executing without Knowledge is…
Sitting with 6 Seniors as a sophomore was not that different for me. I had always been younger than my classmates having started school at barely 5. The instructor was my adviser in the Physics program… who suggested I take the class as he only taught it every other year. When he started writing Maxwell’s equations on the board, I asked an obvious question to me: “What is the upside-down triangle?” He suggested I come see him after class…
Taking a class without the prerequisites seemed to be pretty straightforward. I could learn what I needed to know as I went along, right? Wrong BIG time here where the basic mathematics I would not have until the following year, if then. I was WAY over my head, and was lucky to get out of the class with a C. Worse, I had another class in EE that was similarly above my head, and after having a 3.8 for both semesters of my Freshman year, I had a 2.3 for the fall. And that math said I would never make Cum Laude much less Magna Cum Laude…
Knowing how to execute
With his newfound leadership standing, King continued to ratchet up pressure on the systems around him. In April 1963, the SCLC executed a campaign against racial segregation and economic injustice in Birmingham, Alabama. King’s intent was like the bus boycott, to provoke mass arrests and “create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. The campaign used nonviolent but intentionally confrontational tactics and… did not succeed in shutting down the city, or even in drawing media attention to the police’s actions. Over the concerns of an uncertain King, SCLC strategist James Bevel changed the course of the campaign by recruiting children and young adults to join in the demonstrations.
During the protests, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene “Bull” Connor, executed high-pressure water jets and police dogs against protesters, including children. Footage of the police response was broadcast on national television news and dominated the nation’s attention, shocking many white Americans and consolidating black Americans behind the movement. Not all of the demonstrators were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of the SCLC. In some cases, bystanders attacked the police, who responded with force. King and the SCLC were criticized for putting children in harm’s way. But the campaign was a success: Connor lost his job, the “Jim Crow” signs came down, and public places became more open to blacks. King’s reputation improved immensely. This gave him even more opportunities to execute his agenda, including the March on Washington later that year… tomorrow’s topic.
executing a different path to Knowledge
… as soon as I figured out that being an Honors graduate was not possible, it was then easy to forecast what Knowledge I should maximize. It got me into student politics and much more active in my Church Youth Group. I also ensured my work at Texas Instruments moved horizontally across Consumer Products, Computer Systems, Manufacturing, and now into Basic Research with lasers. I also had helped get a dozen or more of my classmates into the program at TI that paid for all of our education while working. I started to recognize the Knowledge that would differentiate me would execute much more in the people and relationship space, and not as much in the books and Knowledge of academia.
I was wrapping up my last semester with a remaining English class I had put off so I had an “easy” class while I was interviewing for a real job. It was a Technical Writing class – what I had started my work at TI doing when I was barely 17. So I knew how to do it correctly and professionally… and it was not the way we were being taught for sure. Again, no worries. I didn’t need or want the A – I optimized for the work needed to get a B, and wrote every paper the morning it was due, with just enough effort, understanding that executing more or harder was a waste of energy.
execution with or without Knowledge
In an interview about his life and career, renowned American conductor Paul Freeman recalls a 2:00 a.m. inspirational chance meeting with Dr. King at the Atlanta airport. When asked by Dr. King why he was in Atlanta, Freeman told him that he was there to guest conduct the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Freeman was the founding conductor of Chicago Sinfonietta whose mission was to promote the classical arts for all in the Chicago area, while employing minority musicians to do the job. Dr. King responded, “Ah, the last bastion of elitism. Glory, Hallelujah!” Not taking this as a slight, King reminded Dr. Freeman that he should Know his true mission of inclusion… and from there, he worked harder until he accomplished his goal. Today, the Sinfonietta remains an active part of Chicago’s classical cultural fabric.
“Known or should have known” – the management philosophy I was raised with. The current generation of leaders are constantly saying “How would I know what people in my organization are doing?” Well – that is the job my friend. And in my coaching work, it is what I work with leaders on all the time – Knowing the path you are on mathematically leads to this outcome… you may or may not like it, but the math and the execution path is predictable. If your company is not growing, it will be hard to attract and retain top talent, and if you are still there, what does it say about you?
Clearly over the last few years, much has changed about leading and organizations… and yet, it is the same Knowledge that top leaders have always had. If you are not engaging your team in opportunities to grow, ensuring close connections, they execute a move to find other Knowledge to dive into, usually in other places. And they will likely be doing something that is played here by the Sinfonetta, celebrating what MLK was constantly focusing on- a piece called Libertango – exactly what you think it is … a dance of Liberty.