When I am conducting leadership classes aboard the Battleship North Carolina, we go to the pilot house where the ship’s officers, including the captain and watch standers, control its movements. Here I explain the ship’s maneuvering equipment arrayed before them and I facilitate a discussion of the importance of leadership principles such as accountability, responsibility, urgency, coaching and other principles. At the end, I challenge the group of leaders to inspire their team to perform courageously.
The group’s reaction is often very restrained because most participants feel that that kind of statement is best suited for military units or maybe athletic teams, but in a corporate setting? Can you really inspire an office group? Can you really inspire a team of industry workers? A group of executives?
I then tell them the story of Lucy.
Lucy was a third grader in Virginia Beach that was a student in my wife Emily’s class. One day Emily was reading the class two versions of a fairy tale about barnyard animals being captured by the sly fox and being taken away in some sort of vehicle to somewhere that they certainly didn’t want to go. One version of the story had the animals escaping by figuring out how to distract the fox and escape by pooling their ideas. The second version included a multitude of high-tech devices including radios, helicopters and a police chase with lots of excitement. At the end of the two stories my wife asked the class which version they enjoyed most? The second version drew immediate loud and enthusiastic cheers. No question, the gadgets ruled the day. But my wife noticed one girl, Lucy, was not as enthusiastic as the rest. Emily asked her which did she prefer and with a slight hesitation Lucy said, “I liked the first one. The animals had to figure it out on their own and were responsible for being rescued.” Emily was stunned by Lucy’s calculated response and her courage to go against the grain.
And that’s the courage you need to inspire within your team. As a leader, to get sustained results, you must provide the environment to encourage the Lucy’s to come forward and offer some insights that may be exactly what you and your group need to hear. Or perhaps they will offer some sobering comments that will keep the team from going over the edge.
During my Navy days, I participated in an investigation of a ship’s grounding where one of the principle findings was that the command environment was so stifling that the deck officers were uncomfortable telling the captain that the ship’s charted position did not seem to match-up to the visual cues. The captain did not promote an environment that allowed those around him to independently raise the caution flag.
In a corporate setting, during a meeting of senior company leadership I watched as the CFO started to make an insightful comment, then backed off as the president’s countenance cued him that he was not in the mood to discuss the matter. As later proven, this was an opportunity lost.
My point may be best illustrated by actor Ed Harris as he portrayed Apollo 13 Flight Director, Gene Krantz in the movie Apollo 13. As the spacecraft hurtled toward the moon, Harris entered a chaotic room filled with engineers who had just learned that a catastrophic rupture of a space craft oxygen tank jeopardized the mission, but more importantly could be fatal to the astronauts. Harris enters the room and absorbs the independent conversations going on, then solicits input from individuals. All in the room participated in the fast-paced back-and-forth conversation that simultaneously filtered through the facts and generated a plan of action. Gene Krantz had inspired his team to perform courageously. As a result, the mission plan was drastically altered, and America’s astronauts were brought back safely.
What kind of an environment do you foster? Do you inspire your team to perform courageously?
Ron works with emerging leaders, execs, entrepreneurs and managers who want to sharpen their leadership skills and inspire their teams to achieve a level of performance beyond their imagination. He does this by providing high-impact, energizing programs that give the participants an opportunity to learn and practice the guiding principles of leadership that are crucial to establishing a success-oriented environment. You already know a lot about leadership, Ron helps you to amp it up and put it all together so that you use your abilities in a disciplined fashion every day to achieve results! His course participants are unanimous in their feedback, "I wish I had attended earlier in my career." He has also brought his Leadership Excellence Course to the Battleship North Carolina, where participants learn in a most inspiring environment how to motivate people, the power of integrity, the reasons for good feedback and many other defining leadership principles that help leaders and teams get to the next level and achieve results. You can check out some other course opportunities at AcademyLeadership.com. Look in the Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Wilmington areas.
Audrey Elsberry - Sep 22, 2023
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