On Monday and Wednesday last week, as part of the New Mexico Municipal League’s Municipal Officials Leadership Institute (MOLI), I had the pleasure of facilitating leadership training for 10 mayors and council members.
On Monday, I led the group through the Electric Maze, a creative teambuilding activity, which I described in detail in a blog post on January 16, 2011.
The basic details of the activity are that a group must find its way through a grid-like maze, which is a 6’ x 9’ carpet with squares that can beep. The path is unknown. The group must work together to cross the maze and find the non-beeping route. Communication, planning, leadership and collaboration play a big part in the success of the team.
During Monday’s experience, the group had one wheelchair bound participant, Diana. Diana volunteered to point at the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ squares. In essence, she was telling the other participants where to step and not step.
Everyone looked to Diana. The cost was inefficiency, passivity, and the group was so slow they ran out of time in Round One.
Despite Diana’s stellar effort, the group’s dependence on her slowed them down and put too much of a burden on Diana to remember the status of every square.
For Round Two, the group decided to have more people with their hands pointing at squares. With more people engaged, the group moved faster through the maze and was able to get everyone across in time.
The metaphor for the elected officials was pretty obvious. Diana represented the role many elected officials find themselves in. Too many citizens look to elected officials to solve their problems, and too many elected officials willingly take on this burden.
The same thing happens in organizations. Too many employees look to leaders and managers to tell them what to do and to save their day. The burden of ownership and accountability falls on the leaders.
The mayors learned they needed everyone’s participation to successfully complete the activity. They needed everyone to be accountable for solving the activity.
To solve our complex global, organizational and community problems, everyone has to take ownership.
Electric Maze Image: Interel