By C. Villefrance Moeller, TalesOfLeading
My son gazed sceptical at me and screwed up his eyes in the afternoon sun. “Yes, we will take the path and go near the monument,” I said. He stubbornly continued: “But those stairs lead down to the amphitheatre. There is a sign here.” “Oh!” was all I could say. I couldn’t see the sign from where I was standing. The last few days we had been joking about the advice from the guest speaker at the High School Commencement: “Advice no. one: Listen to your parents”. The guest speaker gave the graduating students five advice, that I find relevant not just for parents and teenagers, It’s also relevant for leaders.
Advice no. one: Listen to your parents
As a parent to a teenager I would certainly like him to listen to my advice. But also as a leader I want my team to listen to me, when we discuss how to approach a task. Though it is not the same as telling them what to do. My team work with the customers and get information about what works and doesn’t work for the customers and in their collaboration with others in the organization. These information’s are all relevant for the decision making. They also might see a sign, that I can’t see. Fortunately, my son had not lost his critical sense.
Advice no. two: Make mistakes
The High School Commencement wasn’t the only place where heard this advice on our summer vacation. Also at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs a guide said the same, when she explained that many of the fossils found was young male Mammoths. They had left the herd (and their mom) to seek new opportunities. They would roam about alone and find the hot pond surrounded by green grass in the snowy landscape. Trying to reach the grass they might fall into the pond. But the pond had steep banks which the mammoths were unable to clime when they first fell in. Therefore, the guide said, children should listen to their parents, so that they can avoid dangerous pitfalls.
I can understand that a teenager finds it rather annoying to be told all the things, that can go wrong. He does call me paranoid now and then. Sometimes I will have to shut up and let him and his older brother make their own mistakes. It is very difficult for me to keep my mouth shot, when I see the ditch long before they do. I can only prepare myself to be ready to pick them up. The same thing has happened now and then with my team. More than one team member has overloaded his calendar leaving no space to prepare for the coming activities and assured me everything was under control. I know how it feels, because I have made the same mistakes and I also hated when my boss told me I was too optimistic in my planning. You learn a lot by making mistakes and you do get bruises.
Advice no. three: Do the right thing
This advice sound a bit idealizing in my ears. On the long flights this summer, I have listened to a book about a Danish corporate scandal from the Nineties. I am intrigued by the established business people who were manipulated. In a dangerous combination of promising tales of a prosperous future, lack of financial transparency and sumptuous treatment on business trips around the world they passed so many red warning lights without saying: STOP. Those who did try to stop payed dearly for it. As did those who didn’t. Do you really always know what it means to do the right thing and what the right thing is?
Advice no. four: Pay respect
Now what does that mean? That our children and subordinates should respect us? It is my experience that respect is something you earn by respecting them. There was a good example in yesterdays newspaper: A top manager of a retail chain refer to a conversation with his superior and owner of the chain. The top manager very enthusiastic and praised the freedom he was given in his work. His superior then asked him: “Do you think there are others feeling the same?” referring to the top managers subordinates. “Therefore, I have worked with my role and learned that I should be like a band leader, contribute to create a common soundboard and then let the stars shine themselves, both in the shops and back-office” was his reflection.
Advice no. five: Do your best
As the top manager of the retail chain did I also work with my role as a manager (and parent and …). The worst thing you could say to me is: “you’re the best!” Because then I would lose my motivation for improvement. I constantly put myself on the edge where there’s no answers to my questions and I have limited experience to utilize. That’s what “do your best” mean to me.
Questions for you:
- What does “do your best” mean to you?
- How do you show respect to your team?
- What mistake have you learned from within the past week?