When I started out in business (real estate ownership and management), I decided there were three things I had to emphasize to my Team Members:
- Customer service
- Asset maintenance
- Net operating income (NOI)
There are many more aspects to the business, but I wanted to keep a clear focus. So I decided these would be the “big three,” and I would spend one-third of my communication efforts on each. I quickly figured out that in the long run, asset maintenance and customer service are surprisingly close. A leaky roof is neither good asset maintenance nor good customer service, and neat and clean grounds are both good customer service and good asset maintenance. I dialed back a bit on the asset maintenance and decided to make my communication closer to 10% asset maintenance, 45% customer service, and 45% NOI.
But something unexpected happened: Even though I was spending almost half my time talking about customer service, I sensed that it did not have half the attention of my organization. I pondered that for a while until I had my Eureka moment: “Hard drives out soft.”
The Courage to Lead: I’m Still a Work in Progress, Always Will Be.
For a long time I was reluctant to engage in certain forms of leadership. The straight business side, such as goal setting, planning, and directing were always relatively easy for me. It was on the deeper side, the spiritual side, the inspirational side, that I always tended to shy away from.
I did not want to disappoint anyone. I did not want to appear to be a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another. I did not want to espouse ideals that I did not fully live up to. I was so very aware of how easy it is to piously mouth noble thoughts and then repeatedly fail to live up to them. And I also was aware that while principles are often simple in theory, the application of principles in the real world can be knotty and reasonable people can differ (see “Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right,” by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.).
Furthermore, I knew that even when one tries to do one’s best, one does not always deliver the desired result. All too often in my own organization, I’ve not been overly pleased with some outcome and looked for answers only to find that the inputs/effort were intelligent, well thought out, and aimed at the right target. Somehow life happened and the only thing to do was learn from the experience, refine the process, and try again smarter and wiser.
“It is what we think we know that keeps us from learning.”
— Chester Barnard
Everyone has a learning style or a preferred way of learning, a way by which we best process information. Some prefer to hear new information, others prefer to see it graphically, others may prefer to read it. Some people like their information all at once, while others prefer to process it in smaller bits, to have time to warm up to it. Some are morning people, others come alive at night. Some like to discuss things in a group, handling the information verbally, tossing it around, seeing how others see it or react to it. Others prefer to mull it over in their own minds first, come to their own conclusions before they interact.