Recently I was working with a client and we got talking about puzzles, believe it or not!  We were discussing how he likes to work.  He said he likes to have a clear endpoint for a project but the opportunity to be creative in how he gets there.  He likes his work to be like a puzzle.  It was such a great analogy!  I asked if I could use it in an article.

When you work on a puzzle you know what the goal is.  You have a clear vision of what the end product should be: 

  • It must resemble the picture on the box.
  • There should be no blank spaces.
  • Each puzzle piece must have a home.  

So, there is only one specific outcome but there are a million different ways to get there.

Some people use the box cover as a road map working on one section at a time.  Others separate out the border pieces first to start with the frame and work their way in.  Still others focus on only the shapes and have a real knack for visualizing which piece fits where based on their spatial relation skills alone.  

I think that it would be tough to argue that any one way is better, more efficient or enjoyable than any other, though true puzzle enthusiasts might like to wage a debate.

It really made me think about the different ways I could create the analogy to describe how my new clients lead.    

Have you ever done a puzzle with someone standing over your shoulder giving you unsolicited pointers?  It can get very annoying as they constantly point out which pieces go where.  You end up losing your concentration, dropping the piece you were focusing on to work on the one they prefer.

    It reduces enjoyment, takes away the personal sense of accomplishment and probably makes the puzzle-making process less efficient.

How about trying to put together a complicated puzzle without the aid of the picture on the box cover?

    When you can’t visualize the end point it is much more difficult to get there.

What about working on 4 or 5 puzzles at once all from one pile of pieces?

    There are so many outcomes and different resources that need to be deciphered and allocated all at once that it becomes confusing and overwhelming.

Have you ever gotten to the end of the hard work of completing the puzzle only to find that you have one or two missing resources and you are unable to complete the job?

    If you are missing resources you can’t complete the task.

Do you like putting together puzzles?   I am not wired well for sitting still and gleaning the assortment of pieces with patience.  If you were in the puzzle-making business you would not want me in your employ.

    Do you have team members who are not wired for the work they must do for you?

Which of the above best illustrates your business?

  • Are you standing over their shoulders?
  • Not providing a clear vision of the end goal?
  • Is your team working on too many goals at once?
  • Do you have team members who don’t like the work?

To lead your team well you must create the vision that is as clear as the beautiful picture on the box, assure that all of the pieces are there and that there is a clean surface to work on, assure you have the right people and then let your team go to it!