Preparation for the 2014 college football season is about to begin and the college football coaches are making the media rounds. You can see an array of football coaches every day on ESPN expressing optimism for the coming season and how confident they are in the team. I’m a devoted fan and a sucker for such interviews.
Charlie Strong, the new coach at Texas, impressed me.
He said that his team had to put the “T” back in Texas. T stands for “toughness”, “trust”, “teamwork” and “togetherness.”
“Toughness ” works in football and it works in business. Toughness in football has a physical aggressiveness to it. In business, it is a mental toughness. To work safely 100% of the time for a whole shift takes a mental resolve to concentrate. To maintain excellent quality calls for a discipline to inspect every piece and to make choices for the good of our customer. Every time.
To make those good choices and to do it consistently takes character created by dedication to doing things the right way.
Strong said toughness creates trust. “Before you can trust others, you have to trust yourself,” said Strong. I took it to mean to understand trust you have to first be trustworthy. Once you become trustworthy, you recognize the characteristics of trustworthiness in others.
You develop a fondness for people you can trust. It builds respect. It creates high regard. Thus, teamwork and togetherness follow.
Don’t know if Charlie Strong will succeed at Texas. But, I think being able to describe the culture he desires is a good and necessary start.
A plant leader in the log yard in Livermore Falls sent me an observation last week. He’s been paying attention to how he speaks to others and the impact it accomplishes.
There are little things:
Remembering to take time to tell a colleague he’s doing a good job as compared to assuming they understand they are doing a good job without it being said-”the no news is good news” approach.
Or, asking a colleague to help as compared to demanding a colleague to do something. Your job may give you the. “Authority” to demand things. Asking for help still works better.
He said he was learning a lot with an improved approach. He decided to take it to a ” tougher” arena: his nine years old grandson Kody.
” I’ve also noticed that using a little different phrasing has helped me in my personal life” he said . “Now before we go on a long trip, I ask Kody if he can go to the bathroom, not if he has to. To me it means the same thing, but to him he gives a truthful answer both times. No, grandpa I don’t have to use the bathroom.(Translation: I can hold it a minute and a half longer, but we’ll be stopping at the next McDonalds.) Now he says, “Yes, I can go a little.” Just a little change brings big results.”
As a leader, our words matter. We use many a day. Most often we do it on automatic pilot. Seldom do we reflect on whether we could have said things better.
His note reminded me how important it is to pay attention. Do the non-verbals I see in response to my words reflect my intent? Do the actions that follow my words get us where we intend to go?
James MacGregor Burns died last week. When I determined to study the art and science of leadership, Burns’ book “Leadership” was the first I recall reading.
I don’t ever recommend the book. It recall it to be tough sledding to read. But, in an early chapter he introduced the concept of transforming leadership as contrasted with transactional leadership. The idea is a cornerstone to how I have thought leadership ever since.
He put it this way: “The result of transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.”
You see what I mean? Rough sledding.
Let me put it another way:
When I lead, there should be more at stake than whether the follower does what I need him to do for the organization.
The follower should get more than a check. He should be engaged in the work. He should be learning things that prepare them to lead when the opportunities are presented. If we are successful, they will not only perform better in their jobs, they will be a force for good in their families, their churches, their schools and their communities. It’s never about simple giving and taking. It’s about transforming to a better situation by lifting all concerned.
My relationship with Burns was brief and through a book almost 40 years ago. But his teaching stuck. It made a difference.
“Lean’ is about making progress.
You identify an area where waste is occurring or that can be improved. You decide that you want to improve it. How do you get started.
Teresa Amabile wrote a book called “The Progress Principle.” She says there are seven catalysts of creating momentum:
1. Set a goal. Having a target to aim to achieve has a way of making the team pay collective attention.
2. Allow autonomy. People support what they help to create. Sometimes leaders establish a goal but also provide a detailed agenda for achieving it. Amabile says that people work best when they understand the goal and then are given the opportunity to make the plan to achieve it.
3. Providing resources. As the CEO, one of the key responsibilities I have is to lead the process for allocating resources. At times, conditions make it necessary to be stingy. Unfortunately, the outcome is that people quit asking for support on things to make our company better. Resources have a way of flowing toward a good idea. Leaders need to be on the alert to make resources available when progress is possible. Colleagues need to be aggressive about asking for them when progress is possible.
4. Giving enough time-but not too much. Deadlines create urgency. Unrealistic time demands kill commitment. Momentum and progress come when urgency occurs but the project needs the appropriate time to hatch.
5. Help the work. As a leader, a willingness to put your shoulder to the wheel makes a difference in morale. As a leader, the willingness to find outside help that can aid the momentum speaks volumes. While allowing the creators of the project autonomy has merit, providing the right help at the right time is a balm to frustration and can be the right stimulant to push things over the line.
6. Learning. Any project is going to have ups and downs. Incorporating positive developments into future progress and learning from disappointments aids progress. Progress is derailed when false steps cause frustration and we don’t learn. It is also derailed when we begin to savor victory before the game is over.
7. Keep the ideas flowing. Progress accelerates in “idea rich” environments. When teammates feel free to suggest and to experiment with ideas, progress pervades.
Is there something you are involved in that isn’t progressing like you want?
Which if these catalysts are missing? Take steps to get them in play.
I have shared with you that each plant manager calls me when an accident occurs.
Yesterday, I received a call about an accident that illustrates why paying attention to the frequency of accidents matters.
Here’s the short story: two guys were working to relocate something heavy. One guy was using a forklift and the other was helping with the activity. As I understand it, the forklift didn’t handle the load in the way the helper “assumed” it would. The heavy load was dropped and clipped the helper’s toe. The result was a few stitches to a toe. It’s a minor accident.
But, there were a number of things that contributed to it. Better planning. Better communication. Better precaution (move further away while to load was being handled). A number of other things.
Our teammates were experienced. They go into tough places every day. Handle big loads.
In this case, the factors aligned and an accident happened.
Here’s my point:
What will go down as a small accident was only inches from being a major one. A few inches closer to our teammate’s foot, the load could have caused a crushed foot. It could have affected the ability of him to walk again. It might have caused an amputation. Or, maybe, hundreds of thousands of dollars of surgery and rehabilitation.
The good news is our plant manager got that. He knew we were lucky. He knew that we were blessed to avoid major injury and major life disruption. Major expense. He sees the opportunity to revisit this and make sure everyone understands the significance.
Near misses and partial misses are the best teaching opportunities. To review them, consider ways to avoid them, consider the possible impact if we don’t fix the problems, inherent in the near miss are opportunities with which we must take advantage.
Frequent accidents and near misses indicate a breakdown of good safety practices. We must be diligent to prevent things from happening which change lives. When something happens that could have been bad, stop and fix it so it won’t be bad in the future.
“Character accelerates the growth of talent.” – Tom Coughlin
Coughlin is a Super Bowl winning football coach of the National Football League’s New York Giants. Like most coaches, he prefers his players are gifted with physical ability and the high character to get the most out of it.
People of high character realize that talent is an ingredient not the finished dish. Certainly, we are blessed with different levels of skill and talent. Whatever our original inventory, it is not as good as it could be. We are not to settle, but put it to work.
People of high character realize that talents are a gift not an entitlement. There is such a thing as being “born lucky”. You can be born with a quicker mind than most or fleeter feet. You can be born in the right family or blessed with best school district. The opposite can happen as well. Character demands that you count your advantages as fortune.
People of high character accept accountability for making their gifts and talents count. They regard wasting opportunities to use their talents for benefit to be unacceptable. Having realized their fortune, they are humble enough to guard it and treat it like treasure.
Thus, character accelerates development. We all have gifts. Are we committed to making them count?
Do you remember the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago? It was a 9.0 earthquake that caused a 45 feet tall wall of water that wiped out a coastal community.
Among the casualties was a nuclear power plant that melted down and caused a radioactive catastrophe.
An American named Charles Casto from the Nuclear Regulation Commission was dispatched to lead a task force to manage, to study and to assure safety in the aftermath.
There was so much focus on the plant that melted down, it was not well noted there was one plant that didn’t.
Casto has written an article that attributes the leadership of plant manager Matsuda as a primary reason that the plant survived.
Here are the things Casto noticed:
1. He made the safety of employees his initial focus. All the early steps in the aftermath were focused on assuring the 400 plus employees were cared for and their minds placed at ease about future risk. He reasoned that they couldn’t move forward until the employees’ were comfortable that all risks were being managed as well as possible.
2. Communication was transparent. Constant. The plant was in upheaval. There was nothing normal. The manager placed a value on knowing all that was different and communicating it.
3. Planning. There was a premium placed on creating and communicating a strategy. There is comfort in knowing the plan.
4. Flexibility. While plans are important, some would not survive the first hour. Results were quickly evaluated. If the plan wasn’t achieving the initial results, another scheme was created, communicated and implemented.
5. Innovation. The flexibility modeled by leadership ultimately led to a flow of potential solutions. The plant was saved when the hot nuclear rods were cooled by cold sea water. It was a controversial solution proposed by a mid-level manager. His zeal for the strategy ultimately convinced leadership it was the way to go.
I like to think we place a premium on these values as well. I hope as you “happen to the world” you place a premium on them in your individual actions.
Dr. Henry Cloud, one of my favorite authors, says this:
“Think of your past for learning, or to feel gratitude. Never for punishment. ….of you or anyone else.”
Do you beat yourself up for what you should or could of done and didn’t?
Do you carry around mistakes you’ve made longer than you should?
Are there negative experiences which now define what you will do in the future?
Are there people whose past actions cause you to be bitter and resentful?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you should listen to Cloud ‘s advice and act upon it.
Leaders who ” happen to the world” are able to evaluate experiences, discern what can be learned and move ahead with a clear mind and heart.
So many times, leaders get derailed by a negative outcome. Cloud’s suggestion of treating our experiences as learning opportunities and to be grateful for them is powerful medicine. When you have the grace and wisdom to apply it to others, it multiplies in power.
I had the opportunity to hear Pat Croce speak a few weeks ago.
If you don’t know him, he’s an entrepreneur whose made several fortunes as a physical therapist, an owner of a National Basketball Association team and curator of the Pirate Museum in St Augustine, Florida.
Reviewing my notes on how he achieved such diverse tracks, a couple of characteristics pop out.
One is something I refer to as self-nomination. If there is something you think you can do, you must be brave enough to nominate yourself.
Croce says you have to be willing to ask for help. Ask for the assignment. Ask for the order.
“If you never ask, the answer is always no.”
He also points to persistence. Croce notes that none of his successes happened in order. They all had hitches. There were times when failure was in sight.
“There are times when your ‘I will’ is more important than your ‘IQ’.”
Once an effort is in motion, the ability to apply elbow grease and keep showing up may be more important than the intelligence of the plan.
Ask and persist!
Mark Miller, a human resources leader at Chik-Fil-A, says this:
“Their willingness to respond with courage, time and time again, makes leaders different from followers.”
Do you respond with courage?
Courageous leadership is seeing what needs to be said and saying it. I speak often of the virtue of courageous communication. So many times, big problems would have been smaller if those who saw the problem arising would have had the courage to address it.
Courageous leadership is seeing what needs to be done and initiating action. So many times a problem or opportunity is awaiting us, but no one acts.
Courageous leadership is being willing to try new things or innovations. So many times we choose “safe” or “conventional”, because no one criticizes the way the crowd would do it. Trying to do something new is risky. But, courageous leaders know it takes new steps to make progress.
Courageous leaders don’t let setbacks paralyze them. Acting time after time with courage causes us to learn that setbacks are just moments of learning that help us move ahead. It creates a confidence that inspires ever growing courage.
The more you act with courage, the more you learn it’s the way to go.
Acting courageously is “happening to the world.”