One of my favorite breakfast foods is a fresh orange. I just like a California Navel Orange. The other morning while peeling my morning orange I started thinking about leadership. I realize that some of you just started questioned how anyone could jump to leadership just from peeling an orange. Let me share an observation.

I started thinking about how people peel an orange differently. This got me to asking a question to a few of my friends. I would randomly ask this question, “If I were to give you an orange, would you peel it for me?” I just wanted to witness the many different ways that people accomplish the same goal. The responses from my friends were not what I expected. Here are a few of the answers that I got.

– How come you can’t peel it?
– Why me?
– Can’t you just cut it instead?
– I don’t like oranges.
– I don’t know how.
– Why?
– You do it.
– I hate peeling oranges.
– No.
– I don’t have a knife.
– Do you want all the orange peeled or only half?
– And my favorite, “can’t you just eat the skin?”

It would seem to me that asking a simple question to someone should be followed up by a positive response and a met objective. After all, it is not rocket science it is just peeling an orange. Just do what I asked you to do.

The leadership part of this little story is this. When it comes to leadership, accomplishing a simple task requires more than just giving an order. Giving an order is something that happens in the military or by a dictator. A leader needs to understand the personality of the team member. There will be times when a team member must “peel on demand.” However, those times are not as frequent as you might imagine.

A leader understands that some of the team might need to know more about the why while others might need to know how. There will be some team members that need to express their feelings about the request. The other two types of team members are the ones that will cause the most stress.

First is the ones that will say “no.” These are the ones that might be swamped, stressed, lack of ability or possibly even scared. (It is only an orange, get over it all ready.) Assuming that you have established a quality team, the “no” should not be out of defiance, but should have a deeper meaning. Leaders need to find the “why behind the no.”

The second stressful answer is the “why not eat an apple” answer. The I have a better way, idea, etc. This answer should not stress out a good leader. A leader understands that this is coming from a creative person. Every team needs the creative team member. The wrong response for this answer would be to correct harshly. Instead, find the “why behind the suggestion.”

This week’s experiment is to take an orange and ask a few people to peel it for you. Take note to their answers.

*On a side note, if they have dirty fingernails do not let them use their thumb to dig into the fruit you are getting ready to put into your mouth.*