This world is fighting to make us all the same. And frankly it is in our nature to become one homogenous pot of ordinariness. We must find the courage to resist this instinct. The tendency to be common among our peers is a powerful force. Too many people and organizations are simply different versions of the same reality. They are ordinary and ordinary is boring.
I never could quite figure out what the band Manfred Mann was saying after the lyrics in the hit song “Blinded by the Light” until I looked up the song for this article. But wow what a song it is! It sounds great and it is an amazing song despite my inability to understand the words rolling off the lead singer’s tongue. In the same way, organizations love the idea of a disciplined maintenance system, yet they don’t quite realize the relationship it has to leadership. I have determined that your approach to maintenance is a telling sign of the leadership provided to your organization. The relationship between the two concepts is quite interesting.
Let’s face it! The days of the old hierarchical organizational chart are finished. It is like old underwear that has indeed served its purpose yet seen better days. Though comfortable and familiar, it is time to let it go. It is time to move on. It is time for something fresh, new, and better capable of supporting (pun intended) your current human assets. We have relied on the old thing far too long and frankly, we have become blinded to the potential of something else being better as a way of organizing our people.
I don’t want to go! Please don’t make me go! Leaving the world of transactional management is a noble idea. However, many executives cannot seem to take the first step. They expect natural, organic change that occurs slowly over time. Blah, blah, blah! Contemporary thinking requires a deliberate strategy to build tribes that make your workplace “sticky” for talent. I recently worked with a manufacturing organization where 19% of the employees don’t show up for work daily. Can you say ouch! Imagine the costs they are experiencing. What are the costs in quality, safety, and employee morale? They have been slowly conditioned to hire more people to cover the absenteeism. People are strained and over-worked. This is their new normal. Does this sound familiar?
Tina Turner may have asked the right question when she implored “What’s love got to do with it?” in her 1984 pop hit. Some of you may need to google the song – shaking my head with the big-eyed emoji. The question she poses gets very interesting when we apply it to business. What does love have to do with business? Can we or should we love each other at work? Be honest with yourself because this question is a litmus test for where you stand on the scale between transactional management and tribal leader. Do you really attempt to love the people you supervise or work with? Transactional managers exist for the transaction of work for pay. Tribal leaders, on the other hand, seek to enhance a sense of belonging that is rooted in love for the individual and the organization.
We have all hired that person that looked good on paper and interviewed well but did not turn out as expected. How do we undo this mistake? You went to the board and made the pitch but alas they simply don't perform. Or worse, they have changed into someone that is no longer the person you hired. What now? I have coached several top level executives through the challenge of undoing the mistake they made with a bad hire. It is never easy however it does require a willingness to place the good of the organization over any one individual.
Safety success can be as elusive to some organizations as the Loch Ness Monster or mermaids have been to men throughout modern history. While most companies desire a safe workplace, the true reasons they fail are quite compelling. In short, most companies treat symptoms while few really determine the cause of disease. Too many organizations believe the disease of injury is superficial rather than a comprehensive infection of leadership in the workplace. Simply put, people do not desire to be injured, yet injuries continue to occur. Why?
As companies ponder the annual Christmas turkey or gift certificate to the “Jelly of the Month Club”, let’s ponder the opportunity to give something that will last beyond the bloat of the holidays. Let me premise by stating there is nothing wrong with food and I am indeed a fan. I also notice the migration to the gyms around the world after our temporary relationship with the foods that seduce us each year. I am a complete sucker for pecan pie by the way. However, there is something that will leave a permanent, positive impact on those who carry the load all year. We have an opportunity to give a lasting gift that will not fade as we remove the holiday decorations and consider our New Year’s resolutions. Consider the gift of knowledge. Knowledge can never be taken and if done properly, can leave a permanent mark on the people we gift it to. Whether it is tools to make our job easier or something to inspire us, the right kind of information can be the greatest gift we provide for our people. It demonstrates that our people are important and they indeed matter. Knowledge, when imparted properly, personifies the corporate strategy and reinforces our human need to belong to something greater than ourselves.
No size, no speed, and no talent pretty much sums up my high school football career. Yet, a high school football coach saw something in me that nobody else had seen until my junior year of high school. Growing up in a small East Texas town where football is king, I had always heard stories of my Father’s exploits on the local grid iron and I wanted to prove myself as the next generation of awesomeness. Yet, my physical gifts did not match my desire in the minds of most coaches. By the time a varsity opportunity came along, I wanted to make the team and prove I deserved to be there and if lucky get to play. To be honest, the chance of earning a starting position was remote.
Lee Iacocca wrote a book with a similar title in 2008 and I assure you that his take on the topic is different from the stance I am about to take. Presidential election years bring out the best and worst in our polarized society and it is a good time to reflect on the modern application of the word leadership. I am truly ashamed that the need to write this is so heavy on my heart. But alas, someone has to run grab the defibrillator and shock us back into a sense of reality. So I will be your Huckleberry!
If you are like most of us that make regular deposits into the world of knowledge through social media, we like to check and recheck and then check again to see who is reading, liking, and sharing our posts. And just when you think you have written the most amazing and insightful article or blog post, we check even more often for feedback and comments. We look into the abyss and crave that tiny bit of validation, that affirmation that what we said is indeed meaningful to the potential reader. Well crap – nothing!
Justin Timberlake proclaims that he “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and he just might be representing the same sentiment as members of your team do when it comes to work. It may be a good feeling or possibly something less desirable but the key insight is the emotion of your workplace. How exactly does it feel to work for your organization? It is an interesting question to ask. How does it feel to work at your bank? How does it feel to work at your factory? How does it feel to work at your hospital?