Saturday, March 1, 2014


When we think of jugglers we often think of buskers in the street or at a circus. We are amazed at their ability and sometimes even imagine ourselves being able to do the same. We ponder too the practice it took the performer to get that good at it.

So when it comes to our leadership we might not realise it, but we often apply the same logic and thinking. How often do you feel compelled to keep many activities, functions and issues in the air at the same time as if its a skill to be sought? Do you live with a constant pressure that if you "drop the ball” you have failed in some way or other?

We get easily fooled into thinking that we have to be dealing with, (and good at), many things at the same time, to be successful. We may have even developed an addiction to the adrenalin it produces. I have also seen many leadership trainers use juggling as part of their workshops as if this is an expectation of being a good leader!

We each bring specific skills and talents to our organisation and I would caution to think any of them includes juggling. Even if we are not overtly driving this trait we may inadvertently expect our people to copy this performance in some way.

There are several important things to consider about juggling and jugglers

Jugglers are only focused on one thing. Keeping all the balls in the air! They can’t afford distractions and they have no ability to include too many other considerations whilst in the act. Opportunities then for adaptive response to change are reduced. Is this how you want your organisation or people to operate?

Jugglers are entertainers and usually that’s their skill, “entertainment". You might last for a time but eventually the organisation and the people around you will be looking for more. I could be wrong, but throwing objects around in the air usually produces nothing.

Is it time to stop the "juggling act" and focus on what you really do well? Instead of tossing the implements up and around, actually use them to develop something useful.

As real innovation requires "disruption" where can this take place?

Juggling is very self-focused. Whilst they may acknowledge the people around them, they really only afford spectator value for their juggling act. Can you really afford time for what your people have to contribute or do they just upset the equilibrium of your act. Its this opportunity that you can offer in being part of their growth as well as you own, and it will provide a more productive kind of leadership than is being demonstrated in many places today.

Jugglers can rarely deal with different objects or quantity outside that which they have practiced. Try introducing a spade, hammer, spoon or javelin to a ball juggler’s repertoire without extensive prior practice. Jugglers may look like they are adaptive but they are not. sooner or later they will drop the ball, spoon, pan, knife or similar. There is always a point of overload and the whole lot comes tumbling to the ground.

Finally, Jugglers rarely make room for others, They are focused, singular and rehearsed. They leave little room for others to join in and the performance is all about the juggler. If the organisation is all about your juggling ability, then how are you making room for others to participate in the problem or support you in a real way?

Why do we waste so much time trying to be good at something we're not. I have not seen one good leader who is successful at everything at the same time. Stop listening to the world and excel in what you do well.

The ball or balls you let drop are also the very opportunity that your people have been waiting for to share and show you their skill.

Are you a juggler?
Are your people simply watching your performance?

Can you "drop the ball”?
Will you drop the ball?