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Lessons from a Naked Emperor

All of us remember the Hans Christian Andersen fable of the emperor who was deceived into thinking he was wearing beautiful new garments. These garments, he was told, were invisible to those who were stupid or incompetent. The emperor, not wanting to appear stupid or incompetent, parades through the crowd wearing only his underwear. The crowd plays along because THEY don’t want to appear stupid or incompetent either. It isn’t until a small child cries out the truth (uh…he’s not wearing any clothes, folks), that everyone is forced to admit the reality of the situation.

Oh, the business lessons we can learn from this story!

When teams can’t or won’t be open and honest with each other, they are simply parading around in false clothing. You become your own worst enemy. Organizations desperately want to be led by people willing to do the right thing, and make the hard calls. That’s what healthy teams do.

To become a healthy team, you need to “get naked” the right way:

  • Put safety first. That means no judgement. If you expect people to “go there,” they have to know it is safe to do so.
  • Speak the truth. Don’t let pride or fear keep you from speaking up. No one wants to later realize that they are standing in their underwear.
  • Put down your dukes. Be willing to receive feedback with the spirit in which it is intended…to be helpful.
  • Value and respect all opinions shared. Eventually decisions must be made and you must present a united front…but only after everyone has been heard.
  • Know your own limitations. Effective leaders, no matter how smart they are, know and accept their weak spots. You are not perfect. You are human.
  • Be respectful with your words AND your body language. Pinched faces, smug grins, or rolled eyes speak volumes.
  • Be vulnerable. It’s okay to feel wounded. The team is there to support each other and help everyone become their best selves.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Embrace the discourse…it’s how you grow.

For some teams, having an outside facilitator can be extremely beneficial. If you think you need one…get one. Becoming a healthy team takes time and practice. Be kind. Be patient. Be intentional.

​Do what it takes to be a great team.

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Hi! I’m Michele.

I’m passionate about educating and equipping teams with the tools to strengthen the operations and structure of an organization. My method is designed to create clarity, alignment and growth within your company.

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