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Do you manage with Virtue?

by | Sep 29, 2020 | J. S. Bach, manage, Virtue

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As a part of my interview process for my last “real” corporate gig, I was to the round where I was interviewing with leaders who would be my peers. One of them had been in a startup that the company had purchased, and he was clearly different than the others, and we hit it off pretty quickly.  He shared some learnings from that experience, and after I started, he was one of the first people I took out to lunch.  He was venting about his team – and how they were not “leading” like he wanted them to.  I wasn’t a coach – officially yet – but asked what seemed obvious … “Well, have you told them what you expected?”  

…we actually cut the lunch short so he could go back and write down his ‘expectations’ of leaders, which he promptly published to his team.  I, of course seeing really good work, stole it.  Laziness is a core Virtue of mine 😉  The keyword in the definition of Virtue to me is “behavior” – as in, what you do matters way more than what you say.  Particularly as a manager of people, twisting the line from St. Francis works:  Preach (whatever); use words only when necessary.  If you say it, particularly publically, you better do it… and make sure they catch you doing it.  Similar to parenting, any disconnect there causes what are politely called “Alignment issues” … where I am often asked to engage, almost always too late… 

Great music, like me stealing ideas, shows up in the best possible places.  I  found a list of the top 10 Bach songs, and this was on the list – and of course, being raised in the 70’s, I not only knew this piece, it was PERFECT to pair with manage… in a very twisted way of course.  Back to Woody, I think I could write an entire week on What I needed to know about management I learned from Rollerball.  I was hoping to find something pithy about the writing of it – only to find a wiki page that goes on for pages.  A couple of fun tidbits: this may or may not have been written by Bach, it may or may not have been written on a violin first, but has become the defacto “horror” them since films of the 30’s 😉  Tell me their wrong.. the first few bars, your hair stands up (if you have it) and you look behind you… 

While not exactly Virtues, most organizations have “Values” – often expressed as “Competencies” and there is an entire industry out there about what they could and should be.  Suffice to say that whatever is there is worth embracing systematically.  We had them on the wall of every conference room – RAPID – which stood for…. something that most people 10 years in really couldn’t remember.  By that point, I had figured out that having my own – declaring what I valued, and what I expected – helped me be “embraced” by new teams, and get them to start delivering faster (normally why I was there…). For this gig, I focused on ensuring that all hiring, bonuses, conferences, and ratings were explicitly tied to them… after getting my directs to engage in defining them jointly as a Team exercise.

Virtue is an “eye of the beholder” opportunity.  It is where many of the things we talk about all come together.  First, you have to know what they are – for you.  Many never really sort that out and are frustrated by… something they can’t articulate.  In the same setting I ran a Task Force on “hiring top talent”… and eventually got to a basic question – “Who Fits?”  That is – who has been hired that has worked out well and we want more of?  And.. most of the insights came from… those who hadn’t… those that had been kicked to the curb by … a checker, or a motorcycle on the way to scoring…. come back tomorrow for more Virtue, but today, embrace the reality that Rollerball is often the game being played around you, so you better learn the rules… with or without Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor.. 


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