Taking Steps Toward Leadership

Now that you know that the person you are determines your leadership style and impact, you need to look at that impact. If your sole purpose in life is to lead people, as a CEO, as a scout leader, as a teacher, your view is too small.  To be a top level leader, you need to train other leaders.  The goal oriented leader needs to get the project done, on time, under budget and done right.  What is the project then?  In the long run, it’s a team that can handle ANY project under ANY circumstances.  I watch a lot of NCIS, binging to tell you the truth.  The goal of each episode is to solve the crime and bring justice.  The goal of the series is to make leaders of all the members of Gibbs’ (the main character) team.  The composition of the team is 1 smart-alek with street smarts, 1 geek in the field, 1 geek in the lab, 1 forensic medical investigator who is trained in psychological profiling and his lab assistant, 1 woman who has extra emotional insight or mad ninja skills.  In each episode, each of his team members gains extra insight and grows a bit in their leadership abilities.  At the beginning of each case, Gibbs comes in and announces the crime and then takes his team to the crime scene.  Each member knows exactly what to do.  He doesn’t tell them each time to take pictures or canvass the witnesses or do background checks on the victim and find possible antagonists.  They just jump in efficiently and effectively to gather evidence.  Gibbs is a big picture guy and he draws conclusions based on his extensive experience and how he puts his information together.  It is rather amusing when the team presents the information that they take turns with each aspect of the victim, the evidence and the theories.  You know it’s scripted, but you play along anyway…  Given the new information, each team member then knows what will be required of each of them–check the credit cards and financials of possible suspects, phone contacts, back ground and skills, family, past interactions with the victim etc.  They then eliminate those with neither means nor opportunity and narrow the suspects down.  They are a well-oiled machine.  Can any one of them effectively lead an investigation? Of course!  Why do they stay with the team and not lead their own?  Franchise fees… Or maybe they like the fact that if they need something done, they know exactly who on their team can quickly and efficiently do it.  The thing is, each and every member of the team is very good at the job, and each one, in having interacted with the other members of the team and Gibbs in particular, has picked up an instinct as to how to go about finding the culprits.  Gibbs has produced leaders.

If you look at successful sports teams, those who have won national championships multiple times, you can see that these programs develop leaders, not just players.  You’re probably familiar with the old adage:  too many chiefs and not enough indians, or too many cooks spoil the broth…  Most assume there can be only 1 leader and all the rest bow and scrape and do what they’re told.  Many CEO’s are afraid of mentoring people because there can only be 1 boss, and they want to be that one boss.  Here’s the thing though.  What restaurant do you know where the only thing they serve is broth?  The chef figures out the menu, and he assigns his cooks to provide those items.  He may inspect each item before it is sent out to the customer, but he doesn’t jump in and make all the foods himself.  The chief will determine the plan of attack, and one of his leaders will work the infiltration and scouting of the prey (deer, buffalo, bear…) one will lead the warriors on foot, and another leads the warriors on horseback.  Each of these secondary leaders is learning from the primary, so that when they reach the point when they need to step in, they can.  You have a quarterback with certain talents, then you train him to run the offense.  You’ll also have an offensive line coordinator who can read the defense, and a back line coordinator who knows how to protect the play and the quarterback, and a receiver/ball carrier coordinator that makes sure that when they get the ball, they don’t drop it or run the wrong direction.  It’s that aspect of teamwork that makes synergy of the group formidable.

Just for fun, let’s look at leadership in regards to a fast food chain.  Just so you know, the GM (general manager) of the store is not always the leader of the crew…  Sometimes it is a very talented crew chief or an assistant manager that can move a team into the realms of greatness.  (Pictures greatness in terms of slinging burgers…hmmm)  I remember training 2 prospective assistant managers:  Jim and Robert.  Robert was working front and Jim back with me.  Jim was going on about how his crew had to respect him because he had the manager’s shirt and name tag.   “My way or the highway!  Most of this crew would be gone in the 1st couple of days if I was running things.”  My eyebrows went up and my patience went down.  Mike, my 2nd sandwich maker, was a high school kid who liked to goof off, my grill man, Kevin was underemployed and should have been a project manager in a large business.  Sue made perfect biscuits every time, and Mary was the fastest support you could imagine even though she was over 50.  They were the perfect storm on back line, and Jim was saying they were substandard.  He demanded a couple of sandwiches from Mike and when Mike didn’t get started right away, he threw a pickle at him to get his attention.  I told Mike to explain why he wasn’t jumping to the job.  Mike said, “Your order is 3 -1/4 pound sandwiches with different make up, will take you about 3 min.  If I start mine now, they will be 2 min older and colder when they go out.  If SHE was making them, I’d start now.  Looks like I over estimated your speed, it will take you nearly 5 min.  I’ll start mine when you’re on sandwich #3.”  Jim blew a gasket.  Then the rush hit.  I told him to get out of the way, none too gently.  He argued but when the GM saw him, he physically pulled him out of the line.  Kevin got the meat going, Mike and I went to work.  Average wait at the window was 15 seconds, average at the counter 30-60 seconds.  Mary was stocking, and stepping in to do buns and grabbing salads.  Sue was doing about 3 pans of biscuits every 10-15 min.  Kevin was doing omelets and eggs for the breakfast side in between the burger runs.  It was one of those weird rushes when you’re doing change over from breakfast to lunch so it was hectic.  Just so you know, the average time at the window elsewhere in the district was about 2 min, and 3 min at the counter.  When the 11 o’clock rush hit, I let Jim take lead, and he was barking orders at all the crew.  Sue, not having to do biscuits now, clocked out and sat on her stool to watch the show.  I told the guys to do exactly what he said, and not pay any attention to their instincts.  They got the idea and started to snicker.  Jim, being the arrogant micro-manager that he was, was yelling meat runs that were making no sense at all, 2-4 orders behind and staring at the screen for each sandwich in each order.  He did not trust his crew, he didn’t delegate, he just gave orders.  Even after having watched this team move that fast and that efficiently, he hadn’t learned anything about how this team worked.  After he had floundered and the screen was full of orders (13!!!!)  I stepped back in and yelled, “CATCH UP!”  He thought I meant Ketchup and ran back to get some.  My crew cracked up.  By the time he got back to the line, we had only 6 tickets on the screen, and those quickly disappeared, and there were no orders being flung around.  After the rush, we had a speed competition.  How fast could you make the signature burger.  The winner got his break 1st and ate the burgers.  I won by 1/10 of a second.  So Mike challenged Jim to a speed contest.  Jim, of course, hadn’t learned anything and took him up on it.  He had completed the bun and the meat and the lettuce when Mike finished.  Mike beat him by nearly 10 seconds.

The difference was that when each of the team members had their own heads, were left to their own designs, and having been through many many crunch times together, they performed like masters.  When they were micro-managed, nothing worked right.



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