, “I don’t understand you when you talk like that,” is extremely telling, showing that Kristoff only listens to Sven when he says what he wants to hear. This leads me to this week’s lesson.
Leadership Lesson: Always be open to the opinions and ideas of the people around you.
As leaders, we can often feel pressured to be the source of ideas and solutions. There can be fear that we may lose respect or seem disposable if we implement the contributions of our team rather than our own. Or, even worse, we can feel the need to claim those contributions as our own. In either case, we are left with a team who feels they have no value as contributors.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that every idea is a great one and needs to be acted upon. Bad things can happen if we adopt that kind of thinking. But every idea is worthy of consideration and should be acknowledged. Bad ideas can be given a “Thank you for that” and a short explanation of why we can’t move in that direction. This kind of an environment welcomes input, and we will only end up with more options to choose from instead of our teams not wanting to say something “stupid” and opting to not contribute.
There are other reasons we may not listen to our team members, and I’d like to take a moment to talk about these as well. These reasons have a much more subtle and sinister nature: it could be based on one or more attributes of the individual in question, such as their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. We are surrounded by out-dated cultural norms that subconsciously tell us to give more or less credit to a person (or even to ourselves!) based on these characteristics. Take gender, for instance. In the NY Times article “How to Explain Mansplaining“, published just yesterday (4/20/16), Julia Baird sites the following in reference to how much we speak in public based on gender:
“The larger the group, the more likely men are to speak (unless it is in a social setting like a lunch break). One study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University and Princeton, found that when women are outnumbered, they speak for between a quarter and a third less time than the men.”
No matter how much of an emphasis we put on workplace equality and diversity, it is something we have to be constantly diligent about. We have to look at ourselves and how we treat those around us to determine if we are subconsciously treating people differently because on these characteristics. Do we interrupt Karen’s questions or explanations in a meeting when we would never do that to Steve? Do we speak more harshly to Mark than we do or would to Janice? This inspection can be more difficult than it sounds as we often don’t like what we see.
In any case, it boils down to this: a Leader with a team of people who are unwilling or unable to contribute ideas and opinions quickly becomes a one-man/woman-department. This isn’t the goal. Rather, a true Leader will foster an environment where our teams are encouraged to contribute, and we will feel stronger for having fostered this confidence in our people. We will be recognized by our peers and superiors for maintaining our team’s trust, morale, and teamwork. We will celebrate the success of our team and of it’s individuals as they grow and take on other roles and responsibilities, knowing that we were able to provide the chrysalis to prepare the butterfly for new heights.
In closing, try this rule of thumb: form the idea/opinion, but don’t crystallize it. Hear what other people have to say and seriously consider each point given. If something is brought up that is better than what we originally came up with, be ready to let it go and move forward with the best contribution possible.