All blogs filed under POV
I have to admit, I’ve always hated discipline.
But at an early age my dad told me that discipline was key to success in life, and because I could see implicitly that he was right, I practiced discipline diligently in just about everything I undertook, from sports to school to work.
I think it’s fair to say that most managers like to do good things for the people who work for them, to make them feel more appreciated, productive and fulfilled. Unfortunately, many of them don’t seem to know what their employees really want or need, and so they end up relying on the same traditional things: training classes, monetary bonuses, small office perks. Now, employees aren’t going to turn down a bonus or a perk, and in many cases, they’ll be glad to attend a training class, but those things don’t have the transformational effect on people that managers would like.
Think about it. Ask any group of leaders if humility is important, and almost every one of them will nod their heads and tell you that the world needs more humble leaders in every field, from business to politics to, well, everywhere. Ask that same group if they would like an opportunity to be humbled, and virtually every one of them will decline. But I suppose it’s hard to blame them. After all, being humbled is, by definition, always uncomfortable and often painful.
I learned a simple, amazing lesson during a recent flight on one of the big, legacy air carriers. I won’t mention the name out of courtesy. Besides, I’m finding it harder and harder to distinguish between the big airlines these days. Anyway, I was sitting with a colleague in business class (something that I don’t take for granted), waiting for everyone to board so we could take off. The flight attendants weren’t in a particularly good mood, something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
A friend of mine (I’ll call him Al because that’s his name) recently embarked on a new career as a consultant, and he has been wildly successful, even during these difficult economic times. Anyone who knows him will tell you why he has done so well: he is one of the most diligent, enthusiastic and painstakingly thorough people you’ll ever meet. In fact, if you were a competitor of his, you’d say he is over the top. Even annoying. Al handles every client call as though he were talking to the Queen of England.
These days, virtually no one will tell you that teamwork isn’t important when it comes to an organization achieving its goals.Even cynics understand that groups of people who are willing to put their individual interests aside for the good of the team will outperform groups of people who do not.Having said that, there is something that often happens after a team succeeds that suggests many of us might be discounting the real power of teamwork. A great example of this happens in the world of professional sports.With the football season just behind us, perhaps a hypothetical example from the NFL would be a good case study.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to spend time with the CEO of one of America’s most successful companies, a legendary organization known for its employee and customer satisfaction, as well as its financial performance. I attended their company’s management conference, listened to various presentations about their culture, and the extraordinary, homey and sometimes slightly wacky practices that distinguish them from their competitors.
It’s a simple but painful problem that has plagued business people since the beginning of time, I’m sure. From shopkeepers in ancient Rome to English factory supervisors during the Industrial Revolution to software engineering managers in modern Silicon Valley, leaders have always struggled with the question of what to do about a difficult employee. And the dilemma is almost always seen the same way: should I continue to tolerate this person or let them go? The first step toward solving this simple and painful problem is coming to the realization that it is a false dilemma.
Perhaps the most popular — and misunderstood — term of the first decade of the new millennium is ‘innovation.’ A new stack of books and articles is produced every year asserting the critical importance of innovation for organizations that want to survive, especially during these challenging times. And to a large extent, I agree with that assertion. Unfortunately, most organizations in search of innovation seem to be generating as much cynicism as they are new thinking. The problem isn’t so much that we’re over-stating the importance of innovation; it’s more about what so many leaders are doing with it.
As we move into the season of television re-runs, I thought I might share a thought I had about a TV show that I’ve watched recently. The truth is, I don’t watch a lot of television. That’s probably due in equal parts to my busy schedule these days and my distaste for most of what I see coming out of Hollywood. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a grumpy old man. In any case, when it comes to knowing what is happening on Lost or 24 or American Idol, I will admit that I’m woefully uninformed. However, enough people encouraged me to watch the relatively new show Undercover Boss that I finally took the time to view a few episodes.