The Law of Navigation

I bought a new book on leadership for my birthday this week. It rocks! I'm only a couple chapters in to the book but I already love it. The book is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. This book is chock full of great advise and good examples. The chapter I'm on is about the "Law of Navigation." Great leaders know where they are going and visualize how to get there. The example that hit home to me is of Roald Amundsen vs. Robert Scott. Both men led expeditions to be the first to reach the South Pole. Amundsen's team managed the feat well, while Scott and his men all perished.

What was the difference? Amundsen spent a lot of time thinking about the entire voyage. He could visualize the trip sufficiently well that he could spot key problems they would potentially run into. He then searched out the people who could help him solve those problems. He traveled far and wide to be able to have the knowledge necessary to successfully complete the trip. He then could plan and navigate the trip to a successful conclusion. Scott's team ran into every single problem that Amundsen had thought of. Inadequate clothing, inadequate food, inadequate fuel, inadequate water supply. Amundsen had pioneered new methods for solving some of these problems. He also learned from others who were accustomed to being in similar conditions. He was able to navigate all the aspects of the expedition (food, fuel, health, transportation) and not just the actual route there. Scott's team perished, literally, for want of leadership.

Navigating as a leader means more than just plotting the direction and leading the charge off into the sunset. It means knowing how your team is doing, physically, mentally, emotionally, and what they are likely to face in the future. How is morale now? How will be it in a couple of days after everyone has been working overtime to solve the time-critical problems that are about to pop up? What key skills does your team need now, and what skills will they need in a few months when you are asked to tackle the next challenge? How are you preparing your team for the next challenge? Knowing the stages a team progresses through (forming, storming, norming, performing) and how their enthusiasm level changes (high, low, moderate, high) what "supplies" have you stocked for the journey to help move the team forward? A quick "thank you" or a "this is really what we need. This is great work." at the right time from the right people can really move the team forward over the slumps and emotional challenges.

How does this apply to, say, our church teams? If you are are the Elder's Quorum President, what are the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual challenges your team will likely run into? Lack of focus on spiritual development? Too little time for physical activities that sharpen our saw? Loneliness from being away from family on work trips? How can you plan ahead and create emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical stockpiles that your team can tap into along the way?

What about Laurel Class President? Self-image issues? Lack of testimony? Pressure to fit in and look cute rather than be modest? What stockpiles can you help put in place for your team to fall back on and use when they need it most? Are there women in the church who are strong in the gospel that you can have help you know how and what stockpiles to put in place?

Another example is my robotics team. I coach 8-10 fourth to sixth graders on how to be a cohesive team, how to build a robot, and how to program the robot. They also have to come up with and complete a project that is similar to a giant science fair project. I have yet to have a team that didn't have problems with respecting each other. At some point in time the team will be struggling to complete all the parts that need to be done. At these times it will be tempting to blame others on the team. I have to take the time and effort to emotionally prepare my team members to be ready for these times. I have to give them the skills and space to get through these trying times, both from a team accomplishment perspective and a team cohesion perspective. The respect game is great for this. It is also very helpful for me to remind the team of the accomplishments that each person has done. And it helps a lot to schedule a party or get-together where we can just have fun together and not worry about what the team needs to get done.

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