Being Dave

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Last week I had the opportunity hearing a superb and inspiring talk by Mark Gallagher, a former Formula 1 manager. If you ever have the opportunity listening to Mark, I strongly recommend to not miss it!

Mark is fantastic in showing the importance of integrated teams and their impact on motivation, quality, if not championship (in its best and true meaning) by telling real-life stories from F1. Not this general “team is important”-blablabla on how it should be in theory. But truly experienced reality in an environment where competition and need for safety & quality converge at high speed.

One of his narratives had been about Dave, the bus driver. To make a long story short, on that particular day the team won the race because of Dave. How? Well, Mark is much better than me in very lively telling the whole story in every amusing detail.

But at least I dare to sketch the scene where in an extremely challenging situation for the team, where there had been uncertainties about the best race strategy due to very changeable weather conditions …

  • Dave the bus driver felt the same commitment and responsibility for the team’s success as the pilot or any pit team member, where
  • he had a quite pragmatic idea, and he unexpectedly spoke up sharing his idea to get the latest weather forecast by simply driving with a moped into the direction the weather was coming from,
  • he translated his idea into action, despite the fact that it had been refused as being silly by the team lead, and
  • after being clearly rejected again after his first attempt to report changing weather via radio while sitting in the countryside a couple of kilometers away, he took the risk of being fired because he knew that his action might help the team to win the race.

Finally, the team lead buckled, adjusted the race strategy based on Dave’s report, as a result of that the race was won, and today most F1 teams have their “Daves” out in the fields during a race.

This is a real-life story about being team by including everybody and gaining lived commitment … and win.

This is also a real-life story about a “silly idea” becoming innovation.

But first of all, for me this is an amazing story about courage.

  1. Dave had the courage to speak up and share his idea.
  2. Dave had the courage to give his idea a try despite meeting with a refusal by his management.
  3. Dave had the courage to directly exert influence on the race without being a member of the core team and despite being smiled at.
  4. Dave had the courage to adhere to his idea while encountering heavy headwind.

So, what do I learn from Dave, and by the way from may others who made a change in history?

If you are deeply convinced that something is going to make a difference … keep your tail up, fight for it, make it happen!

Neither the pleasers nor the skeptics are making a team the winner. The Daves do.

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Appreciate yourself!

Well … honestly spoken … I appreciate myself. Not always. But again and again. And I admit to enjoying it.

I appreciate myself for minor and major  achievements. Every time something worked as planned. Every time I kept milestones and budget … or even overachieved. Then, I am as pleased as Punch, deeply proud of myself, and I inwardly tell myself: “Well done, Christian!”

No, I do not miss appreciation by others. Most of the time I have been very fortunate having fellows and leaders, who acknowledged and esteemed my contribution … and myself. Hence, I always felt privileged. I never took it as granted, and I know that many others have to go without appreciation by others.

But especially then it is even more important to honor yourself, to self-appreciate your performance. For me, the joy about my own success goes along with self-respect; the value I give myself.

Frankly spoken, for quite a long time I thought that it would be absolutely common being pleased about own successes. A natural element of intrinsic motivation. Praise has been proven to be the best motivator. By praising myself I motivate myself. And that is how it also always felt for me. And over the years it carried me through various difficult situations.

Meanwhile I have learned that self-appreciation is by far common and generally understood. From time to time I meet people having a serious problem with appreciating themselves, appreciating their own performance.

But I think we agree that most successes are earned through hard work and are not to be taken as granted. For that reason, it should be well justified being proud of any single success. Not the narcissistic,  foppish type of self-praise … but the well-deserved inward self-appreciation for a real performance. No pride which is exaggerating the own person. But joy because you successfully delivered.

If I do not appreciate myself and my achievements … why should others do?

My motto for 2017

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-44), French pilot and writer


 

Of course yearning alone is not enough.

You certainly need quality wood, good tools, clear allocation of tasks, a plan and much more.

And yes, unfortunately I also know more than enough ‘hot-air guns’ in leadership positions, who contribute great visions (= yearnings) … but that has been it.

I would like to talk about myself instead. In the past, I realized that sometimes I got lost in bits and pieces of strategic or project planning and management during workaday’s life. This simply happens when you are working quite intensively and focused. I am sure you know what I mean.

The issue is that then the big picture easily gets lost. But this big picture is really important. It actually is the destination, the purpose of everything being done! Not adhering perfectly to the project plan or KPIs. Those are just resources and tools … but in daily routine they sometimes end in themselves. Neither the wood is the destination, nor is the ship. The destination is being able going out to sea and sailing to other places.

It is about motivation. To take along people, employees and colleagues. To not just let them settle tasks. But to actively include them in an exciting, promising and joint journey.

 

For me, Saint-Exupéry’s “yearning” is anticipation, joy, enthusiasm and identification. I am deeply convinced that this kind of “yearning” does not only yield in settling required tasks …

… but to jointly deliver superior achievements and true innovation. More than the best project plan ever could do.

Leaving 2015 positively

2015 has been a good year!

It might not appear as such on the first view. And unfortunately there are always enough “devaluators” who are first and foremost fixated on crises and conflicts.

But a lot of positive and good things happened in 2015 which are worth to look back on. In the German newspaper DIE ZEIT (#52, 23.12.2015) Hannes Soltau, Merlind Theile and Doreen Borsutzki published a remarkable collection of facts.

In 2015 …

  • more people worldwide had access to drinking water
    (91% vs. 77% in 1990)
  • the average life span worldwide increased
    (71 years vs. 65.3 years in 1990)
  • the number of starving people worldwide decreased
    (-17% since 2004)
  • the infant mortality worldwide decreased
    (more than halved since 1990)
  • we had substantially less traffic deaths in Germany
    (2/3 less since 1991)
  • we had less school dropouts in Germany
    (5,6% vs. 9,6% in 2001)

Certainly, 2015 was also a year full of tragic events and fatal developments. But not only. Fading out the good limits the view.

I myself gladly and gratefully look back on 2015. For me personally, it has been a very good year … and the world has had worse before.

Why doesn’t anyone tell him …?

post20141107A zur deutschen Versionnew division head is in town. And he (or she) wants to share his vision and plans with the team members in subordinate departments and business units. First of all, a fair approach.

So, the new boss arranges a “townhall”, which is .. how should I say … a mix of collective self-congratulation, motivational speaker show, and blatant puffery. Actually, the intended purpose is to reduce need for the new boss to deal with each subordinate individually but rather polish off all at once.

Making a digression. Back to the topic …

Well, said new division head stands in front of the audience, perhaps something between 300 and 400 subordinates, and talks about his plans. He mentions that in the past quite a few things had been done quite well already, and that he appreciates those efforts and the great expertise of the teams and people … but that there certainly is room for improvement and optimization. He presents his new master plan, laid out for 5-6 years, at last solving all issues of the division, and which will be the ultimate solution for a prospering future of the enterprise. Goes without saying that the plan crucially includes a reorganisation.

There is just one problem: he (or she) is the 3rd new division head in 5 years already. And the majority of colleagues sitting in the audience have repeatedly heard exactly the same speech. This is still very much present, it hasn’t even reached long-term memory yet. And those colleagues sit on their chairs, listen to the presentation, and think: “What a speechifier! In 2 years max you will been gone again. And then the next one jumps in, and retells the same, that he now knows how it really works. And your master plan is going to be history like all the other big master plans before.”

Summary: Actually the new division head just now makes a fool of himself.

Is that really necessary? Why did nobody appropriately prepare and brief him? Who the heck coaches middle managers such amateurishly? It almost appears as would someone simply follow a checklist … a rather goony one by the way.

An honest and down-to-earth announcement gaining respect and appreciation by associates rather would sound like this  …

“Hi everybody! I am the new boss, and I also cannot turn water to wine! We are going to spend the next 2 years together, perhaps even a bit less. Let’s make the best out of it! So that at the end all of us are able to show some smaller or bigger but nice achievements and progresses, without any unneeded collateral damages.”