And the Beginning of a New Journey! Join me….
I had ridden Rhythm, a 14 year old majestic Morgan horse, a few times before this recent visit to the barn. Though today was going to be different. I was on my own. For the first time, my riding instructor was not by my side. I was confident. As I lead Rhythm from the barn and to the riding arena I believed Rhythm and I were in sync. It was going to be a great ride.
As I entered the ring, I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the only noise was of the wind rustling the colorful Fall leaves. I prepared to step into the stirrups and sit in the saddle. I took one more look around. I was truly on my own. Thoughts flashed through my head. Is it smart to be riding alone? Can I really handle this horse? I mounted the saddle and settled in. Now, I was nervous. As I moved the reins into position, I thought this may not be such a great idea. Just one guy sitting on top of a thousand pound horse ready to run! I felt a bead of perspiration role down my brow. My hands shook. As I eased Rhythm into a walk, his head shot up with excitement. Was he nervous too? Clearly this wasn’t going to be a nice walk around the ring that I had envisioned.
Rhythm sensed I was nervous, and he became jittery too. We were heading towards the fence. I had to pull him into a quick turn to keep us from hitting the fence. I was breathing faster, and we tried again. I knew I needed to calm down, however I couldn’t summon the “calm” I needed. Once more Rhythm fought to run, then side to side he strained against my lead. Rhythm stopped and I dismounted. No way was this safe. Defeated I took Rhythm back to the barn.
During my drive home, I reflected on my failed ride. When I was calm, Rhythm was calm. When I got nervous, Rhythm got nervous. Clearly I needed to pull my nerves under control. Rhythm was sure that a nervous rider was on board. And following my lead like all great horses do, he became nervous and tense himself. As I turned into my garage, I realized this lesson in leadership applied to all that I do.
Just like our majestic horse, Rhythm, the great people I lead respond to my every emotion. A leader has to be cool under pressure, calm during a crises, and energized to succeed against all forces all the time. Your team will derive it’s strength from your demeanor, energy and enthusiasm for your strategic mission. You must control your nerves and emotions. If you portray panic and fear, then they will wither like their leader and spread the negativity throughout the team. So, to keep your team inspired and driving towards success, never let them see you sweat!
Tips for keeping calm in the storm:
Let me know how it goes.
We have determined that Eye Cubed companies have folks with many different strengths, qualities and talents. What has to happen to maximize your team’s capabilities is to create and sustain a culture with an open forum where your team members have an opportunity to:
Since you’ve hired Eye-Cubed TALENT, you have to be ready to deal with the range of output, ideas and energy that goes along with them. The output will vary greatly primarily due to the individuals on your team who come with their own personal history coupled with an individualized inspirational trigger-point. Let us explore how to package the inspiration needed in each case:
We have those leaders who self-inspire and need very little outside influence. Their personal development has been fostered living in households where parents had high expectations for their success. They were forced to forge their own paths and in so doing they became independent and creative problem solvers. They will anticipate problems and come up with solutions. Leaders who are self-motivated need an opportunity to be heard on a solo platform. To get the most out of their innate ability, they have to feel appreciated and need recognition. Their inspiration is global.
Group Oriented Inspiration.
Here is where you find your Eye-Cubed team member who manages the highest performing teams. There is no need for you to individually recognize them as they are satisfied when their team or group succeeds. They are used to working through family challenges as a team made up of supportive members with common goals. To get the most out of their inspirational ideas, they require time to meet and work together. They need a clear expression of the problem and then an opportunity to develop solutions together. They do not mind allowing other leader to take the spotlight. They are most satisfied when their team exceeds expectations. Their inspiration is goal oriented.
Role Model Driven Inspiration.
Every day many of your team members will be working on their own self-development. They reach for personal fulfillment based on the success and achievement modeled by others. These are independent workers who are given a task and run with the ball to the finish line. They follow their role models and are, in turn, inspired to accomplish individual greatness. These leaders need strong mentors and a culture where personal growth is encouraged. At home they were inspired by powerful role models. Their inspiration comes from personal achievement and is self oriented.
Your task as an Eye-Cubed Leader is to identify the inspirational style of your team members and provide an atmosphere where each of these uniquely packaged styles can thrive. Allow each one to THINK in their own style. Provide a forum for them to SPEAK and be respected. And let them know they have been HEARD by acknowledging their ideas. The ideal culture will allow the diversity within your company to be your market differentiator and bring you an unstoppable competitive advantage.
In addition to the consistent Inspiration that will drive your corporate initiatives, Inspiration is needed at every strategic inflection point. At the most critical points in time, your Eye-Cubed team must come up with the most innovative solutions to get things done. Solving similar problems the same way over and over again causes redundancy and guarantees the same or degrading results. Henry Ford said it best: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for better horses.” Let your leaders and team members feel the satisfaction, energy and innovation that grows with Inspiration that permeates throughout your organization.
In a recent post, we posed that nothing happens without the determination to TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT when implementing goals. Prior to setting plans in motion however, the first “I” in the Eye-Cubed formula—INSPIRATION must have been felt. Let us be sure, before we move forward, that we are speaking the same language when referring to the INSPIRATION needed to thrive in today’s corporate environment.
We do not need a “Yeah! Rah! Rah!” motivational presentation where audiences are left with a positive shot in the arm and a motivational kick in the butt. The inspiration residing within an Eye Cubed leadership team neither leads folks to walk on fire nor climb over mountains. That is definitely not what I’m talking about. We need the down’n dirty Eye Cubed INSPIRATION that identifies a need, recognizes a problem or uncovers an awareness of a pivotal situation that gives a person an idea about how to fill a need, solve a problem or choose the right path.
Let us look at several examples about inspirational breakthroughs that have changed the way we think, shop and ship.
Steven Jobs and Michael Wozniak. APPLE. Today we can’t leave home without our phone and calling folks is one of the least popular things to do with it! Think of the impact “i” life has had on your world in general, both positively and negaitively and specifically on many industries (tv, printed communication, shopping, photography). Apple’s inspirational revolution required companies to Inspire, Innovate and Implement—or go out of business!
Sam Walton. WALMART. Here is discount shopping at the ultimate. Sam Walton identified a market that was poorly serviced by Catalogue Shopping. On-sight customers traveled to large city department stores for their “brick and mortar” experiences. His inspiration brought discount stores to rural America. His underlying philosophy of honoring the customer and his employees dominated Walmart’s culture and brand. Now WALMART dominates our cities large and small.
Fred Smith. FED-EX. Based on his inspirational desire to bring over-night delivery systems that took advantage of technology, Smith wrote a paper/proposal on the subject while studying at Yale University. It was quickly disregarded as an innovation lacking viability. His experience and insight while in the military gave him the inspiration needed to pursue his dream. Today, “Fed-Ex” is a verb; a word that universally means “overnight delivery”.
My very own company, PFP, took a life insurance distribution method and turned it into a hugely successful marketing process which, by far, spawned the leading provider of voluntary insurance products purchased by credit union members throughout the country. The insurance industry’s revolution required INSPIRATION at its core when PFP founders identified the problem and came up with a viable solution. With the goal of expanding critically needed insurance protection within an underserved market, PFP created a unique distribution approach and service model. Upon reflection, the Eye Cubed INSPIRATIONAL process was clearly exemplified as part of PFP’s history. It took inspired leadership, innovative products and relentless implementation to ultimately give rise to a great company.
Eye Cubed companies possess the inspiration needed to evolve and Eye Cubed leaders are inspired to turn challenging opportunities into market dominance. What factors are facing your business, industry or niche that requires inspiration powerful enough to spur the innovation that must be implemented today?
When a man sat next to me at the bar of an airport restaurant for dinner on October 6th, I did not think much of it. He looked a bit familiar so I smiled at him and wished him a good day (something I try to do with everyone I connect with). Within a few minutes, I realized I was sitting next to the legendary “Mr. October” himself, Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame New York Yankee! We spoke for an hour, mostly about life’s challenges and a touch about baseball. He is a legend who knew more than most how to ….TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT!
Now, you might ask: “What does that have to do with IMPLEMENTATION?” Actually, it has everything to do with implementation. As an Eye-Cubed executive initiating any implementation process, you must approach every day like Reggie approached the game of baseball. You must be determined to succeed, ready for the hard work and committed to…TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT!
We all know that ideas are a dime a dozen. But we have used the Eye-Cubed strategy detailed in “You Don’t Need A Plumber, You Need A Process” to evaluate our innovative choices and we are confident that we have decided on the BEST innovation to pursue. Now the work begins.
Design your roadmap using the following steps:
OK, so we’ve designed a plan in the ‘optimum’ world. Now let’s get real. And that means being flexible. Being flexible does not mean straying from the goal. Being flexible means that at each of the intersections on the map, choices might have to be made as situations change. You will have to keep a pulse on the climate and be ready to make personnel changes, dig deeper into your financial resources and even stretch the time frame. Being willing to evaluate as you drive the project to its successful destination requires a focused Eye-Cubed leader, a leader ready, willing and able to remain confident, evaluate, adjust the course and build upon the strength of the team by the constant example of the willingness to personally….TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT!
Something very interesting is bound to happen if you continue to demonstrate this confident attitude. You will find that it is contagious and grows in power and density like a snowball rolling down a mountain. The force of this synergy is unstoppable and in true Eye-Cubed fashion, you will sustain the support and energy needed to lead your team to success.
Stop for a minute now and imagine Reggie Jackson approaching the plate in the World Series with baseball history on the line. Wait for your pitch and swing for the fences! Perform as he did and firmly fix yourself to the vision of your goal. Call upon THE TWO MOST POWERFUL TEAMMATES you can imagine—PATIENCE and POWER. By combining them with a firm focus you will….
TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT!
What was your reputation…____________?
What are the reputations of your…____________?
Do you have a personal reputation filled with the Eye-Cubed qualities of a great leader that inspires others to innovate and implement? I ask the following follow-up critical question:
What came first, the reputation or your behavior that supported it?
This issue permeates psychology classrooms and has been debated among the greatest minds. Have we developed the personalities, which form our reputations, as a result of “nature” (what we were born with and cannot control) or “nurture” (the environment in which we were subjected, exposed and molded). This concept drives one of the key tenants on how to build an Eye-Cubed team that is inspired to achieve greatness and high performance. In the Eye-Cubed world around us, we control that which we can and believe we have the ability to influence results by executing a plan. As a result, I answer the nature/nurture debate as follows: NURTURE!
“Give the people around you a reputation to uphold.”
When I was a young boy, I was wrought with “confidence” issues. They manifested themselves in many ways. However, my mother Janice Sussman, refused to allow me to develop a negative self-image. Her consistent words and actions gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Over time, I grew to believe the positive stories she told me. I developed the very image she demanded I have of myself.
In high school, there were two English teachers whose actions, words and behaviors damaged my confidence and belief in myself. I nearly gave up writing completely as they said, “I have no idea how you ever got out of middle school English. Your writing is remedial.” However, there was another teacher, George Stone at The Hotchkiss School, whom I respected and admired. I listened to him. He praised my creativity. He described me as “powerful”, “influential”, “creative” and as a “leader”. He wrote a letter to my parents describing me this way. I took those words seriously and focused on following the footsteps of one who had those traits. I continued to write.
Throughout my business career, I developed the reputation of following in my father, Stanley Sussman’s footsteps as PFP’s innovator. I took that as a responsibility and honor to maintain while I focused a tremendous amount of time and energy on providing that characteristic to the company.
You, your Eye-Cubed leaders and their teams possess the qualities needed to excel (Read more about Leadership as the Prerequisite of Inspiration). Many know it today and need to hear it from you. Others need to hear it from you so they believe it tomorrow. By providing a “nurturing” environment, your team will achieve your vision.
How many times have you cursed the silos in your organization? Do you wonder what keeps people from putting on their “best answer for the team” hats? Why do individual comp plans get in the way of creating excellent business for the long term?
I’d say we don’t spend enough time quilting.
Stay with me here. When you set out to make a unique and beautiful quilt, you start with a pile of fabrics—the raw material. You choose a range of colors and patterns that complement each other, and a few really unusual ones to provide punch.
That’s exactly the way we put together wonderful teams. The best ones are diverse and complementary with a few contrarians in the mix. Spectacular raw materials.
A smashing quilt has design. I am not talking about paint by numbers here, but you have to have some idea of the broad strokes. It’s like a business model. You wouldn’t want to try to lock down every detail, but you absolutely must have a grip on the essentials.
We take our raw material and our design and begin putting pieces in place. For a quilt, we’re often making blocks; in an organization, we’re establishing business units, policies, and processes. Each one takes advantage of some of our wonderful raw material and has its own internal beauty. It makes sense; it works.
This is where things get interesting, both for quilting and for organizations. Let me start with quilting. Picture yourself with a stack of 200 individual blocks, each one unique, painstakingly crafted, and beautiful in its own right. Your job is to arrange them in a way that makes an exquisite whole cloth. There is no blueprint. It’s time for synthesis. As a quilter, this is the moment I live for. No experience is more exhilarating and satisfying. The result is always—yes, always—better than I ever dreamed.
Now for organizations… I believe that too often, we as leaders stop short. We gather the raw materials—our amazing people. We craft the blocks—our business units and processes. But we fail to put the pieces together. We pretend the units will carry the business as separate silos—no whole cloth. Perhaps even sadder, we miss the chance to experience, with our people, those moments of synthesis where we are, together, better than we ever dreamed.
Leaders who don’t stop short stick out like a sore thumb. Their organizations broadcast a categorically different feel, and, by the way, they perform at a level that seems near impossible. These leaders are among us, and if you ask yourself who they are, I’ll bet you can readily name them. If you’ve read this far, you are likely to be one of them.
I hope this makes you smile. I hope it serves as a gentle nudge to keep doing what you do so well. It matters.