A few years ago I read a book written by a former Daily Telegraph journalist who had ‘cashed in his chips’ and returned to education, undertaking the MBA at Harvard Business School. The title was a play on the eponymous (if eponymous means egotistical self aggrandising) tome “What they didn’t teach you at Harvard Business School”, in this case the negative becoming a positive.
Having read several such books in my time it does appear to me that everyone has an angle, everyone has a view, everyone has a model and there is no single one right answer to leading (whether than be teams or larger organisations).
In the course of carrying out my day job I encounter lots of different people in many different roles and in the course of my reflections and in discussions with them I have landed on two qualities that very few of the books, courses or similar capture and I have chosen to represent them in a way serious and grown up manner…
The first is resilience represented thus:
Why a weeble? Well of course weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. However much you bash them, push them or drop them they just bounce back to where to upright with their fixed smile on their faces.
It’s interesting at times watching leaders facing challenges of various size and import and noticing what nature of challenge really impacts their resilience and how they cope with it. The thought that keeps on coming back to me is that resilience is definitely not born but made and made through a variety of routes the most effective of which appears to be previous failure.
I remember a conversation in a previous life when two colleagues at risk of redundancy reacted very differently to the situation. The first was in a flat panic about what it could all mean, the second calm and collected. It seemed at the time the latter’s calm was based on firstly having been through redundancy before and secondly having an innate confidence in their ability to find another job.
You know that saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. That (to a point!)
The second is persistence, represented thus:
Why Wile E. Coyote? Well if you’ve watched the cartoon Mr Coyote NEVER EVER gives up. There he is episode after episode desperately trying to get the Roadrunner. He usually ends up in some form of pain or suffering some dreadful injury (and in an organisational context we must be mindful of this!!) but he remains steadfastly commited to his objective.
A management consultant may question is his objective correct and I am sure he would be better served in beginning a form of shared reward with his main supplier ACME products but it’s not creativity, innovation or continuous improvement that defines Wile – it’s persistence.
Unlike resilience which is I think something one develops with time, persistence is definitely in the state of mind category. Apparently it was W.E. Hickson who said “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” although W.C. Fields did develop that a little later “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it”. It appears to me at times that the numbers of ‘try’ aren’t where they could be and it’s something we would all benefit from.