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observing Together

by | Dec 16, 2021 | observe, Ray Charles, Together

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🖋 Engineers LOVE problems. Nothing can bring us more joy than a big, complicated problem, with lots of loose ends. And, soon you observe that business people do not like problems. Not in the least – not big ones, not small ones, nothing that resembles them. They like things to run smoothly, with smiles all around. And having just come from a season of EVERYTHING was a problem, which even the business people were in agreement with, I was stepping into a completely different world and observed

… that sentence should (and did) end right there. observe. That is all you need and should do as you step into the new situation. The script from The First 90 Days forced me to repeat it over and over, daily, until it slowly became a habit. I had been used to stepping into teams and situations that were problems – that was what I was there to do. A turnaround guy, I had observed some real catastrophes, and in most cases found a way to unravel the People, Process, Resources, and Customers. Even that framework became a key part of my toolkit – something called The Balanced Scorecard, it forces you to look at everything from those four quadrants – so you don’t miss something.

Like most overgrown startups, which is really where I had landed, none of my directs (or frankly my peers or bosses) had any understanding of repeatable processes other than Profit, Cost, and Schedule. One of the first questions to my directs was “What are your Goals”. With 6 different approaches, formats, time frame, and depth – I quickly observed that I had to reframe my intention. This was, in fact, not an engineering job – it was a leadership and management development role.

🎵 Stepping away from Atlantic and the home it was to soul and “race” music during the ‘40s and ‘50s, Ray observed that he was in a completely different recording position. With the assets of Capitol Records, including their amazing studios in both New York and Hollywood, he could really create something to rival his heroes. Sinatra, Martin, even Sammy Davis, had recorded in these very studios… and here he was. Breaking sonic barriers by recording songs that should be coming out of RCA in Nashville.

And the musical charts he was arranging yesterday fully exploited the studio bands that were used to those heroes. Talking with the musicians, the one thing that you hear most often is how slow Ray plays, letting each note ring and the gap to the next building up tension in the listener – and in the orchestra. They would often comment “ … I am waiting on the next beat…” and that you don’t want to hear Ray call you out for “getting ahead of him”… and many were moved to “different opportunities” through his sessions 😉 Another use of “slow down”…

🖋 …which is a good reminder of yesterday’s discussion about being present and patient – observing the pace of your band. In my case, I had to start slowly, and luckily, that fit my plan and script. Jumping into action had doomed the previous 4 VP’s to exit, most within less than a year. My intention? Simply be there on day 366 – a low bar I realize, but THAT was the result of some very important work that my coach had pointed out. Staying WITH things after you have actually turned them around requires you to build relationships and make decisions that last – that persist. I couldn’t simply leave things behind undone and “move on”.

The key learning in this era for me was observing that you see what you are accustomed to. I was used to being rewarded for fixing problems – and when presented with a situation, I would make it into a target-rich environment. And yes, most organizations have lots of opportunities (observe – I am now so good with problems I don’t even use the word “problems” first..;-)  And – more than most of the opportunities are box canyons for reasons that become clear – only if you slow down, observe, and start to put on different glasses.

Notice today how you respond through your day to each of the opportunities that are presented. Observe the ones that you jump into almost second nature – and who is that really serving. Be honest – is it something that will help you both short and long term, or is it simply helping others that are observing you solve their issues for them? It has less to do with the actual thing you are observing, and more what you are looking for. Change those lenses, and you can start to change things. Do that, and like I started to do, I reprogrammed my instincts away from … Born to Lose.

Born to lose, I’ve lived my life in vain
Every dream has only brought me pain
All my life I’ve always been so blue
Born to lose and now I’m losing you
Born to lose, it seems so hard to bear
When I wake, and find that you’re not there
You’ve grown tired and now you say we’re through
Born to lose and now I’m losing you
All my life I’ve always been so blue
Born to lose and now I’m losing you
Born to lose and now I’m losing you

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