INsight/ One-Trick Ponies

Photo by Filipe dos Santos Mendes on Unsplash

Photo by Filipe dos Santos Mendes on Unsplash


Jakarta, 5 September 2018 — It's easy to spot people who keep doing things in a certain way, and yet we can all fall into that trap. 

If people call you a one-trick pony, behind your back, you are probably known for having a single answer to many problems and for relentlessly repeating the one thing you have mastered. It's not a compliment.

Effective leaders avoid this trap because they have learned to choose from a variety of ways to deal with the people they meet, the situations they encounter, and the problems they want to solve.

What's Your Lens?

One-trick ponies see the world as if through a single color lens.

For example, if they care about exercising authority and getting things done right, we might see them elaborate on detailed instructions with everyone they meet.

And have you come across people who favor confrontation and see each situation as a boxing match in which there can be only one winner? 

What about working with people who assertively treat every situation as a marketplace where competition is seen as the only effective solution?

Or the people who see every situation as a social space where everyone is important and no one should be left behind, often resulting in long expressions of empathy yet with a reluctance to confront practical realities?

You may also have met people who see every situation as a great opportunity to brainstorm new ideas that might work better. Ascending quickly into the clouds, their flow of ideas rarely gets down to issues of implementation.

Now take a look in the proverbial mirror. Can you spot (a bit of) yourself in any of these descriptions? 

For sure, there is a lot to be learned from the one-trick pony trap when you want to advance on your leadership journey.

Most importantly, we know that seeing each and every problem as a nail that needs a hammer will result in a lot of damage being done. What you need is a toolkit full of solutions you can choose from, and to gain the skills to use a variety of tools effectively, not just the hammer.

Until you expand your self-awareness and learn new skills, your leadership actions are going to be hit and miss, and there are bound to be gaps between what people expect from you and what you deliver. 

Avoiding the Trap

So what can you do when you feel at risk of falling into the one-trick pony trap and want to avoid doing that?

Here are three things to do:

First, you can work on increasing your self-awareness of your behaviors in different situations, and on observing your mindset and what you accept and reject. Taking the Work In All Colors training will help you do this.

Second, you can invest in expanding your leadership toolkit to allow yourself to explore what may be the best way to deal with different people and situations. Learning more about leadership with the support of a coach and mentor will help you get to work on this in an effective way.

Third, you can keep practicing your skills until you master several different styles of communication and leadership, and thereby empower yourself to do better in influencing positive changes wherever you go.

We know from research on the 70:20:10 rule of leadership development that 70% of your growth as a leader will come from taking on challenges to keep practicing what you have learned, together with receiving regular feedback.  

Let me know if this makes any sense? I'd love to hear from you. 

If you have a question about growing your leadership, you are welcome to write me or set up a call.

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