Groundhog Day is a strange tradition. It know the basics about the day, aided in part by the Bill Murray classic movie Groundhog Day. I’m guessing you know the basics too – Punxsutawney Phil comes up out of his hole looking for a shadow, and that tells the people observing him how much longer winter will be. Strange, I know.
If you need or want to learn more (though it isn’t necessary for these lessons) you can go to the official site.
So what lessons can we as leaders learn from Phil, not just today, but everyday?
Lose the hole. Too many leaders stay in their cubicle, office or region. These are our versions of the hole. We step out briefly, and retreat to our safe, known world. Too many leaders spend too much time or frequently retreat into their hole. The best leaders lose the hole completely. What does this mean in real life? Engage with your team, peers and customers. Spend time with them, ask questions and listen. Of course there are times you have a project to work on or a major issue to confront. These times require the quiet of your office. If you don’t consciously get out and engage, you’ll become too much like Phil.
Look more often. Once a year? Come on Phil! Even people who don’t watch the weather much check out their surroundings more than once a year! Great leaders don’t just engage, they keep their minds open to what is going on – in the marketplace, with their organizational culture and with individuals. This is about more than getting out of the hole, it is about what you do when you are out. This is an ongoing part of the work of leadership – looking, surveying and gaining a perspective that is required to lead towards a desired future.
Observe longer. Phil gets a quick peek of his shadow (or not) and retreats. Even if you get out more often, observing longer means getting past first impressions of people, situations and facts. It also implies thinking and reflecting on what you have observed. Collect more data and gain more kinds of input. Use your ears and intuition as well as your eyes and the facts.
Celebrate traditions. Strange as it may be, the events at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA each Groundhog Day is a big deal. As a leader you must recognize the meaningful traditions in your organization and support them. If your organization lacks them, or if you feel new traditions could enrich teamwork, reinforce organizational values or enhance the culture, it is your job to engage others to create them. Traditions are powerful things, and they don’t have to be meaningful, except to the people who participate in them. They likely won’t be created or maintained without you. You are a leader, after all.
These are four lessons I get from Groundhog Day – what others do you see? I invite your comments and additions!