Your Team Only Needs One Thing

On happy accidents and good advice

[Original post from Quarter Turn’s predecessor, You’re So Venn]

Bob Ross, the longtime host of “The Joy of Painting,” had naturally straight hair.

He just wanted to save money on haircuts, so one day he got a perm. But then, as a friend of his told it, he couldn’t change it back when his business took off and his hair became his company’s logo. He apparently hated that curly hair.

From Encyclopedia Britannica

Selling Reassurance

Ross died back in 1995, and what’s fascinating is that his place in pop culture only became more secure with time. His shows are on Youtube and Netflix, memes abound about “happy trees,” and the internet seems to regard his painting narration as life coaching from the pre-digital age.

His popularity is, I think, testament to our enduring need to be reassured. Did you know that only about 10% of those watching “The Joy of Painting” ever painted along? Very few people were at home with their Van Dyke brown and titanium white, their fan brushes and odorless paint thinner.

More than he taught painting, Ross sold reassurance.

Be a little fearless, he urged. Let tree branches go where they will. Push those clouds onto the canvas, and if you get a wacky one, just take your scraper and do a quick cloud-ectomy. No mistakes, just happy accidents. See what happens.

On Happy Accidents, and Advice

For some, being fearless might mean acts of physical daring. For others, it’s public speaking or something as simple (and complicated) as the fear of failure.

We fear what we don’t know, and we fear the finding out.

But if we’re lucky—and we’re listening—sometimes we get a piece of reassuring advice. One that just works for us, where others didn’t. A happy accident, if you will.

That happened to me a few years ago.

I was leading a team in my job at an insurance company at the time, and one day someone I respect told me that my team only needed one thing to move to great. He asked if I knew what that thing was. True to form, I responded with something overthought (and off target).

The advice was so simple.

Like Bob Ross it was reassuring, and it’s only become more meaningful to me with time. Because in the end it had nothing to do with being a leader. Or an employee. It was about being fearless enough to be authentic.

Oh—the advice. I’ll tell you what it was:

“Your team only needs one thing to move to great. Care to guess what that is?”

Just you.

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