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I Have a Platypus in My Flat and it Won’t Leave

I Have a Platypus in My Flat and it Won’t Leave

“I have a platypus in my flat and it won’t leave, but it pays rent, so what should I do?”

I asked this of a colleague recently and I’d like to I probably need to explain the context. In general, I ask people all the time to recommend me. Or give me feedback. Or especially follow me (in the leadership sense, not in the social media sense). And often all three, albeit typically in the reverse order. Whether it’s working on myself, my business ideas or my hobby projects I just love building things and while I can always create alone I’ve learned that making things together is much more rewarding. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t more challenging, because leading a team means constantly growing oneself.

When founding my company, Quality Beast, I did the same thing I did to help grow Sociomantic Labs (a German start-up formed in 2009) that I also did in my childhood and adolescent years; I hunted relentlessly for diversity. And not to raise nice statistics for PR purposes. I did it because variety inspires me. Having loads of different-minded people around challenges over-confidence and fuels creative thinking. There is always an expert on any topic around and never a dull day for heated discussion. Diversity is a vital ingredient for building a dream team.

For a leader, diversity can be a powerful force towards productivity but also very difficult to manage. It means the leader must put in extra time and effort to develop a unique mentoring style for each team member. In my experience, even a colleague who is less self-driven doesn’t want to be micro-managed so the puzzle of directing action without dictating every detail is one that is never finished. In my opinion, the key to good leadership is finding enjoyment in solving the puzzle of who-needs-what-and-when on a daily basis.

And that means carving out the ego on a daily basis too, which I’m happy to discuss at length in another post (or series of posts) but not something I’ll dive into now as today I want to discuss the platypus that is in my flat, which won’t leave, but does pay rent. This ridiculous (and obviously untrue) statement was what I told a Quality Beast team member earlier this afternoon. They reached out to express a lack of stamina for our current project. I’ve recently been blessed with a 6-week-old daughter and to them, any complaint about their lack of energy would be unfair matched against my current responsibilities. So they labeled their expression as a “weird complaint”.

“There are no weird complaints” I said, without hesitation, and went on to explain that I know we’re each our own people, with our own set of struggles, obstacles, fears, feelings, situations, circumstances and stresses. Then I quickly doubled back, noticing there are maybe some weird complaints and thus the platypus – who won’t leave, but pays rent – was born as an example of such.

“We totally need this written down somewhere” they exclaimed, obviously relieved. And I agree. I find a phrase like this can be useful to remember that we all have our own unique problems and no matter how wild they might seem we need a safe place to voice them, where they won’t be compared or measured. The platypus helps us to remember that no problem is too big for us and while many of our strifes in life are no laughing matter, there’s nothing stopping us from smiling at the challenges we face, whenever we can. That, and for a company like Quality Beast – which (by extension of my feelings) cares deeply about cherishing and respecting human variety and individuality – there’s nothing really more diverse than sharing a flat with a platypus.

Animal metaphors aside, what is your take on leading a diverse team? Do you also have motivational metaphors you apply to put your team members at ease? Let me know in the comments, I’m always eager to discuss improved leadership styles!

Photo credit: Matt Chan

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