Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Powerful Quote for 2010

Colin Powell said this: "When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I'll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own". I love these words. It captures the way people should live life. Debate the issues while the decision is under consideration, but once made, it all comes down to execution.

That fits in with my favorite all time quote from Thomas Edision: "Vision without execution is hallucination". At the end of the day - it is about getting things done not thinking about what could be or debating what should be. The world is run by people who show up and do something. I see lots of people trip up around these two areas - loyalty and execution. So many want to challenge what leadership has determined is the course of action, and even if they buy in, it is lip service with little or no action.

I see it in churches, civic groups, community service organizations - pretty much wherever people are involved. Everyone wants it their way. And if it isn't - well they just take their toys and pocketbooks and leave to go play somewhere else. That is not what life should look like. No one will get their way all the time, and if you choose to be part of an organization, then you need to be willing to be loyal to the direction of that organization or get out. Staying involved by whining about the decisions that have been made or undermining the group is about as pathetic as it gets. Yet it happens all the time and non profits/churches seem to really attract that kind of attitude.

Have you experienced the discussions about the color of the carpet, the look of the communication, the time of the meetings, the haircut of the leader's wife? We all agree (don't we) that petty little things like that have no place in organization life. But equally as frustrating can be the undercurrent when decisions are reached. Boards and leaders are in place for only one reason - to set direction and make decisions. That is their purpose. They are not there to please people and do what any one individual wants. Their responsibility is to evaluate the best for all involved and lead the organization down that road.

At some level this applies to our businesses too. We pay people to do things our way if we are owners, but at the end of the day, it really still boils down to loyalty and execution. If we have the right people on the bus they will line up and follow our direction. They should be providing input along the way as the decisions are reached, but once a course is set, they need to get on the bus and make things happen. If not, time to find a new job. That is the perogative of an company - to take those off the bus that don't discover what it means to be loyal.

It isn't so easy in volunteer organizations where people are a very necessary and important part of the mission. But even here, one bad apple can really spoil a big bunch of the barrel. We have to be careful not to ignore the impact of someone who doesn't get behind the vision, mission, values and direction of the organization.

As we begin 2010 and a new decade, I challenge you to consider all the things you are involved in and live the way Colin Powell describes above. If you have input, give it clearly and concisely during the discussion process. But once the decision is made, execute at the 110% level and stop the whining. Seldom is direction changed by that method, and it is a big red flag about the loyalty one has to the organization they are part of. The better approach would be to move on if you can't be loyal and execute. The world would be a very different place all across the good old USA if we lived this way. Churches wouldn't know what to do with all the extra manpower and time they would have to do productive and meaningful things.

Make the decisions of any organization you are part of your own, and then execute with a passion and effort that is second to none. That is how we make a difference around us. It isn't by continuing to try and make things our way. It is by getting aligned with the direction and decisions and working tirelessly to execute. That is what prevents vision from being hallucination!


Susanne Dansey said...

Hey Arlin - Happy New Year!

I've just read a great book which helps encourage positive and creative thinking from everyone in an organisation that helps unlock further potential for the business. It's called 'What Made you Think of That?' by Gary Bertwistle (Australian) and has a very similar perspective to yours.

The real challenge for any leader is making time and it's only ever going to be sustainable if they can get others to carry the mantle with them. I encourage anyone in a leadership position to keep this blog post in their back pocket for future reference to remind themselves of their role in their organisation.

Peter H. Zubert said...

Thanks for the inspiring talk Arlin. It is very refreshing on a Monday in January