Learn from the master. Jovial and generous S. Claus, CEO of one of the world’s longest-lasting companies, “Toys Are Still Us,” knows how to be a great leader for the long haul.
Even during his busiest season, Mr. Claus took time from his hectic schedule to be interviewed. He always wants to spread the joyous word. And he may also be trolling for new employees.
Not even Santa can satisfy everyone. But, his methods have survived the tests of time and competition, and he’s practically cornered the market. If you don’t like his style or aren’t willing to make the effort, see if you have more success leading like Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch did.
You’ve heard it a hundred times, “A great manager can motivate anyone.”
The fact is some slackers simply don’t care and are beyond motivation. And it’s a waste of your limited time and energy to keep trying. If you’re sick and tired and stressed out because you’ve accepted responsibility for motivating slackers, prepare for the inevitable effects of continued frustration and emotional pain. You’ll be exhausted, burn out and get physically ill.
Unfortunately, managers often find themselves pressured to motivate everyone. And both they and their bosses may see these managers as failures when they can’t pull it off. It’s time to give them a break.
In the real world it’s everyone’s job, including a president or CEO, to motivate his supervisors that he’s worth keeping. Why should it be up to your managers to motivate the slackers on your payroll? Slackers should be working hard to motivate you to keep them.
To be a successful administrator, basic operational savvy is necessary. But to be a successful leader, you must also master human savvy.
For example, Joe worked his way up through the financial ranks and had mastered three of the major skills of internal operational savvy:
Setting high performance standards.
Joe’s teams met their goals within budget and deadlines.
When I explained to Joe that he was missing the human savvy I’ll describe below, he said he couldn’t change. He had strength of character and responded successfully to the ups and downs, and the challenges of business. But he said he was an introvert. He could achieve high performance in operational areas but it wasn’t his personality to excel in people areas.
Joe’s progress was halting when he was simply memorizing lists of how-to’s. But his learning took off when he modeled himself after the subject of one of the best leadership books, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Joe saw himself as having a personality similar to Lincoln: a melancholy introvert who could come out of his shell to make human contact. Lincoln’s human savvy was a crucial component of his success. Joe resolved, “If Lincoln could do it, so can I.” Joe drove himself to use Lincoln as his guide and to learn what Lincoln learned.
Lincoln said that the most important task of a leader, once he has finally decided on a course of action, is to educate people so they are inspired to proceed on that course. Lincoln used insightful comparisons and memorable stories to transfuse people with his vision, dedication and perseverance. Joe realized that appropriate stories have an emotional impact greater than the effects of logical arguments.
Like Lincoln did, Joe can now tell memorable stories of his team’s effort and progress. His staff is now enthused to achieve team and personal goals in the face of challenges that demand their best.
Many people teach basic operational savvy as if it’s all that’s necessary for leadership success. But good administrators aren’t necessarily good leaders. Basic operational savvy is necessary, but it’s not enough. Leadership success is more all or none. You can succeed only if you master human savvy.
With the showings of “Race to Nowhere,” and the publicity surrounding “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua, many people are excited by the debate about whether kids are being pressured too much to get perfect grades in school and to be perfect in extra-curricular activities. The assumption in these debates is that if we talk and reason enough, if we listen to the kids’ feelings and the parents fears and hopes we’ll figure out just the right balance.
That can be a fun debate if someone else is providing the food and drinks, but I think these are the wrong considerations based on the wrong assumptions.
The corollary of course is what do we, as adults, have that draws us with the same passion and intensity? I hope there’s something and I hope it never ends.
There’s an archetypal story of Teddy Roosevelt (I believe) going to pay homage to Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his 90s, before the great man died. When he enters, he sees Holmes reading Plato. Knowing Holmes age and impending death, Roosevelt asks, “Why are you reading Plato?” Holmes answers, “To improve my mind.”
Another example of the opposite is a person who, at age 45, said she didn’t need to learn anything more in her life. She knew enough to make it the rest of the way. So she kept trudging in her rut the rest of the way. Where’s the excitement and joy in that?
Distinguish between what’s worthy of your life’s energy and what wastes it. Then do it with passion and intensity, with joy and wonder. What could be a better use of your time and energy?
What do you do after you’ve been hit hard and knocked down by life? What do you do after your dreams have been shattered? What do you do after you’ve been rejected or lost everything? What do you do when you’ve been defeated? What do you do when you realize you chose an abusive bully and you don’t know how to protect your kids? The wisdom of the ages, from all traditions and cultures, gives the same answer, even if the reasons are very different.
In “The Ghost and the Darkness,” Val Kilmer plays a British engineer trying to build a bridge across a river in Africa. Two lions, accurately named “The Ghost” and “The Darkness” begin stalking and killing the men building the bridge. The lions outsmart every attempt to trap and kill them.
Finally, Val Kilmer develops a brilliant plan to trap one of the lions in a railroad car. They do trap the lion but he escapes, burning down the car. Kilmer is devastated and defeated.
The killings mount until the workers start leaving. They hire a skilled hunter, Michael Douglas, who is also caustic and sarcastic. At the climax to the first half of the movie, when the hunter sees Kilmer’s dejection and hears of Kilmer’s failed plan, he says, “There’s an old saying in boxing, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get hit and knocked down. Then the plan goes out the window. What matters is what you do after you’ve been hit and knocked down. Do you stay down or do you get up and fight again?’”
There it is. Kilmer faces his plans in ashes and his life as a failure because the men will leave, the bridge will be abandoned and he’ll never get another job.
The tension comes to a head when Douglas has a plan but the lions outsmart him and kill all the wounded men in the hospital. Douglas, the great hunter, is devastated and defeated. In total, the lions killed over a hundred men.
Kilmer says to him, “There’s an old saying in boxing, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get hit and knocked down. Then the plan goes out the window. What matters is what you do after you’ve been hit and knocked down. Do you stay down or do you get up and fight again?’”
There it is; the point of the movie; the point for all of us in the real world. Will we be defeated by defeat, will we give up when we’re back to square-one, will we give up when life is unfair or too destructive for us or will we get up and fight again, build again?
We, who don’t face killer lions everyday, still do face risk and disaster everyday by:
Natural forces – tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, prolonged drought or flood.
Even the smaller failures growing up can seem like disaster – we fail a test or a course, we’re rejected or dumped by someone gorgeous or handsome, our secrets are spread over school or the internet, we don’t make a team we’d hoped for or counted on, we don’t get into the school of our choice, our parents don’t or can’t give us the latest stuff, the cool kids scorn us, we do something really embarrassing.
Our children face the same questions repeatedly: Will we be defeated by defeat; will we give up when we’re back to square-one; will we give up when life is unfair or too destructive for us or will we get up and fight again, build again?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt.
Notice, I ignored whether Douglas and Kilmer finally kill the lions. Yes that’s important to building the bridge and to the material parts of their lives. But that’s not important to the human spirits of Kilmer and Douglas being great because they’re undefeated by defeat; to them having the indomitable will to continue, no matter the obstacles and not knowing whether they’ll succeed. Okay; the factual resolution is that the Ghost and the Darkness are now preserved in the Field Museum in Chicago – and they did kill that many people.
“Strength comes not from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will,” Gandhi.
Notice, I also ignored the historical implications of colonialism. Of course, that’s there, but that’s not the main point for my life.
The point is to use the movie to stimulate in me the greatest that I can be. There are thousands of heroes and heroines, real and fictional, who can remind us to get up off the floor when life has knocked us down. The point is to use everything I see and hear to inspire me to choose whether to live a selfish, shabby, sordid story or a great and worthy story; to chose to be the hero of my life.
“Glory is not in never having been knocked down. Glory is in rising up again, each time you are knocked down,” Vince Lombardi.
Jane was stuck in an internal war. Every time she made some progress toward goals she’d been pursuing for years – cleaned her house, did things on her to-do list, met people she’d wanted to, signed up for classes toward a better job, courageously risked being honest – she’d start beating herself up in ways she was familiar with since childhood.
A part of her would say, in an old, familiar voice, “Who do you think you are, you’ll never succeed, you’ll fall back into being a failure, you’re fat and ugly, you’re not good enough to stay on track, you’re weak at your core, you’ll never do the right thing, you’ll fail like you always do, no one likes you, no one will love you, you’ll be alone all your life.”
Then she’d isolate herself and start picking on herself physically. That’d only make things worse. She’d feel ashamed and guilty. “Maybe they’re right,” she’d think. “I’m not good enough. I’ll always be a mess. I’ll never change. I’ll never succeed.”
She’d become angry at her parents and all the people who’d taken advantage of her, at all the people who weren’t supportive now and finally at herself. And the cycle would continue; a little success leading to self-loathing and predictions of failure, followed by anger at everyone in her past and present, followed by more anger and self-loathing. After several wasted days, she’d get herself together to try once more, but the emotional and spiritual cost of each cycle was huge.
Self-bullying– negative self-talk, an internal war between the side of you that fights to do better and the side that seems to despise you, that’s full of self-loathing and self-abuse – can go on a whole lifetime. Of course, the effects can be devastating – anxiety and stress, discouragement and depression, loss of confidence and self-esteem, huge emotional swings that drive good people away and attract bullies and predators.
Perhaps the worst effect is a sense of desperation and panic, isolation and loneliness – it feels like this has been going on forever and doesn’t look like it will ever end; every failure feels like the end of the world; like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. You feel helpless and are sure that it’s hopeless.
This is not a war between the left and right sides of our brains. This is usually not our being taken over by an evil spirit that needs exorcised psychologically.
This is usually a battle between two sides of us that split apart because of terrible, overwhelming pressure when we were kids. Back then, we didn’t know how to cope with the horror so we split into two strategies that have been battling with childlike intensity and devotion ever since.
On the one hand, we fight to feel inspired and centered and to do our best; to be courageous and bold and fierce; to try hard, be joyous and hope for success. On the other hand, we fight to make us docile and not try to rise above our meager lot in life, to accept what they tell us and give up struggling against them so they’ll let us survive, to motivate ourselves by whipping ourselves so we’ll make enough effort and do the right things, and maybe then they’ll give us something in return and we’ll have those feelings of peace and joy.
Both voices want us to survive and to feel centered, peaceful and filled with joy. Each takes an opposite path to get there. Instead of a psychological exorcism, we need an internal reconciliation and a release from old battles with our external oppressors and between our internal, battling voices.
The inner goal is clear: We’ll be whole and unified, both sides will be working together toward the same end (http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2008/04/25/getting-over-parents-who-wound-their-children-the-2nd-stage-of-growing-up-and-leaving-home/#more-35): the different possibilities for action will be presented to us in the encouraging voices of coaches; we’ll be inspired and motivated by encouragement, not whipping: we’ll have an adult sense of our strength and capability; we’ll feel like we can cope successfully without tight control over everything and we’ll act in a timely manner; situations won’t put us into a panic; mistakes won’t be a portent of doom.
For example, Jane finally made internal peace. Her warring sides accepted that they had the same outcome – making a good life for her, filling her with the joy she’d always wanted to feel. They realized that neither side could defeat the other; their only hope was to work together using adult strategies of motivating her to take actions that would help her succeed. They saw that her situation now, in middle age, was very different from when she was a helpless child and had to depend on parents who seemed to despise her character, personality and style.