“Come on, let’s skip,” said Tilly as she grabbed my hand. Tilly is only 6 and amongst the busy Wembley crowds, she walked down the sonic runway placed along Wembley Way as part of the Winterfest display. Her sense of awe was palpable and when you are six and the music is playing and the lights are flickering, there is only one thing that you can do and it is to skip. And when you are skipping there is nothing better to do than grab the hand of a family friend who can be trusted and skip. Now Tilly is six and skipping is natural. I am a 51 year old, 6 foot 2 inch, 16 stone grown up and skipping perhaps doesn’t look quite so grand when I do it. But skip we did. When the opportunity comes, don’t forget to ‘Skip down the Sonic Runway’.
As leaders, we spend our time working out strategy and plans and modelling expectations. But there is something that I have learnt about being a leader, that sometimes, when the opportunity comes, it is important to ‘Skip down the Sonic Runway’. Sometimes it is important to let down your guard, and to join in, to enjoy the moment of fun, of play.
Why is it important?
Well, it enables you to build friendship with your community. It enables you to have a shared experience. It allows those around you to see you as human, with shared values and experiences. It helps build that culture of being in this together. It enables those around you to see the playful, fun side of you. It enables you to enjoy the moments of joy with your team. And, it can be fun, giving you that sense of joy. Spotting the joy amongst the mundane or the ploppy things of leadership is important to keep leaders going.
Being able to see the moments of joy amongst the plop is important.
As a child, I lived on a farm as my dad was a farm worker. Being a farm worker, he often would work with cattle or be involved in spreading manure on the fields. On those days he would come home, having spent all day with manure, his overalls would be covered in it and he stank of manure. My mum would make him strip down to his pants on the back door step and wouldn’t let him in the house in his overalls. He had spent so long in the manure, he could smell nothing else but the plop.
When I work with leaders in coaching and training, one of the things I often discover is that leaders spend so often dealing with the ploppy things. It is like the metaphor of spending all day dealing with manure; all they can see and smell is the manure. It is then hard to see the flowers or crops that can be growing amongst the manure too. Taking time to stop, to enjoy, to celebrate the moments of joy, to have some fun, allows some balance to come back into your perspective.
So, when Tilly said, “let’s skip,” I had a choice to join in and skip or to carry on with the mundane walk. By skipping I saw a new perspective, I saw things from a childlike perspective, and had a moment of joy. (As did many others watching this lumbering lump, lolloping down the Sonic Runway.)
We can spend all our time on plans, strategy and values. But when you ‘Skip down the Sonic Runway’ you help create the culture, team bonding and put a little enjoyment back into being a leader. “Come on. Let’s skip.”