Turn Your Chair to Create Opportunity and Experiences

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I don’t watch a lot of TV but The Voice is a show I follow closely. It’s the heat of the season right now, so it’s on my mind and my screen. To some, The Voice might seem like another competitive performance show (and it is) but there is a powerful metaphor that applies to leadership, team building, and personal development. I have learned a few lessons from the coaches and the vibe on this show when hiring people and developing teams. It’s true!

The end of a season on The Voice is always exciting because the winner is chosen. However, I still love the start of the season when the coaches build their teams. During the Blind Auditions, the four coaches sit with their chairs turned away from the stage and they listen to each contestant sing a cover clip of a song. If the coach wants the contestant on their team, they press their button to turn their chair around. If multiple coaches turn around, the contestant gets to choose which coach they want to join. The Blind Auditions continue until each coach has a full team. This show took my heart the first time I watched it because the contestants’ faces light up as the first coach turns around. They stay focused and continue singing but they light up with happiness and hope – each and every one that gets a chair turn.

Here’s one of my favorite Blind Auditions

If you’re a leader or team member, you probably remember the first time someone showed interest in you and extended you a job offer to join their team. It feels empowering when someone in a place of influence and power saw (or heard) something in you that they connected with. It doesn’t always turn out perfectly; sometimes we learn what we like and sometimes we learn what we don’t like through new experiences and relationships. However, it’s a chance to learn something new, learn more about ourselves, and learn what we have to offer. It’s also a step, big or small, along our big-picture career journey.

As leaders, we often have the opportunity to give someone else an offer to learn and contribute. Just like on The Voice, we don’t have unlimited spaces on our team – we can’t support everyone – but it’s such a gift to have this power. We get to extend an opportunity to someone and share our skills and experience. Unfortunately, many leaders hire in order to fill seats on their team and use team members as a means to an end, to achieve results and move forward themselves. Sometimes it’s because this happened to them as a team member and sometimes it’s because once we gain a job or leadership position, it’s easy to lose sight of what someone did for us and the fact that we were given that opportunity way back when. The high of the initial acceptance wears off and the excitement fades. When this happens, we also often forget that we need to pass it on and do this for others – create opportunities, turn our chair for others, and share what we are enthusiastic about and what we have gained in our experience.

Don’t fill positions to fill seats on your team. Fill positions to create opportunity and experiences for people. The more we invest in others, the more we get to enjoy watching what they become and how they contribute to the world. Many argue that the winners of The Voice are not “successful”. What is success anyway? The contestants go off in cool directions from making albums, to Broadway, and beyond. This speaks to not just entering the show to get a record deal but instead enjoying the journey with the coaches and believing the Voice is not the end of the road. There are limitless possibilities beyond just a record deal… beyond winning just this battle. There is a bigger picture to what is happening and developing if you have the foresight to zoom out and think about it as a lifetime of experiences, contributions, and learning. This speaks to the importance of detachment not only as a leader, in terms of results of the skills and mentorship time you share with your team members, but detachment on the part of the team members to be as dedicated as you are detached to their current work and go with the flow for where it takes you next. There can be dedication, detachment, and gratitude on both sides.

The Voice reminds me of the times I have been so excited and grateful that someone turned their chair for me so I could take my experience to the next level. I was even more grateful when my leader showed up each day to share experience, skills, and feedback with me. Always remember that you have valuable skills and experience to share and give it selflessly. It’s amazing to see others take what you have to give and make it their own. In turn, the members of our team become valuable extensions of our abilities and connections that help us move toward our objectives in and outside of work. The most rewarding part is watching them develop into something completely their own and enjoying their unique contributions while on our team and in the future.

As a team member, it’s important to show up and reach out for those opportunities you’re interested in and enthusiastic about. Use your voice. Don’t get discouraged when a few people don’t turn their chair. Spend time honing in on who you are and find your tribe and a leader that believes in you. It will happen. Eventually, you’ll be in a position where you have the power to turn your chair for others. Use that power for good. Watch it grow.

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So, find people you love to work with and are enthusiastic about. Turn your chair for them and selflessly share your skills, provide inspiration and wisdom, challenge them in a kind way that takes their experience to the next level, and give acknowledgement and encouragement. As a team member, show up, learn all that you can, and express your enthusiasm and gratitude for what you learn. Find a place to work with a mission and people you love and your power will proposer. It takes time and dedication. Cultivate a deep curiosity for what is possible in this phase of your journey and beyond.

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Thanks for reading!

I’m passionate about this stuff. It’s true! For insights and exercises for finding your authentic voice and creating experiences for your team, check out my new book, Awake Leadership.

And… watch the Top 8 contestants perform on The Voice Monday night.

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