Pick a moment when you’ve led, when the project didn’t work, when there was failure. Tell us what happened and why it’s personal… and why it’s not.
I’m taken back to an incident that happened when I was working for my grandfather, we were planning on taking the flange world on (oil field meter tubes and pipe flanges). I learned how to program a CNC machine, taught myself how to run the thing, and figured a lot of things out along the way.
My grandfather had a great idea of a new way to assemble the meter tube and flange, a more efficient and effective way that literally could have changed the way oil companies operated by making their measurement capabilities more precise.
We worked out so much of the plans for how this would move forward, how we would be able to bootstrap this business into existence and how it would grow and change over time. I started researching the industry and competition. And the time had finally arrived where we were going to place a huge order, and start on our path to bigger and better things…
I get everything ready, I’ve talked with 10 different suppliers from around the world and have narrowed it down to 1 forge out of Romania. We knew enough at the time to avoid India and China because so many companies had problems in the past they would downright reject the metal before it was out of the box. So here I am crossing my ts and dotting my is, checking everything over and over, and I finally fax my order off. And we wait…
6 weeks later crate after crate full of thousands of pounds of metal arrives and we open the first one, “Hey! This isn’t right!!!” my granddad exclaimed.
We had just paid around $30,000 for junk.
On our order I had missed a letter code, I had it wrong from the start. It was something I just didn’t know. None of the forges I had quoted from looked at our spec drawings to see we had the wrong order code. We had just paid around $30,000 for junk. And to make matters worse East European metal and forgings had recently been put on the suspect list of poor quality. So we could have sold this incorrect order and been fine if it was from somewhere else.
I led that, but the wrong direction. I should have sought some outside help but never even thought about it as a possibility. It was so personal because I felt like I had messed up, and I had made the mistake that was going to not allow us to grow the way we had hoped. But I learned enough from that experience and our business had grown enough in just me learning to run and program the CNC machine that it actually wasn’t a bad experience.
Identify ten popular items that at least one person you know can’t stand.
Beatles (Car & I’m sure the band too)
When someone criticizes a true success (Avatar, Star Wars, the iPhone, pizza) that doesn’t automatically mean the thing is bad. It means the person criticizing it is keeping score of something different, has a different worldview, wants different things!
The purpose of this exercise is to help you understand that even GREAT stuff isn’t universally liked. Create a list of popular things that some people don’t like to help you stop looking for universal approval and instead, realize that leadership is about being important to some people, not liked by all people.
They’re some missing components here. When I watching the video I was thinking about what an important message it is that failure happens. How vital it is to understand that what may appear as a failure to you can be a success to someone else.
Did you ever consider that?
Plenty of people try again and again, and sometimes they fail, but when they fail at the right things, I don’t see it as a failure. I’d rather fail at trying to get a charity off of the ground that is looking to help a group of people who need it. However, I’d rather not start a business that is looking to overcharge or overwork the same group by dismissing them as unsophisticated or unimportant. On that same note, if it was a business that provided a fair wage to those people or charged a fair price, you’ll find me again. For some that might seem obvious, but I know plenty that can not draw the distinction here. They pine for the doing something meaningful and demonize profits at all turns.
Let’s take a moment to look at the difference. Most of the things I have tried that have not worked out didn’t have a strong component of profit built-in or some alternate source of funding. Often, these failures boil down to a couple of different factors, a strong willingness to avoid the important questions or such a strong desire to not be an “evil” (read profitable) company. If you don’t make enough money to pay the bills, keep your employees happy and healthy, or whether a few storms. Then you do not make enough money.
I’ve gone a little far off of topic here and am almost out of time. What I want to get at here is that people who can take that experience and learn from it have turned a failure into an opportunity. Those that charge on and scream damn the lack of profit, work harder, work longer, the customer is always right. Have the wrong kind of failure for success and they will eventually pay the price.
Who are you following? What does it mean for you to be enrolled in that journey? What commitments are you making and what compromises do you refuse to make?
Currently, Linus. For me to be enrolled in this journey means I make a little less money right now but I am working on some amazing things that are pushing the boundaries of the technology we are working with. It means that my boundaries have been pushed greatly and I have been forced to grow in a lot of ways I did not expect, it has been a major learning experience.
The commitments I am making are all about seeing this project through to the conclusion of making a profit and being self-sustaining. I see it as a major bridge and hurdle that I need to figure out. I have to find a way to replace myself with systems that will hold up against the tests of time, technology, and other people.
Now that you’ve considered the people you’re enrolled with, what would it mean for someone to be enrolled in following you? Are they getting the same satisfaction as you are? Are they making the same commitment? What are they seeking?
In relation to My Tribal Job, if I can get people on board with this project I know they will be able to get the same satisfaction of helping people and making a difference. I know that their help and commitment is what this project needs to go to the next level. From the previous exercise, I know we need to work on our story although, we are nearly there with the powerful message we currently have.
Think about the C people in your organization– and then figure out what about their role makes them act like C people? Are their round holes for these round people?
This question is one I have thought about a lot on other occasions and in other settings. I ask it a different way: “Can the person reach their full and true potential in the position they are in?”
It becomes a hard thing at times because if someone is working at their full potential they are often moved up to a “managerial” role (I know we are talking about leaders) and they might not be as effective in that position as the former. I know part of that is the assumption that if they are good at their job then they will be able to make others good at their similar job. I think this breaks down in most cases. I think that star that was doing something amazing just became a B person and if they get stressed or burnt out they become a C person.
Of the other C people I see around or have seen over the years, many of them are showing up for a paycheck. I have seen something amazing from Linus, somehow he is able to sense this happening and is able to motivate the C people beyond themselves. I have seen him do it by letting them try new things or grow in ways that they previously thought not possible. It is an amazing thing to witness.
Are you telling a story about your goal that resonates with the people who are ready to hear it?
I have thought about this a lot, but not exactly in the way presented here. Basically answering this bluntly, I am. However, it forces me to realize I am not telling it in a way that every person who is ready to hear about my goals needs to hear it.
It’s a little funny. I used to think that most people responded best to the money aspect, “here is what the business can do” etc. But I have noticed that different people respond differently and I have in a natural way (without thinking about it deeply) changed the tone of the story to fit the audience. For some people, I talk about the money, for others, it is about the potential for the business to help a large number of people, and still, for others, it has been more about their individual potential to help.
Tell your story four ways, all true, all based on different worldviews, for different audiences.
Generic Script – I know this is not what was asked for but I am not fully prepared for this. It requires a little more thought.
For the Investor type:
I have been working on “my project” for x number of (weeks|months|years) and I have seen these usage and growth patterns which allow me to project y profits.
For the Business tycoon type:
I have been working on “my project” for x number of (weeks|months|years) and I have seen these usage and growth patterns which allow me to project y growth.
For the potential worker:
I have this great thing I have been doing, “my project” and I think you would be the best fit to help it grow and reach full potential. “My project” does these things: (list of benefits provided such as social goodness). I think you would be a good fit for z.
For the potential customer:
Hey, I see you are trying to fix or take care of problem a. Something I have been working on takes care of problem a. “My project” may be a good fit for you needs, here is why I think that it is true. Will you give “my project” a chance?
These are not bullet proof solutions but I think it is a framework to start with and expand on. Of the people who hear your idea, I think the ones ready to respond will fall into one of those categories with all others just going right to the “other” been.
What does it mean to do the right thing even when there’s a popular shortcut?
Seth’s story about the ambulance story, about them not paying a bribe to get 911 and instead of taking 1298, really makes a clear point. We choose every day which “shortcuts” vs “right things” we are going to accept; what do we find acceptable.
I think doing the right thing often means choosing the harder path otherwise, why would we have shortcuts and that is what we are talking about here. Not doing the job as well as you should, or picking the easy way out are all kind of lazy. We see people do it all the time and it is easy for us to say to ourselves “they did it wrong” or “they made a bad choice”. But are we examining ourselves and ensuring that we are staying on the right path with all the choices we make?
Consider the journey that you and your team are on. Do the ends justify the means? Which means? What’s right and where do you draw the line? Does everyone in your culture draw the line in the same place?
For some reason, I thought of a news story I had read not too long ago where a hacker actually hacked broken systems as a way to patch them before the bad guys got access. I think he crossed the line honestly, there is more to the story that would make you agree, but sticking with what I have told you so far he has crossed the line. No one will ever know what he did (unless he tells or gets caught), but the short truth is he wants to claim to be acting on behalf of the “good guys” yet takes the same kind of shady action a bad guy would…
If we are drawing lines here; accessing people’s machines without permission, even to “fix” things is not acceptable. I have heard of other companies causing problems for their clients so that they can make more money when things go wrong. I think Hektechologies is the first time I have heard of something that is intentionally designed so that the more problems the clients have the less profit Hektech makes. As I work on My Tribal Job I have tried to bring the same level of awareness to the process. I have worked hard to make it an open and transparent process. Although I have found I failed at my goal of doing so when it comes to making sure people really understand the path we are on and the reasons for each decision.
I think this little look at culture makes that problem a little easier to understand. I have not fostered the right culture in all of my projects. At least, I have not always thought about what potentially, my actions or the things I am saying will mean to my team when it comes to culture.
What sort of control are you willing to give up to get closer to your goal?
If I knew that things were on the right course I would happily give up all control. But I think that only happens when the team I am working with understands the culture I am trying to portray and what it means long term. So have I really given up any control when these things are in place?
I’ve been writing journals on and off my whole life. I’ve been doing nearly the same online with my blog and this time things are coming along nicely as I’m finding old posts and working on adding new ones.
I hope you find something helpful and please feel free to leave me a comment as I love reading them!
If you want to read more I’ll have more information on my About Page.
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