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Your Partners in Performing

by | Feb 24, 2021 | partner, Perform (Executive Presence), Sammy Davis Jr

The First 90 Days is one of my favorite topics to work with new leaders on.  That time is when they are at their freshest to see things that can really help business change and grow… and also are at the highest risk of stepping into things they are just starting to understand.  As it is early in the year, I have a number that are on day 20-30 of that transition, and are feeling the compelling push to Perform – do SOMETHING… and another of my least favorite management “truisms” that is patently false – “Quick Wins”.  They are rarely either, and most often damage your reputation with at least one partner

The book is based on research from Harvard Business School that documented a different approach to stepping into a new role – and aligns with something I discuss often – asking more questions.  The recommended approach breaks those 90 days into 30-day sprints, one of which is focusing on the partners you will need to understand and work with well.  Something that is often critical is to understand that many times as peers, your goals are out of alignment – that is, what you are being asked to do may be directly in conflict with others.  And as the new person, a big clue on who wins… 

Sammy bounced back quickly from his accident and charted hits through most of the ’50s.  Again I could write a month about his exploits as a member of the Rat Pack, but what I wanted to focus on today was his partnership with Frank.  From the beginning, Sinatra stood up for Sammy.  It’s sometime in the late 1940s, Frank appears in a theater in New York during a lull in his career.  He goes to Harlem to see the Will Maston Trio and is blown away by Sammy’s talent.  After the show, he heads backstage to pay his respects and asks Sammy to come see him perform.

About a week passes.  No Sammy.  So Sinatra goes back to Harlem to see the show again and says something to the effect of, “I’m angry with you, I came to see you twice and you never came to see me.”  Sammy, speaking to the man he admired more than anyone else in the world, said, “Frank, I did. They wouldn’t let me in.”

Frank then storms back to the theater, tears up his contract and leaves.  This was not Sinatra during his peak fame.  He needed the gig.  Sammy, talked about that day a lot over the years.  And also about how during the Rat Pack years, many of the jokes were still about his skin color, or picking up the ashes from the stage… followed by the reality that like Nat King Cole, he was not welcome in the hotel he was staying in.  There was in fact a special room constructed above the stage he could stay in… but literally couldn’t get a drink, a meal, or go into the hotel. 

One of the questions that is most important in the First 90 Days is “What does a partnership look like?”… and the best place to start is … with yourself.  What are you looking for, and what are you willing to sacrifice in return?  In many ways, Frank helped establish Sammy as almost a co-equal… Almost.  It is one of the hardest things about Performing as partners – there are often times that you have to put your own needs second, and also hopefully the other way around.  And the role you are in has limits that are worth acknowledging.  As Head of Engineering, I was the person most often thrown under the bus for issues with customers… or just in general… and that is just a part of the gig, or better said this week, part of my Performance. 

There are many rich partnerships that I have built, sustained, and still have… because the partner(s) and I were clear what Performance in our roles looked like.  It is a conversation worth having with your own partners this year, or anytime you step into a new role.  The video today adds the element of playfulness that was always present with Frank and Sammy on stage… this is a better recording – and listen for the harmony and also the different voices, and how they weave their own stories into this Performance of partners… Me and My Shadow.

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