Tag Archives: Leadership

Who’s With Me?

Bluto--whos with me

 

Leadership lessons from Bluto (John Belushi), circa 1978…

 

Bluto: Hey! What’s all this laying around s***? 

Stork: What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron? We’re all expelled. There’s nothing to fight for anymore.

D-Day: [to Bluto] Let it go. War’s over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.

Bluto: What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Otter: [to Boon] Germans?

Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.

Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…

[thinks hard of something to say]

Bluto: The tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!

[Bluto runs out, alone…]

Other than not being in the script, why didn’t anyone follow Bluto at this point?

Simple. He didn’t outline the mission, or why it was important. He didn’t engage the early adopters, the risk takers.

He didn’t capture the imagination of any thought leaders in the group. Sure, he conveyed some intense emotion.  He may have even motivated a few of his team members to think a bit, and ignore Stork and D-Day’s surrender. But, take action? Not a chance.

[Bluto returns, looking frustrated…]

Bluto: What the f*** happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…

Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!

Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

[Boon and D-Day stand up] 

Boon: Let’s do it.

Bluto: [shouting] “Let’s do it”!

[all of the Deltas stand up and run out with Bluto]

How did Bluto turn the tide? He challenged the team to face their fears. He outlined the (crazy) mission, and why it mattered.

Most important…he ignited a thought leader in the group.  Otter took emotional ownership of the crazy mission and vision that Bluto (sort of) outlined.  Otter gave it clarity, and made it safe for everyone to support.

Once Otter (and D-Day and Boon) stand in support of Bluto’s crazy idea, the rest of the team unites. The exact plan isn’t clear, but the thought leaders create the wave of support it needs to launch.   The rest is detail.

All Bluto has to do is add:  “We’re just the guys to do it.”

He doesn’t ask, “Who’s with me?” when he leads the team out the second time.  He already knows, and so does his team.

Who are the thought leaders in your organization?

How do you influence them? How do they influence you?

What are you doing to harness their power?

Who’s with you?  That’s up to you and your thought leaders.

http://youtu.be/q7vtWB4owdE

The Truth about Ownership

“When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and nobody has a direct interest in maintaining or improving its condition. That is why buildings in the Soviet Union—like public housing in the United States—look decrepit within a year or two of their construction…” Milton Friedman

Dr. Friedman won the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 1976, and died in 2006 at the age of 94.

I could make this post all about his defense of capitalism, his arguments against socialism, the benefits of reducing government’s role in our lives, and a whole host of ideas that he defended throughout his career.

Instead, my focus is on ownership and how Dr. Friedman’s quote applies to leadership in a business setting.

Look around your workplace. Look at the teams. The committees. The ad hoc groups that come together to solve a problem.

Who owns the outcomes of these teams, committees, and ad hoc groups? Is everyone aligned around the same goals? Does everyone own the outcome, or no one?

Ownership is the key to success. Owners are always more dedicated to the outcome than non-owners. If this is true, wouldn’t more owners be better? As Dr. Friedman points out, when everyone owns something, nobody owns it.

True leaders step up and take ownership. Leaders then unite others around the important goals. Followers, in turn, own their support of the goals and their valued place in that effort.

Show me a team with multiple owners (which is really no owners), and I’ll show you a leaderless team that’s doomed to mediocrity and failure.

No One is “Just a…”

“I don’t know the answer, I’m just a temp.”

“I can’t authorize that refund, I’m just a cashier.”

“Clearly, nobody here cares what I think.  I’m just a worker bee.”

“I could probably help those wounded veterans, but I’m just a private citizen.  I’m sure there’s a government agency for that.”

“There’s no way I could ever do that job.  I’m just a high school graduate.”

Listen closely, and you’ll hear the “I’m just a…” phrase applied in many circumstances.  You may even use it yourself.  I’ve inflicted it on myself a time or two (or three).

Ownership is risky.  It requires personal responsibility, a willingness to step up, make hard choices, and be held accountable for your actions.  “I’m just a…” is a ticket to minimizing the expectations we place on ourselves.

The Dark Side

“Just a…” has an even darker side.  It can be used to limit the expectations we place on those around us:

  • “John’s a decent manager, but he’s really just a guy keeping the trains coming in on time.  I doubt he could step into anything new.”
  • “She’s just a summer intern, so I don’t expect her to light the world on fire for us.”
  • “He’s just a beginner, so we need to cut him some slack.”
  • “She’s just a kid.”
  • “He’s just a drug addict, so he will never amount to much.”

When expectations are minimized, minimized outcomes usually follow.

Applying the “just a…” phrase to anyone, including ourselves, ignores potential.  It ignores our ability to grow, change, improve, and amaze.

Patented Buggy Whips

smiling-horse

“Press Release,” circa, 1899: 

 Consolidated Buggy Whip Announces New Patented Manufacturing Process

It’s a big day at Consolidated Buggy Whip.  With our new, patented manufacturing process, the company will have a competitive advantage over all other buggy whip manufacturers.  Anthony Johnson, President of Consolidated Buggy Whip, stated, “Our patented manufacturing process cuts our production costs by more than half.  This is exactly the advantage we need in order to capture new market share, and effectively corner the market for buggy whips.”

We are also pleased to announce that our two leading competitors have proposed a merger with Consolidated.  This is a sure sign that Consolidated’s patented manufacturing process will ensure its position as the undisputed leader in the buggy whip market for years to come.

* * *

If you are even a casual student of history, you know what was happening around the turn of the century.  Automobiles were being invented and would soon replace the horse and buggy.  Our fictitious company, Consolidated Buggy Whip, was about to face its biggest threat.  They were facing down a disruptive innovation and either didn’t realize it, or chose to ignore it.

Recent history is riddled with companies, and even entire industries, that have been displaced by the introduction of disruptive innovations.  Tower Records, Borders Books, Kodak, Nokia, Circuit City, and Newsweek are just a few that come to mind.  Ironically, some of these companies were originally disruptors.  Unfortunately, they allowed themselves to be displaced by newer disruptors.

Vigilance, curiosity, and creativity are required for an organization to avoid, or even create, disruptive innovations.  Complacency and ignorance are sure ways to invite new disruption.

The competitive landscape you think you understand isn’t the only one that matters when it comes to disruptive innovation.

Treading Water

Which is harder, treading water for ten minutes, or swimming in a direction of your choice for ten minutes?

Have you ever tried to tread water for ten minutes?  How about five minutes?  It’s definitely easier to swim in a direction of your choice…and you get the added benefit of going somewhere.

I’ve had an opportunity to meet and work with a lot of people during my career.  Many have had twenty, even thirty-plus, years of experience in their fields.  Unfortunately, some of them have spent that time treading water in the status quo.  Turns out they don’t have twenty (or thirty) years of experience.  They really have twenty (or thirty) one-year experiences.  Their experiences haven’t taken them, or their organization anywhere.  It takes huge effort to tread water, and yet that is exactly what some choose to do in their misguided quest for job security, a feeling of control, or an overwhelming desire to avoid risk.

Leaders are usually the ones who choose to swim.  They’re the ones who know there are risks, and  understand they can’t control everything.  They realize that real career security (which is much more valuable than job security) comes from constantly building on past experience and moving themselves and their organization in new directions.

Take a look at your relationships, your career, your hobbies, and pretty much anything you deem important.  If you’re treading water, maybe it’s time to start swimming.