Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jan 2022

Three Leg Table

<img src=“https://cdn.uploads.micro.blog/2274/2022/e9d570f327.jpg" alt=“IKEA LÖVBACKEN three legged side table” width=“100” height=“100” align=“center” style=“display:block; padding:.25em; width:100px; height:100px;”/>

Over the course of many years of mentoring and coaching, there’s been a common axiom shared with folks to help them identify a specific gap in development/maturity:

A three legged table is very stable. What legs do you have?

Many people do not realize that in personal and professional matters, it makes sense to have a balance of three layers of people around you. The first layer, teacher/mentor. The second layer, best friend(s)/road buddy. And the third layer, mentee/student. When someone has these through layers working in harmony in their lives, they realize a certain sense of stability to social, emotional, and psychological connections. There is a freedom to grow and expand, as well as to be challenged. There is an ability to be profitable, as well as a resolve to focus on the disruptions even if they may be risky.

A framework for understanding if your executive team is standing at level can also be to use the same three-legged table. In terms of a teacher, does your executive team, and/or each member of your team, have a mentor or board they can bounce ideas off of and get wisdom to the road newly traveled? With the exception of the smallest of companies, there’s probably going to be some road buddies. However, this needs to be safeguarded; the executive team should not become such a clique that it impedes (even by perception) the ability to ingest new and corrective information to prevent zealousness or egotism.

Lastly, the students or mentee component. Well this may sound like simply having employees, it goes a little bit diver. Do you have a ladder of development for those persons who are employees, or who wish to laterally move around your organization? Do you have a structure of communications which allows them to ask the hard questions, receive the hard answers, to succeed and fail at their discretion, not just because “this is the way we’ve always done it?“ Does the student have the ability to teach the teacher? Do you have the capacity, or have made the organizational capacity to continually learn from those persons who have decided to join your vision?

These three legs offer most individuals, and certainly most organizations, the ability to mature to a point of being able to become their own satellites who are also building out additional three-legged tables.

And what about if you do not have these relationships? Or if you only have one or two of these, what then? Well, a reasonable analysis may point to using a sensemaking framework indicating “now that you know what the issue is, what resources do you have in-hand to be able to address those items?“

For a teacher/mentor relationship, this might mean creating a board, or re-visiting communication methods with an existing board. For the road buddy relationship, there might be some re-evaluation to what work versus non-work boundaries look like. There might need to be some team/leadership trainings to be had by all (or even the simpler, “let’s all read this book and see if it helps us be better at…” method). And lastly, for the student/mentee relationship, this might mean creating or tightening the quantitative and qualitative methods used in evaluations, running feedback sessions where student/mentee/employee facilitates, or even increasing/trimming the team to a more addressable size.

A three-legged table is quite stable. As are many three-wheeled vehicles. How might your relationships better enable positive resiliency for you or your teams? How you plot your team forward may very well not simply depend on you alone, but the other legs which are a part of your environment.

Need coaching or consulting to continue this conversation? Get in touch and let’s move you and your teams forward.