I just returned from a fly fishing to trip to Montana, and a visit with one of my best friends. He moved there 10 years ago after “climbing the corporate ladder only to realize it was leaning on the wrong building”… author unknown. But I digress. I like most of you travel quite a bit, never check bags (they’ll lose them), prepare for a flight attendant who really wishes you weren’t there, and if I arrive on the day I intended… label it “on-time”. I can’t think of too many other businesses with such low customer expectations, except the post office. So what is a avid trout fishermen to do? Ship all my gear out ahead via UPS, fly out a day early, and do my best to cheer up the flight crew… without much luck.
In a few million miles of air travel, I have flown them all. For the above reason, 90% of my flying in the last few years has been on Southwest Airlines. They’re different, they perform, and they are friendly. The trip to Montana forced me into an entirely different corporate culture then SW, who doesn’t fly to there. It never ceases to amaze me that multiple companies can be in the same market, doing essentially the same thing, with the same demographics, the same equipment, and have totally different results. If it were an experiment, it would baffle your high school general science teacher. So much control, yet so much variation in the outcomes. But we know the one critical variable that is different. People.
It all comes down to leadership. And leadership is leading people to where you want them to go. Every year I attend the Catalyst Leadership Conference hosted by Andy Stanley and Greg Groeschel. Last year Greg made an interesting comment… “rather then saying my people won’t do this, or they didn’t do that. It would be more effective to say I need to lead them to do this, or I need to lead them to do that” – paraphrase. How many meeting have you and I sat in where division, unit, or department performance is being discussed and the conversation sounds something like this – they performed poorly, or they failed to achieve, or their performance was sub-par, etc. Rarely is it stated, “we failed to lead them to the levels we needed to achieve, or we failed to lead them to the required performance”, etc. The semantics are important, they are reflective of cultural realities.
Contrary to some, leading from behind is not a viable strategy. I will discuss some unique and effective strategies next week to get out in front of your employees (title).