Four Ways to Fit In and Not Disappear
Learn to fit in while you standout. Finding your place – in relation to others – frees, empowers, and enhances meaning.
Leaders who succeed in isolation aren’t doing much.
The myth of arrogance is you can succeed without others.
Successful leaders fit in. Connection requires alignment and conformity. Individualism is important and necessary, but it’s not absolute. More importantly, successful leaders help others fit in.
In a recent meeting, a team-leader said, “Tom really adds a lot.” In order to “add a lot,” people must find their place in relation to others.
4 ways to help others fit in:
- Honoring difference.
- Acknowledging their strengths and contributions, publicly.
- Explaining and respecting their power-behaviors. You’re at your best when….
- Pointing out how individuals make their team better. If you weren’t here ….
Help others fit in by monitoring their energy. Yesterday, I had a conversation with a visionary community leader. Her energy level rose when she talked about the way the world would be better after the mentoring conference she’s organizing.
But, when I asked about a few logistical items, it was like I’d thrown a wet blanket on her. She can handle logistics, but they don’t energize her.
Helping people fit in means helping them find energizing work.
Successful leaders don’t simply fit in. They standout. More importantly, they help others standout. But, standing out is isolation when you aren’t connected.
The ability to standout and remain connected elevates impact.
Three ways to help others standout:
- Release individuals to do more of what they love.
- Spend quality time with a few individuals.
- Avoid the trap of thinking busyness compensates for connection. Busyness destroys connection. Leaders who don’t have time to connect can’t standout.
How can leaders help others fit in?
How can leaders avoid the trap of isolation?
Astronaut Chris Hadfield in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth described this as being a zero – neither someone who detracts from the project nor someone who stands out so much they are a detriment to it. A good read, I recommend it.
Thanks for the recommendation Vanessa.
Absolute truth Vanessa!!!
“Busyness destroys connection” – Oh. So. True.
Well, not sure Dan what wik-o-pedia says about Leadership, but I am thinking conforming ain’t there no where.
I do not think Richard Branson spends any part of his day trying to figure out how he and his people are isolating or not. How about Steve Jobs?
These dudes LEAD, not babysit!!! Ouch!!!
Think he is too busy looking forward LEADING.
Now just in case a strategy for connecting was of value, I got one.
1 be happy now
2 have a compelling Vision of the Future pulling you to it.
3 present in the moment with the person you want to connect with
4 ask questions about them and listen that after awhile will be one seemless action.
Yeah that is the ticket making copies.
Thanks Scott. Conforming is part of every relationship. One aspect of leadership is creating an environment. Why? Because we tend to conform to the environment. Environments have power.
Conforming means we submit to the cultural rules of relationship, for example.
Leadership without conforming is impossible.
Honor differences but align everyone toward the goal
Thanks billgncs. Yup!
One of my favorite quotes was said by Dr. Martin Luther King, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” I think that’s a good summary statement of what you expressed in this writeup. You have to both fit-in and stand-out. As a leader you have to build others up so they can do what they do best. Recognize strengths and help overcome weaknesses is the mantra I have for myself toward my team.
Ken, excellent quote by Dr. King. I heard it in 1968 on the UCLA campus. The scripture he used to preface it was: “Each day we must not only rise, but RISE and SHINE.” Maybe he meant we as leaders can STAND OUT when we help others FIT IN.
Thanks Books. Love the personal story.
Thanks Ken. I’ve been thinking alot about building others up so they can stand out. It’s so easy to discourage people, especially if they are excited about something and we put them down.
Good morning Dan
I agree to a point that all members of a team or organization must conform to standards of protocol and acceptable behavior. However, my life experience has taught me that those who enjoy great success while leading DO stand out in the crowd. It’s almost imposable for outside the box thinkers, and those who stand head and shoulders above the rest, to find satisfaction ‘just fitting in’. When I was a young man, (many, MANY years ago), I played in two back-to-back State Championship All-Star Finals while playing Babe Ruth Baseball. What got me there was not that I simply ‘made the team’, nor was it the fact that ‘I started every game’. It was my will and desire to be the best at my position and the best teammate I could be. It wasn’t flamboyant behavior or self-promotion, it was consistent day to day performance. As you know I am, “if nothing else”, a self confident, self sufficient man. It’s how I was raised, it’s how I raised my children. I believe if there is only one thing that determines personal success it is sincere determination to be the best that you can be, without apology. I’m not talking about ‘in your face arrogance’, I’m talking about that thing that’s inside those of us that persevere, the attitude that says, “I will not lose, I will not be beaten, I will overcome”. However, I am not foolish, I realize this never say die attitude can come across as cockiness or arrogance. It’s at those times when I am in the company of those who do not know me well that I ‘tone it down a bit’. There are those who are intimidated by the attributes I’ve mentioned, they feel uncomfortable, sometimes pressured to be around those with gusto or intestinal fortitude. QUESTION – When these attributes that brought great success to your life are deemed self-serving, defiant, and arrogant by a superior not processing these qualities, “WHAT DOES A PLAYER DO TO STAY IN THE GAME?”
Hey Steven, I appreciate your post, it made me think… I think you and Dan are actually on the same page. I feel what Dan is saying is you can be the best but connect yourself with the others by bringing them with you. I know of some people who are brilliant and stand out and are aloof from the others. They are great at what they do but they work in a silo. They don’t socialize (or don’t know how to) with the others and find connections like fishing or reading books, teaching, mentoring or even the work they do. Connecting builds trust and this trust is what gives you the latitude to stretch others comfort zones. You said in your post that you ‘tone it down a bit’ when someone does not know you well. This is what Dan is talking about in fitting in, I believe. By toning it down you serve others by allowing them to feel alright around you and, therefore, give connecting a chance to happen…. It is one thing to be driven but it is another talent to show others you are not separated from them. You said you had desire to be the best teammate you could be on your little league team. I feel this is the point Dan is wanting to make.
Live the moment, -Shane
Thanks Shane. Good advice, well put, and well taken.
Thanks SGT. I’m glad you’re emphasizing the standing out aspect of this conversation. Leaders have to have enough confidence, pride, ego (whatever you call it) to believe they can make a difference. I think it’s the fitting in side of things that can be hard.
Fitting in is about connecting with people. And, I know we agree that leadership is all about people. I feel like fitting in the platform leaders use to stand out.
Busyness destroys connection. It is so true Dan. Just who are you leading if no one ever sees you?
Fitting in does not equal disappearing. This topic has so many facets to it. I’ve worked with people who take the challenge of “standing out” literally. They give voice to bold opinions or have the fanciest office wardrobe or assume a big personna or take stands that are contrary to others. Personally, I think it is a very rare person who can stand out for long like this without eventually flaming out. In an office setting, at least, I think the best way to stand out is to take whatever responsibilities you are given and generate the best results in the most timely way possible — and to leave a positive impression on everyone you work with. As a leader, this is the advice I give my team members, then I give them the support and resources they need to get it done. Throughout my career, the way to stand out is to treat every assignment as if it was the most important one you’ve ever done. This approach has never failed to help me get better projects, to get greater responsibilities, and to get more recognition . . . without having to be self-serving about it.
Liked your approach and the way to earn professional respect with success. Keeping the team members intact with good motivation and encouragement helps in maintaining the high spirit to achieve higher goals. The crux is having a clear job role and defined responsibilities to know the top management expectations. Mutual Trust and 2-way Communication bring the best out of you. Good leaders are never afraid of working on big challenges or newer areas of responsibilities if they have a good support from the top with required directional guidance.
My team leader is shockingly great at figuring out where each of our individual passions lies and has worked with unfettered commitment to get each of us in positions that aligns with our passions no matter what it costs her in lost “project work” time or training/re-hiring for the short term. I’ve really never seen or heard of anyone like her.
I think part of that is her ability to detect energy within conversation like you do Dan, and then immediately have the honest conversation around “let’s get you in a role you are passionate about.”
I hope Susan Cain’s perspective holds some value, as well. (http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts) Introverts have something to contribute and I must admit, it’s my comfort zone. I like to disappear. I like to be in the background. Standing our for all to see is not where I choose to perform. I don’t know if this is an area for improvement or an area where I should just accept myself for who I am. Right now, it is the latter.
Loved the post and the few take-away.
The best quotes are – ‘The Myth of Arrogance is you can succeed on your own’; ‘The ability to standout and remain connected elevates impact’; ‘Learn to fit in while you standout. Finding your place – in relation to others – frees, empowers, and enhances meaning.’
A stage of disappearing comes only when things become unmanageable with respect to self-esteem and trust. There is nothing wrong to go with your advice to stand out with connecting others in a different environment or profession. One needs to take care of self-health and mental peace rather than going through stressful situations and uncertainties.
“The myth of arrogance is that you can succeed without others.” Solid gold statement!
A great leader stands out by helping others grow
Edwin Friedmann in his book, “Generation to Generation” says that the best leadership comes from three things: 1) self-differentiating (your standing out), 2) staying connected (your fitting in) AND 3) handling the resistance that inevitably comes when you are the first two points well. Knowing his point #3 helps me do some healthy reframing in times of tension.
There are two powerful concepts here- standout and fit-in. In organizational set up both have different meanings depending on perspectives. Being stand out could be taking stand against majority of people who generally fit-in into followed trends. Such trends are generally expected to follow without questioning. So, those who stand-out irrespective their justifications and rationality, system does not easily recognize them. Secondly, system recognize stand-out when leaders are concerned about organizational development. They know that those who stand-out actually make some real sense and those who just fit-in are interested in their position and in reality do not contribute towards the development of system.
I strongly feel that encouraging dissent is also one good way to help others to fit-in or stand-out. It means leaders should encourage different opinion because such opinion generally make sense. Other and perhaps better way to create environment that opens up everyone, discourages differences and subjectivity.
Leaders can avoid the trap of isolation for both- to self and to others. They can remain connected with line or middle management. At the same time, they should help lower level of employees to unleash their potential. And this is possible by creating environment based on trust, openness and fairness.
I always enjoy reading your comments!
How can leaders help others fit in? Maintain effective communication especially for those who work-off shift or remotely. Allow for everyone in the group to have a pulse on the organization.
Yes. We cańt succeed alone. We need each others. An entrepreneur always has a team, friends and his family to help him succeed.
Suceeding without others doesn’t do much good for the leaders. And if the leader succeeds without others, he/she’s well not a leader, rather the lonewolf, itself.