One of my partners likes to talk about the “shapes emerging from the fog.”  It is the expression he uses to describe how the real issue eventually emerges when you investigate and approach something thoughtfully from enough angles.  More often than not, the issue you think you need to solve is really obscuring the underlying true one.  If you don’t solve the right problem, you don’t find the right solution.

I was meeting with a client yesterday.  He said something I feel like I hear almost every day as a business coach.  The guy he has in the key position is not quite the guy he and the company wish he were.  He said that the right guy in that seat would solve a myriad of problems.  And then he said something more honest than I’ve heard almost any organizational leader say:

Me:   “So what is it exactly that you are looking for?

Him“A unicorn… something that doesn’t actually exist.”

The realization that he had been waiting in frustration for something that didn’t really exist, opened up a whole new arena of possibilities:

  • While he isn’t the mythical creature that can solve all of his problems, he can solve a few… really well.
  • He could quit hoping that he would become something he couldn’t and start investing in him to becoming the best he could be while having the greatest impact to the team.
  • He is hiring to complement the leader in the key position.  Essentially, he is beginning to create the unicorn in aggregate.

The reality is that no matter how long you wait on the edge of the fog for the mythical character to emerge, they never will.

There are no unicorns.

But for this young leader, what is emerging from the fog is something far grander than a unicorn.  There is now a growing team of leaders rising from the fog that are capable of accomplishing more in the aggregate than he ever dreamed the unicorn could.

The revolving door of a small business is a troubling sign.  It might be evidence of:

  • Being quick to hire
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Not setting a team member up for success
  • A lack of training
  • Not surrounding them with the right team

It also may reveal that they are looking for unicorns.

I often get the sense, talking to some business leaders;  that they believe there is someone just beyond the horizon that can do the jobs of everyone on the team better than the folks they currently have. That there is a magic pill, program, person, or thing, that will magically solve all their problems and make their dreams come true.  That unicorns exist.

Like in most things, the answers are already there.  They lie inside.  The key to coaching and great leadership, is crafting together the solutions that are already there… and help them emerge from the fog.

  • Are you frustrated with many of the people that work for you?
  • Do you often think there are better people who could fill all the key roles in your organization?
  • How are you looking past the solutions right in front of you to the unicorns that don’t exist?