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executing Virtue…

by | Oct 3, 2020 | execute, J. S. Bach, Virtue

We had gotten the critical part of the meeting, where we had laid out most of the issues and alternatives and were deep into the discussion of pros and cons.  None of us had been paying attention to the clock as we were countering a paring as great fencers on the corporate battlefield.  All were making excellent points … until the decision-maker arose, and said “It is 10 to the hour, and based on our agreement, this meeting is over.  Thank you for coming, we will schedule a follow up soon.  And now you may all go to your next engagement”.  Stunned is probably the best description of the people in the room, including me.  Like all, I had vented that our meetings all ran too long, never worked well, but when the new directive came out that all meetings would end at 10 of, and not start before 5 after, we assumed it was like other pronouncements…

… that came and went about as quickly as they were published.  Saying something is going to happen doesn’t actually matter until it is executed.  Talk is cheap – because there is so much of it that is content free. As you think back, I am sure you have as many stories as I have (maybe…) about leaders and teammates that would make Declarations – statements of intent for what they will do – only to be caught up in something where that wasn’t either doable, or the consequences weren’t exactly what they wanted.  And seen through other eyes, it appears to others as violating their statement, which of course is the easier way to disregard anything.  They don’t even do what they say, so why should I believe them on anything.

We forget that Bach for much of his life was a “working” musician.  Writing music was not just a talent, it was his profession, and that meant he wrote a lot of music for church services that have the nagging habit of showing up every week, or even more often.  And to keep it fresh he wrote a large amount of music that would be described as “easier” – ie, it was meant to be played by the “church musicians” with little or no practice.  The Cantata’s, like the practice pieces for his children, of course now are cherished and interpreted by great orchestras, but I like to imagine him walking in with new pieces to tired musicians Sunday morning with this new piece. “Ok after the Call to Worship, Zeigfield you will lead this…. ”  This particular Cantata, 21, was on the top 10, but I honestly picked it for the album cover…

… a very apt reminder of most meetings.  At Fannie Mae, we were in 2 different buildings, and while close, it would take 10 minutes to traverse between them.  We all complained about meetings being to long, starting late, etc… and the new VP decided to actually do something about it, putting out that new rule.  And then – executing it. This particular meeting was actually on a project he needed to be completed quickly, so he would have had every reason to keep us there… and, he didn’t. He was clear that when he said something, he lived up to it.  And so, we all arose, left, and scheduled a follow up where one of us kept time, and we ended… early… with a decision we all agreed to – actually in advance 😉  He stepped down and left a few years later, and we collectively gave him “The Walking The Talk” award – a wingtip shoe (which of course he wore..) mounted to a board.

It is rare that so few people could earn that award.  And hypocrisy is the quickest way that partnerships and discussions dissolve.  Many then try to say very little, which has an equally corrosive outcome as you are never sure what the person is going to say or do, and so you are always on guard.  What I found was like Delegation, you have to state something, and then test how that plays out.  And gather feedback from people around you.  In my 360 questions, there are 2 that provide the most powerful results on Virtues – “What is something you would hesitate to count on them for?”  Often it is a dissonance between what is said, and what is done.  And then the final question and one I would direct towards you today – harder than this piece, and probably not something you can simply start executing … “What is one wish you would have in the next 6 months?”  That will lead to some rich thoughts for the weekend, and prepare you to execute with Virtue this fall.

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