Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Please, don’t think we’re going overboard. But we just have to continue with the sports theme of this eNewsletter. We’ll keep it short. Amidst the passing of Muhammad Ali and the surging performance of the Cleveland Cavaliers, slightly out of the spotlight could be the Stanly Cup Champions—the Pittsburgh Penguins. Forget that almost every, if not every, prognosticator counted the Penguins out in every round of the playoffs.

Three leadership themes emerge. One is more conceptual, and the other two are more actionable. To begin, we have empirical evidence in the power of alignment to a vision and, just maybe, the power of belief. No matter that almost everyone counted the Penguins down and out back in December up through June of this year. They’ve shown that it doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what the team believes. Thirty hockey players believed what the world didn’t. The lesson here is that buying into a collective vision is important, and regardless of what external stakeholders and so-called “experts” say, the belief of the team is central, is critical.

On to the other two lessons here. In this very eNewsletter several months ago, we put forth the leadership mantra of man, equip, train. And, we mean ‘man’ in a gender neutral way. To be successful, you need to staff the team, equip them with the resources to be successful, and train them on what good looks like. Do you have a staffing change that you need to make? That you must make? Let’s look to Pittsburgh Penguins. In mid-December, team leadership fired coach Mike Johnston for poor performance with four months before playoff hockey was to start. In came Mike Sullivan, and the rest is history. Again, the lesson here is simple and straightforward and worthy of application—it is impossible to be successful without the right people on the right bus sitting in the right seats.

Our final LEADERSHIP IN ACTION lesson here is to give young talent a chance. They may surprise. Mike Sullivan, himself youthful, was given a chance. He was hungry, and he thought differently. And most experts agree that Sullivan did what was done to him—he gave young hockey players a chance to shine. Specifically, he pulled a celebrated, and much experienced goalie, in favor of Matt Murray—a guy barely of drinking age! He responded. Sullivan gave youth another chance by bringing up Bryan Rust from the farm system. At 23, Rust delivered an exceptional performance throughout the playoffs. Of course, there’s an element of courage and risk here. Mike Sullivan put inexperienced, but hungry and aggressive, players into the game during the biggest of stages—the Stanly Cup playoffs. So ask yourself—are you giving young talent a chance to stretch, to spread their wings, and to grow? What’s holding you back? If you can tolerate some stumbles along the way that go hand-in-hand with learning, giving some young supervisors or engineers a chance to shine may deliver some surprising and promising results.

To recap—get your team to hit the ‘believe’ button as that’s the only opinion that truly matters. Second, don’t be afraid to make coaching changes. Third, demonstrate even more courage by giving new, young talent a chance to impress!

We invite you to email ELP Principal and Co-Founder Robin Bichy for a professional consultation at robin@elpadvantage.com.

Do you know who Randy Moss is? He was an incredible football player. Bursting on to the scene in 1998, he’s best known for his performance with the Minnesota Vikings and also the New England Patriots. With 14 seasons under his belt, he owns the NFL single-season touchdown reception record (23 in 2007) along with the NFL regular season touchdown reception list of 156. He was good—very good—very, very, good. But, he was never great. Randy Moss could never win the Super Bowl. And the reason is: he took plays off. On occasion, he didn’t give it his all. He’d catch. But, he didn’t like to block much. And, every now and then, he just wouldn’t even try. So much so, that the best receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice, called him out arguing to the media that he, unlike Randy Moss, never, ever took a play off.

We apologize in advance for bringing in football at a time when baseball, the Belmont, and, even, Dancing with the Stars is at play. But, the truth of the matter is that some players, some people, some employees don’t give it their all. Or, in football parlance, they take plays off. This is consistent with the research on Human Capital. Employees own their own Human Capital and can choose to deploy it on behalf of the team or not. Strong leaders, those known as people developers, tend to get the most out of their people. They get close to 100% of effort and ability. Those leaders that aren’t people developers tend to get a zombie bunch—an employee sample that works to 60 or 70% of their ability.

Some leading sports psychologists suggest Moss’s inability to reach the pinnacle has less to do with him and more to do with fact that he never had a great leader to develop him (Bill Belichick got him late in his career). Reflect for a second—do you get the most out of your people? 100%, 90%, or 50%? Do people ‘play’ hard for you? Or, do subordinate leaders and employees take plays off under you? Do people want to work for you because you’ll challenge them and make them better? Or do they want to work for you knowing that they can skate by? If good people are scrambling to volunteer to work for you, then you probably earned a reputation as a people developer. If good people, on the contrary, are wishing to leave or are voting with their feet and jumping ship, then, chances are, you might not be developing people as much as you could.

Here are six specifics that we’d ask that you reflect on, and we borrow—or shamelessly steal from—the iconic Jeff Foxworthy.

  • You may not be a people developer if you think that development is sending your subordinate leaders to a course and thinking that development just magically occurs.
  • You may be a people developer if you provide challenging and stretch tasks and assignments to your team and mentor them through it.
  • You may not be a people developer if you are so results-driven that you embrace a tactical mindset of, “What can this person provide me now?”
  • You may be a people developer if you develop compelling, long-range career and personal development plans to make your team better.
  • You may not be a people developer if your employees or subordinate leaders see their time with you as a just a job to do.
  • You may be a people developer if your employees see their time with you as a profession or calling.

These are just some leadership dos and don’ts that we toss your way. At ELP, we firmly put a stake in the ground here—we are people developers. To learn more about our process and to help ensure you get 100% out of your subordinate leaders or your anyone on your team, we strongly suggest that you reach out to one of ELP’s principals and co-founders and a renowned expert on leader development, Robin Bichy. Email her at robin@elpadvantage.com.

Much of our time seems split between railroads, railyards, shipyards, and power stations. Within the nuclear arena, much energy is spent towards learning from OE (Operating Experience). Much more than a luxury, within nuclear, it is considered a necessity to raise OE, or historical knowledge, prior to performing a task or engaging in a critical evolution. We do so now, and look to a recent event.

Just a touch over a year ago, the Amtrak 188 train barreled towards Philadelphia. This train and its leadership approached a bend that required a slowdown to 55 MPH. This didn’t happen. Instead, the train hurled toward this bend-in-the-track at speeds double that—approaching 106 MPH. After eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured, the FBI as well as the National Transportation Safety Board also got involved—heavily.

Just this past month, both the FBI and the NTSB levied their key finding that the conductor/chief engineer had become distracted, and that was the root cause of the catastrophe. More to the point, the conductor lost his situational awareness.

We’ve called on prospective clients before who suggest that safety errors can be corrected almost exclusively through technology. Technology fails and on this particular day, it sure did. The Amtrak technology—the positive control systems was down and out. This is where, by and large, nuclear gets it right. Even with nuclear’s ‘special and unique’ technology, there is converging belief that most safety events or errors are hardly ever technological. Rather, they are behavioral such as the lack of situational awareness mentioned above. That isn’t to say that technology should not be part of the ‘defense in depth’ approach to protecting our workforce. That’s not what we are saying. Instead, we strongly suggest that investing in behavioral and cultural influences to improving safety will yield considerable and sustainable results over time. To rely solely on, even as a dominant safeguard, technology will disappoint. Instead, invest in your people.

To improve your safety culture, you can never do better than calling ELP. Reach out to Robin Bichy at robin@elpadvantage.comto learn more about our cultural approach to staying and remaining safe.