Success depends on recognizing strengths in the organization

On April 24, 2001 during a trip to Missouri, my two brothers, Jack and Joe, and I decided to take a break from building a tornado shelter and float the Buffalo River in Northern Arkansas. We drove two hours south of Springfield, Missouri, to the edge of the Boston Mountains.

Once we arrived in the area, we sought an outfitter and secured a canoe to accompany the one Jack brought. It was a warm day with occasional strong winds. The winds were a concern, but after all of the planning and the long drive, we were committed. Intermittent gusts shoved us upstream or against the bank. Luckily, they were short-lived and only minor hindrances.

We canoed from Buffalo Point to Rush Landing, a trip of about 9 miles. The clear water slipping us downstream was a perfect level, allowing us to effortlessly float with little paddling. High bluffs, reaching almost 300 feet, formed bedrock pinnacles in various shapes. Small glade areas with prairie vegetation dotted the ridge slopes amid the pinnacles. Broad gravel bars lined the river and sometimes divided it with low-lying islands. On one of these gravel bars several black vultures took turns sipping from the river.

I wore long pants and a sweat shirt, thinking the wind would be too chilly for me. To my surprise, the sun burst forth and the temperature tickled the 80s. I soon started peeling off all the clothes I could and enjoyed the summer-like day.

In some ways, we were like the six blind men of Indostan who stumbled onto an elephant and each had a unique experience. One grabbed a leg and claimed the elephant was like a tree. Another ran into the side of the elephant and said it was more like a wall and so on.

Joe seemed to notice and appreciate the topography and the many species of prairie flowers. Jack was more interested in the source of flint outcroppings. I was focused on learning from the two of them. Such trips with them is like a graduate seminar in geography, geology, and ancient Native American history.

I find leaders, too, have unique views of how to lead based upon their fields of experience. Their view of the world informs their approach to leadership. It can result in creative strategies and at the same time be too focused to consider other options.

The Buffalo River is in an amazingly beautiful place, so eye-widening experiences were to be expected. However, wherever I am, I see things of note, a red-tailed hawk diving for breakfast in the four-lane median or a catalpa tree in full bloom. It is important for leaders to see the everyday beauty before them in their organizations including the special skills, successes, and loves of employees. A lot of things are working well in every organization. Building upon the strengths of the organization and its employees is a great way to pave new success. The key is being able to recognize and acknowledge them.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.