None of us really know how we would react under dire circumstances. The answer only comes if fate chooses to put us in such a spot. But we can learn a lot from the actions of others who live to tell the tale. The incredible rescue and survival of the Chilean miners from the San Jose mine is a spotlight on the character of man. Stories that may be somewhat disappointing are likely to emerge at a later date but for now this is what we know:
- The miners chose NOT to be victims from the beginning. For 17 days without contact to the outside world they chose to live, to fight, and to move forward.
- They worked together as a team, recognizing they each had a role to play in surviving. Imagine the respect for self and others during the 69 days. Anything else would have torn them apart.
- They took 2 days worth of food and made it last 17. They chose to focus on what they had, not what they lacked. They had an abundant mind set in the scarcest environment.
The last miner up the rescue capsule, at his insistence, was the shift supervisor Luis Urzua. This man, while I obviously know little about him, likely embodies every element of the Character Triangle. His leadership was symbolized by his last act as shift supervisor. He chose to be first by being last.
While suffocating in total darkness sometimes generates the brightest light, you and I (thankfully) can embody and employ the aspects of self accountability, respect, and abundance daily without the need of a rescue capsule. What we need is the conscious presence and commitment to act that way daily.
Thank you to the Chilean miners and their competent and brave rescue team to remind us who we are and what living with character means.
Live the Triangle,
For the last 20 plus years I’ve carried a Black and Red notebook with me daily. Why? I make a point, at every meeting or interaction, of highlighting key listening points. I often mind map the comments, collecting them into a system of connected points. This helps me remember, recall, and really focus on the conversation in a robust and meaningful way. Rarely a day goes by without me referring to notes from one or more of these meetings. I have hundred’s of archived notebooks.
Listening and journaling go hand in hand. If we’re going to live the Character Triangle it is important to capture the viewpoints of others and to specifically note commitments made (especially ours). So I highly recommend using a book to keep a record of our transcripts (an analogue version). If you are more digitally inclined the iPad is a great tool too. This may replace my Black and Red.
One final note: at the end of each day, write down how we “moved the ball down the field.” What progress, however small, did we accomplish? This simple but habitual journal entry will give us a sense of accomplishment. Also it is beneficial to write down one example of where we’ve applied the Character Triangle too. This way, cultural development and character development growth together.
At the end of reasonable milestones, we can review our progress. The little stuff ends up being momentum.
Do you have a black book? Start now. Get one.
…all hat and no cattle?
As a CEO I have the opportunity to see all kinds of people at work at all levels. As I see employees progress or stagnate in their roles, there seems to be a point of excellence difference based on the degree one takes the lead as a problem solver regardless of position. Here is the process I see people who are effective at problem solving and pro-active in leadership, generally follow:
They have a self accountable mind set where they believe they can make a situation better.
They gather facts and data on the situation by actively engaging others who are impacted. This usually involves a formal or informal “campaign” of providing information on the impact of the problem and asking for suggestions in solution development.
They are decisive in choosing a solution supported by insight stemming from #2 above and then applying a solution.
But this next step is where some of the people who are exceptional at proactive leadership show their stuff… they have a campaign advertising the effectiveness of the problem-solving applied solution. People want to know that their input was put to work.
Success energizes the group and they are ready for more. If not, fatigue often takes over.
If we want data to support this process, review the work of Harvard professors as reported in Working Knowledge, August 30 2010. This research shows that information campaigns led to a 74% increase in suggestions to improve and even more when people learned about the effectiveness of working solutions.
Try the above process on a small or large problem in your area. See what happens. Otherwise we’re all talk and no action. Or as the saying goes, “All hat, no cattle.”
Living the Triangle,
What do we really know about our “8 hour” neighbors, the people that we work with?
I like to know as much about the people I work with at a business and personal level (without inappropriately crossing any privacy boundaries). Why? It helps me better understand and relate to them. How would you and I do on the following questions regarding the 10 people we work most closely with?
1. What are their key business objectives this year?
2. How do they get measured by their boss?
3. What are their career objectives?
4. What are their personal objectives?
5. What or who brings them the most joy in life? What do they do for fun?
6. What have been challenges and disappointments in life? Victories and celebrations?
7. What are their strengths?
8. What are their shortcomings?
9. What can you do at work to bring them the most value?
10. Who are the most important people in their life? Do you know the name of their loved ones?
There may be better and more questions to ask and answer but these are a start. I have hundreds of people working for me. I can’t know the answers to all these questions with every one of them. But I do try and answer as many as I can. I keep mental and written notes. This helps me connect at a personal level whenever and wherever I can.
My belief is that it is our responsibility regardless of our job, to know as much as we can about the people we work with. Doing so shows that we care and this is a basis for having a respectful relationship. The root of word respect is to “look again.” Answering these questions helps us look more closely.
How did you do on the quiz? Now is the time to learn more about our team mates as we go about our daily work. Start tomorrow.
In the Triangle,