The Gulf War changed everything.
For the first time, precision-guided munition was widely used in combat.
In 1991, The New York Times described the role of the advanced weaponry as "decisive."
Why so important?
It allowed our military to aim after firing.
The successful implementation of the new technology changed the landscape of war.
No longer about carpet bombing, marksmanship was the strategy.
It was faster. More effective. Fewer civilian casualties. And didn't hemorrhage military money.
Ready. Fire. Aim.
Since the dawn of written correspondence, there have been generally accepted ways to close a message ranging from Sincerely, Yours truly, xoxo, Regards, Warm Regards, Best Regards, etc. We all probably have our own “go to” closures.
I received an email this afternoon from a colleague that closed with, “On a mission,” If you know Joe and what he does for a living, it would quickly make sense in that clearly he is on a mission; so much so that he even closes an email with it. It’s deeply personal, appropriately genuine, and even inspiring. It made me think: how many of us could accurately close our emails with this phrase? The nature of Joe’s work and how he lives his life makes it a natural sentiment for him to express. What about us? Does your company have a mission statement that drives you? Does your family? Do you?
At the Center, whenever we talk Mission Statements with our customers, we often talk about “what gets you out of bed in the morning”. It’s not about flowery language or corporate buzzwords. It’s about purpose; why you exist. Without purpose in our lives, we might as well close our emails with “Going through the motions” or “Apathetically yours."
Give it some thought next time you send an email. What’s the most accurate closing phrase for you and is it what you want it to be?
On a mission,
Chief Executive Officer
The other day I watched a small boy come into a coffee shop with a costume on. He literally flew through the door- one hand outstretched in front him with a giant fist in the air, the other behind his space suit shirt and cape. Between sound effects and jumping motions, I heard his mom’s continuous caution to be careful.
Though constant, the warning seemed only to trigger an extra effort on the superhero’s part to collide with everything above ground level. It wasn’t long before I found my own table being bumped, causing a momentary delay in the traveler’s final destination. As he looked up at me, he said, “I’m a superhero,” and then confidently “flew” off.
I was reminded how quickly children are able to adopt a persona, identity or character as their own. Kids decide whom they want to be based on their interests, and as soon as they put on a costume, they look at the world differently. They assume that they have changed, and that they hold the same characteristics, traits, powers, and abilities of their role model. Like the guest at my coffee table, you hear “I am a superhero,” not “I’m Johnny, and I’m pretending to be a superhero.”
When I try to translate that experience back into the work world, I’m a little disappointed. It seems I have a lot to learn from my brief encounter with a superhero- perhaps we all do.
Like many, I’ve chosen a profession out of my interests. I learn and grow each day through the success and failure of my work- each of which are like the components of a truly legitimate costume. While this elaborate and growing costume and these experiences should create confidence in my abilities, and me I ignore them. I credit success to luck, and failure to lack of ability, skill, or knowledge. I’m worried that people will look at my costume and see the holes, and instead of thinking I’m a superhero, will be asking “who’s that girl dressed up, pretending to be a superhero?”
I think Seth Godin discusses this fear best when addressing the work of artists and professionals in his most recent book The Icarus Deception. He states, “Deep down, we're worried that we will be discovered as the frauds that we know we are…. Everyone is lonely and everyone feels like a fraud…This is part of the human condition.”
No matter what our work, no matter how much experience we have, and no matter how qualified we are, I think it’s safe to say we often feel like frauds. We all have days when we wonder how we are addressing a room full of people looking to us for answers. We all have moments when we think someone else would be better suited or more equipped to handle our responsibilities. We all feel inadequate in some way, shape, or form for the role we step into day- in and day- out.
And while our weaknesses seem like glaring holes in the costumes of experience we wear, the truth is, everyone has holes in their costume. As Godin states “It’s the human condition.”
It’s easy to let those holes be a focal point, and to pretend that you are alone in feeling like a fraud. It’s also easy to hold onto a costume but never gain the confidence to wear it well in public; thus denying yourself the opportunity to use your skills for the good of your organization, society, and the world around you.
Though difficult, it is much more beneficial (to you and to others) to stop worrying so much about the holes in your costume and the limitations you may have, and start owning your identity. You have opportunities and experiences that have placed you where you are today. If you were truly a fraud, someone would have noticed. And even if your not convinced, until you’re called out as a fraud it’s time to stop saying “I’m pretending to be a superhero,” and start saying “I’m a superhero.”
Ever been on a flight when an attendant is particularly jovial? Borderline overly enthusiastic?
At first it catches you off guard.
The attendant performs the safety briefing with a little pizzaz. Maybe tells a few jokes.
It's funny. Maybe a little refreshing.
But there quickly comes a point of skepticism: is it theatrics? Or could this person possibly be the godfather of flight attendants everywhere?
That was my experience on a recent flight from Charlotte.
That's when Patrick of US Airways demonstrated he's not just show--he's got game.
He came down the aisle during beverage service and addressed every passenger by their first name. He had memorized them using the passenger list during takeoff.
Caught me off guard, at first.
"Clayton, what can I get you to drink, sir?"
I was so shocked, I could barely muster a response.
If you aim to be #1, there will be skeptics. Be prepared.
Everybody will want to know you're for real.
Recently, my sons (ages 7 and 5) and I began a bit of a weekly pre-season basketball practice routine. It's designed to simply give us a routine of organized activity while introducing them to some basics as we anticipate our first attempts at the Boys' and Girls' Club league this winter. Last night, we went to our local elementary school playground and practiced for about 40 minutes which was essentially equal parts demonstration, coaching/correction, and playing/laughing. For most of that time on a nearby swing set sat a kid, probably 10-11 years old.
As the sun set calling an end to the practice, I gave my boys a break from practice for a few minutes on the playground. Meanwhile, the other boy's friends rode up on their bikes for what appeared to be a designated meeting time and place. As he and I walked past each other - him to meet his friends; me to chase my boys - he asked, "Are you those boys' dad?" I simply replied, "Yes". He responded, "If I ever get to be a dad, I want to be just like you." And he was off. It stopped me in my tracks. I don't know if he heard me say, "Thanks."
As I relayed that story to my wife later, I told her the story was a lot more about that young boy than it was me. I'm left to assume that something about our basketball practice was foreign to him - so much so that it made an impression as something to aspire to. I wondered if he had a dad in the home, and if he did, that he must not get that kind of time.
If we turn the story back to me, two things stand out. First, I have a dad that spent that kind of time with me and my siblings. I'm simply doing what I know to do based on the role model I had growing up. Last night is a reminder of how blessed I am in that. The second is the leadership parallel that can be drawn. Leaders don't always know when they're being watched or the impression they're leaving along the way. Others make observations, draw conclusions, pass judgment and ultimately take action. If we're doing it well, those watching may be saying, "if I ever get to be ___, I want to be just like him or her."
I find myself in a circumstance currently that is heavily influenced by something a former boss, John Costello, did 11 years ago at Kimberly-Clark. It made such an impression on me that I committed that if I'm ever in a position to do the same, I would. The current course of action and its rationale isn't immediately obvious to others, but I know its there. I'm grateful to John's role modeling and glad that I have an opportunity to pay that forward 11 years later.
One of Don Soderquist's stories he often tells includes a charge he was once given, "You better watch everything you say and do, because someone else is." Last night's basketball practice was just another illustration of this leadership truth.