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How does a Promise execute?

by | Dec 5, 2020 | execute, Promise, The Avett Brothers

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We were again in my office, which you are going to soon think is more a Disaster Recovery location, particularly after today’s offering.  We were sitting in the dark – not because of the hour, but because there was no power in the building.  As you might guess, those servers we discussed yesterday had the right information, but were once again door stops… so we were brainstorming on what to do.  Our options were not great, and there was no easy solution to this, which meant it fell to our best “fast thinker”.  And he knew it, and started issuing commands on what we are now going to do…

… and you might think that would be hard for me as the “leader” to “permit”.  First, this particular team member was intimidating – particularly to those who didn’t know him well enough.  As such, we usually delegated those “difficult” conversations to him. This one the plan was telling users they would need to move temporarily to a different building where we would have loaded their information so they could keep working.  It was not a choice, it was the only way we could make it work, so he became our spokesperson.  Firmly, and respectfully, but this IS what is happening. Please gather your things and follow me.

With my title, I could have done it, but the other thing that he had in spades was credibility.  Rabbit is always described as “friendly, yet capable of being impatient and irritable.  He fancies himself the smartest animal in the Hundred Acre Wood, since he is not scatterbrained like Tigger, Owl, or Pooh.  He insists on doing things his way and is obsessed with rules, planning and order.  He often bosses others around, but deep down, he cares a lot about his friends.” And that is what we needed – great command and control with clear directions.  So we executed his plan. 

Scott was the middle child, and therefore the older Avett Brother.  In the early days, he thought he would be a singer, and didn’t really think of himself as a songwriter.  Interestingly, he did think they would be successful, and already envisioned them being way more than they were.  And like Rabbit, he would be Often Wrong, Never in Doubt – with the vision that drove the band.  He also realized that with Seth’s songwriting, they were a powerful pair, and as that continued to develop, it helped him find his own voice.  Confidence is something that is always important in teams – building it in each other, encouraging the strengths you see that maybe they don’t… 

It is an interesting leadership characteristic – to be a good leader, you also have to be a great follower.  Particularly when you realize that the talent needed is one that is not your strongest, and others have it. Leading/following peers is particularly important, and a skill highlighted by one of my favorite books, The NeXT Level. ( I have changed the spelling just for fun.) Later in my career, I realized that competing no longer was acceptable, or worked. EVERYTHING was done together, particularly when one of them was “leading”… your job was to be a great follower, doing what you are asked, and trusting that their approach will work. When I reduced that to practice (mostly) was when I was ready to be a VP…

Rabbit here took the ball and ran with it, and I did everything to support that and back him up. It is another leadership skill – seeing in others what they may not see in themselves, and developing and encouraging it. Stepping back… and letting others step up … is something that a lot of leaders need to understand is a sign of a strong leader – that develops strong direct reports.  When you look beneath good leaders, there are … lots of growing leaders. Ready to step up, they are being actively groomed by stretching their skills, and preparing them for when you are ready to move on – sometimes within your control, and sometimes not. 

As this season ended, one of my peers left Fannie and landed at VeriSign, and Rabbit was similarly ready to move onto something new.  I recommended him for a role there which he of course, even though he wasn’t sure, landed easily.  And eventually, many of the team would follow… including my own middle son who had struggled, and I asked for help, something I didn’t do often (or enough upon reflection)… and Rabbit immediately called back with a job for him.  That steadied things out, and he is now thriving.  

After I left Fannie, Rabbit called a few years later with a role for me that was the capstone of my career. The VP role I was now ready for, practiced at, made all these mistakes somewhere else…. now was here, and with that preparation, I made it look easy.  That is one of the gifts of empowering leaders – they help you now, and never forget the experience once they have tasted it.  Are you growing your team to develop their talents, and the relationships that will last… a lifetime?  It sounds corny, but you need to invest in Promises so when you need to execute, you’re ready.  It is way more than my business name, it is an ever-present gift if you look for it and develop it.

This song has a dark title, but a very upbeat tune and message, and this video is hysterical…  Are you forming a team that can execute… for a lifetime? “You can try to swim the sea but say goodbye to you and me… Nobody knows what lies behind ….the day we Die, Die, Die.”


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