Sizing up an individual: Example Yoshitsune

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I was watching an episode of Yoshitsune the other day and I was reminded of the importance of reading people well as well as being able to determine what people’s true skills are despite what they say. In this episode the young Samurai lord Yoshitsune must face the challenge of the enemy to shoot down a fan on a small boat floating at least a quarter of a mile off the coast. Yoshitsune surveys the archers who volunteer for the task. Several older and presumably more skilled archers confidently boast that they will definitely be able to shoot the arrow; however, when asked one of the archers expresses his doubt in his ability to do so.

Naso no Yoichi’s reply sounded something like this:

I doubt that I can hit the target. The angle of the wind is unpredictable and the boat is bobbing up and down.

Yoshitsune chose Naso no Yoichi for the job simply because he was the one who seemed to assess the situation clearly. More, what I find admirable is he looked past the swaggering and boasting (translation in corporate culture – the PowerPoint pitch and ‘Pimped up’ progress reports). Oh, yeah… Yoichi hit the target on the first go.

It took me a while to realize this, but Yoshitsune (if the legend is true) was exhibiting signs of a truly good leader because he was listening to the “intuitive guy” rather than the “glib guy.” (See my post which references Kathy Sierra’s definition of the glib and inarticulate parts of our brain). It’s important to see and hear beyond what’s ‘obvious’ when you are a leader because you may miss some underpinnings of either behavior or trends that may set your project and work environment awry. But don’t go to the darkside of believing that you can directly control people’s behavior… other wise you become like this…

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