Visual Metaphors: From Spinning Plates to Home Plate

This is another in a series of visual metaphors that I provide as a learning tool for executive coaches in order to develop their clients’ leadership skills. This visual metaphor is a three panel, sequential cartoon that illustrates this client’s current career state, a transitional state and a successful final state that sees the individual flourish in the company. Below is this man’s description of his particular leadership challenges from which I derive my illustrations:

There are a number of spinning plates and I’m handing them off to others who are competent, I trust that they can deliver, and I’m making the shift from operating to leading.

I’m in front of people engaging them and building relationships.  I’m certain that I have the right leaders on my team—they are competent, capable, and empathetic.  I’ve shifted from operating to leading and I believe these team members will help us accelerate  our organization results—results that are aligned with our values.

I’m providing strong leadership and the team has been fully built.  We have real bench strength, too  so we can constantly keep winning at a major league level.

This series of illustrations has a sports element which is typical for a lot of these visual metaphors, but it also has plate spinning which is fairly common. Often there is a chaotic stage in these metaphors where the executive compares his or her career to trying to keep an impossible number of plates spinning atop flexible rods. Apparently a lot of these executives were fans of The Ed Sullivan Show. That was the last time I remember seeing plate spinners.

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