I guess I actually DO have a nickel for every time I stood up in front of a new team, as the “New Guy” and said, “Hi, I am Mark House, and here is what I am about.” Actually compounded over the years, it’s what allows me the freedom to do this crazy new career, helping others have THEIR speech ready for that opportunity when it comes. And I actually stole most of mine from other great leaders along the way, who I suspect stole theirs from others. Because managing with Values actually works… because people can normally tell what your Values are (or aren’t)… before you can.
One of the main founders of Weather Report, Josef Zawinul was born in Vienna in 1932, and started into music at 6 on the Accordion, but also the clarinet and violin, before mastering the piano. He quickly was brought into Polydor records in Europe and was a session pianist with many German and Austrian artists. He moved to the US in 1959 to attend Berklee College of Music, but a week later got an offer to tour with Maynard Ferguson and decided that was a degree worth earning. He also toured with Dinah Washington, before landing with Cannonball Adderley and honing in on playing the electric piano that was now becoming a separate discipline.
Jazz was always an improvisational art form, and yet had a structure and regularity to allow that freedom to not turn into chaos. In the early ‘60s, particularly with artists like Ornette Coleman, there was a move to “free-forming jazz” from ANY structure, and Joe grew up in and through that period. After leaving Miles’ band, the first few Weather Report albums were still highly “freedom” oriented, and while very challenging to play, it was also challenging to listen to and these first few albums are still mostly only known to aficionados. With this third album in 1974, he started to get back to rhythms that were “regular” and “funky”, borrowing from what was happening in Soul music at the time, and I, at least, find this much easier to digest, as did most critics and record buyers.
Management and leadership are also highly improvisational, with the approaches and methods constantly changing based on the latest fads. And yet, in my experience, there are some timeless Values that are worth at least paying attention to – consciously choosing to do them or not, as compared to just “free-forming” it and seeing what happens. It is complicated by “success” being something that has many “parents”… everyone thinks that something worked because of “their” unique contribution. I am leery of most management books unless they are grounded in something that can actually be repeated… by someone OTHER than the author. No – you cannot be Steve Jobs… and I can say that because I met him 😉
My own path was realizing that I have a constant source of feedback available to me – IF I equip them with what I think my management approach is. That, of course, required me to figure out my approach, which was not as easy as it sounds. It was where I first ran into the “your ordinary is extraordinary” finding… because what people said I did I thought EVERYONE did. I started asking people who worked with and for me a simple question – “What happens when I get involved with a project?” Remember, I talked before about words versus actions – this is getting at what my ACTUAL contribution is. And it was not always positive – far from it… but that feedback also helped me to correct back to what I intended and wanted…
Which is the other suggestion – tell your team and partners what your management Values actually are. A public declaration of how you make decisions, what data you use, and how you actually plan to “manage” – 1-1’s, status reporting, dashboards, escalations, partnership, etc. All the things I write about – those are not just tossed-off suggestions. They all work in real life, and you can find them in books from Andy Grove and many other successful leaders I stole them from. They are grounded in real data about people and what helps them stay engaged, motivated, and delivering… in spite of … and because of … you.
I have my speech that I use to onboard a new team – I had to use it frequently as I was a turn-around person, and I realized that the quicker I could get people to know and believe me, the quicker we could turn this thing around, and I could go on to something better (or worse – that is another free-form outcome I didn’t anticipate). Do you? Can you actually say in 3 minutes – 6 or 7 bullets – what your Values of management are? This would be a great day to start, and this track will give you 4 chances at it in the 12 minutes it plays … without lyrics to get in the way. Think about if you were actually going to lead something really challenging – what would you say mattered? Imagine Congress – Maybe the 125th Street Congress?