About self-perception

An almost real story

Recently, I was sitting in in my new family doctor’s waiting room.

A copy of his license to practice was hanging at the wall, showing his full name. The name instantly reminded me of a former classmate, at those times, 20 years ago, a rather wiry and long-haired guy.

But when I met the doc, I immediately dismissed the thought. This well-fed, grey-haired man with his knobbly nose was far too old for haven been in my school class.

Nevertheless, after the examination I asked him, if he eventually visited the same school as I. “Yes”, he told me. So, I continued “Which year did you graduate from high-school?” He answered “1987! Why?” “Well, you have been in my class”, I replied. He attentively looked at me … finally asking: “And which subject did you teach?”

 

based on “Leicht verschätzt” by Peter Kottlorz

Being Dave

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.

 

 

The courage to talk

Recently, an esteemed colleague was thanking me for “courageous openness” with a previous email by me.

I have been very happy about this feedback. But I was also asking myself: is it really courageous to address important issues by mail … if there also had been opportunities to speak?

Honestly spoken, talking would have been courageous, face to face, eye in eye, vouching for my words.
Writing email is less.

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.