My old car died this summer. Over ten years old with well over 100K miles. So now I don’t have a car and that’s a bad thing.
But it died just a few miles from home about a week before I was going to drive to a wedding a couple of states away. If this had happened while I was out on a highway hundreds of miles from home it would have been terrible. I’d have missed the wedding, would’ve had to find another way home and would’ve had to deal with a dead car in another state. So what I thought was a bad thing at first was actually a good thing.
Yesterday I cracked a tooth. This is a very bad thing, and painful.
I called my wonderful dentist and asked her office manager when I could come in. “NOW!” was the answer. My dentist was leaving for vacation for two weeks starting tomorrow. For various reasons I’d been putting off this dental work that I knew was necessary and if it had disintegrated a day later I would’ve had to go to whoever was covering for my wonderful dentist (I’ll give you her name if you need someone in NYC). So my tooth breaking on the day it did was actually a good thing.
Bad things happen. We rarely see them as the proverbial blessings in disguise. I’ve been using Zipcar and driving nice new cars instead of a bucket of bolts with almost 150 thousand miles on it. I no longer worry if the vehicle I’m in will make it back to where I started. My tooth has a temporary fix that my wonderful dentist (did I tell you she’s wonderful?) expects will hold until we can do the necessary work on my schedule.
Knee-jerk reactions to situations are often, “Why did this happen to me?” We need to learn how to step back from our first reactions. I counsel a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs and their first reaction is usually panic, anger, depression or a pinwheel of all three. Most of the time within a few weeks these same people are saying, “This was the best thing to happen to me.” Because now they’re pursuing what they really want to do, or they’ve found a better job or they’ve just come up for air. They’ve taken the time to assess their situation, where they are in their lives and careers and made a pivot.
Give yourself the time to accurately figure out what’s really happened and then decide on a course of action. This is a skill to develop, it doesn’t just happen. It’s not a personality trait that some people are born with. Patience, paired with resilience, also known as grit (see my post of May 2016), are two of the keys to getting past clouds to the silver linings you deserve.
I heard that to fly a plane you only have to know how to do three things. Aviate, navigate and communicate. That’s all. Those are the key elements of a pilot’s job.
You have to know how to keep the plane in the air, know where you’re going and how to get there, and you have to make sure everybody else in the crew knows what you’re doing and what you expect them to do while you’re busy aviatin’ and navigatin’.
Sounds a lot like managing.
When managing or leading a team you have to know your stuff, how to run your business so you can keep it from crashing. You don’t have to know how to do every single aspect of the business, and you may not be, probably aren’t, the best at doing every function. You just have to know how it all comes together and keep it moving forward.
Now we’re onto direction. You have to have one. You need to know how to get where you want and need to be in order to be successful. Your people are looking to you to steer, avoid turbulence and get everyone safely to their destination.
Your people. The third element. Since Lindbergh, pilots aren’t usually alone. At least not on the big commercial airliners. You need to make sure everyone knows what you’re doing and what you expect of them. You need to let them know when there’s turbulence so they aren’t serving drinks when you hit that air pocket. Your role is to keep everyone informed of what they need to do so the entire operation is successful. If you’re going to keep everyone onboard with the direction, you need to communicate what it is, why you’re headed there and what’s the benefit to each one of them.
I know I’ve vastly oversimplified flying. The useful exercise is to see if you can break your business down into the most basic components so you know what you’re doing and as important, what’s missing. And so you can clearly communicate it to those around you so everyone’s doing their job, moving in the same direction and keeping everyone else on the team informed.
Wishing you clear skies and happy landings,
Being a star gives you one kind of thrill. Karen Ziemba has starred in numerous Broadway shows. And yet as you see in this clip, what she really wants is to be a Rockette. To be part of a team. And not just any team, she wants to be one of the best.
One of the best ways to motivate your people is to offer the chance to be part of a respected, high functioning team. People want to associate with the best, because that’s how most people see themselves.
You can motivate people to do their best, give even more than they think they’re capable of giving and accomplish superior results by giving them a chance to work with the best people in your organization. After a taste of working with staff at the highest level of your organization — and I mean expertise, not necessarily hierarchy — your employees will want to continue to associate and team with those people.
Use the power, the attraction, of the team to motivate superior performance. Watch people raise their game and dedicate even more of their talents to your company because they’ve been exposed to and given the opportunity to work with the best people you have. The added benefit is that soon you’ll find that you have more of these high functioning people to team with and motivate the rest of your staff. Teamwork can actually become a cornerstone of your organization’s culture as staff work harder to maintain that reputation of being one of the best. Nobody wants to fall out of step and everyone will be smiling and kicking just like the Rockettes. And what they’ll be kicking is your competition’s butt!
Like millions of Americans I started my Thanksgiving watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I love the floats, the bands, the balloons and my favorite part, The Radio City Rockettes. Their precision, their style, their dancing, it’s all perfection. I never get tired of it.
I started thinking about the Rockettes. They are all superb dancers. You don’t get to be a Rockette if you’re just good. You have to be more. Any one of them could probably be dancing on Broadway, with one of the world’s major dance companies or in the ballet. You have to be able to do it all to be a Rockette. But these incredible artists give up their individual dreams to be part of something greater. They are part of the world’s foremost precision dance company. They give up a lot.
Are your employees willing to make that kind of sacrifice? Managers I’m working with often tell me they want their employees to be “team players.” I respond by asking, “what does that mean?” What does it mean to be a team player in your organization? To me a team player is someone who’s willing to sacrifice. Someone willing to let their colleagues shine. Someone willing to sublimate personal success and recognition for the good of the department or the organization. It’s a sacrifice fewer and fewer people are willing to make these days. It seems everybody wants to shine, to get their 15 minutes of fame.
Except the Rockettes. They understand the value of belonging to this elite group. They take pride in being part of a tradition that extends back almost 100 years. They feel a responsibility to themselves, the group and to each other to never be out of step. Sure, I’ll bet there’s one who can kick higher than any other. But you’ll never see that happen in a performance. The performance of the group is more important that any one person’s glory. Your job as a manager is to instill the same feeling in your team. Next post I’ll offer a few ways how.
More courage from managers is what I’ve been saying we need. Sometimes, it’s the courage to perhaps look foolish as you lead by example. A willingness to do what others might question.
If you know anything about the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you know it’s a pretty affluent area. Many of the clientele in stores are rather well-off women with the kinds of dogs that you can fit in a purse. Well, one time a well-thought-of client’s poodle left a puddle when he piddled. Okay, you’re the manager, what do you do? Ask someone to take care of it? Order someone to clean that up? A manager whom I know took care of it this way. He cleaned it up himself. Sure, he could have asked, or ordered, a staff person to do it. He cleaned it up himself. He would never ask someone on his staff to do something he wouldn’t do himself.
Maybe he looked foolish on his hands and knees in his suit cleaning up after a little dog. Maybe other customers thought it looked odd to see the manager cleaning up a dog’s accident. I think he impressed the customer whose dog it was and it cemented her loyalty to the place. And I know it said an awful lot to the staff. How could they say, “No” to anything the manager might ask them to do? Not after he’d courageously led by example. He’d cemented his position as their manager, and had cemented their loyalty to him.
Having the courage to do what others might not, or might not think is something a manager ought to do, is a big part of leading by example. And it takes courage.
Lately I’ve been thinking about courage. Not the kind soldiers or single mothers have. Managerial courage. The courage to do the right thing even when you’re not sure how it will turn out or how your actions will be perceived. The courage to tell an underperforming employee that he needs to do better. The courage to tell someone that she needs to start showing up on time or not to talk back to irritating customers. I know, it’s common sense. People ought to know that they should do their jobs, show up when scheduled and don’t give lip to customers. And if they did, a manager’s job would be a lot easier. Sadly that’s not the case. And that’s where courage comes in.
No one likes to inherit deadwood. Think of a time when you took over a new team or department. What did you find? Some excellent workers doing exactly as you would hope and expect. And then the deadwood. A few people whom you can’t understand how they still have their jobs. How did the last manager let them get away with this level of performance?
Courage. The last manager lacked courage. For whatever reason, and I’ve probably heard them all, he did nothing and left this mess for you to clean up.
Do you want to be “that guy?” The one who leaves the deadwood behind. Is that the reputation you want? Jobs are fluid nowadays, but reputations are fragile. Maybe the last manager didn’t handle the under-performer because he figured he’d be working somewhere else soon enough so why bother? The reputation he leaves behind though will follow him throughout his career.
Don’t be “That Guy.” Have courage. The rest of your staff are watching you. If you fail to manage your lesser performers, you will lose the ability, and possibly the right, to manage anyone.
I’ve got a few more thoughts on this so look for more example and thoughts on courage. And of course I welcome your examples. Let’s hear ’em!