FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | August, 2009
Last Wednesday I drove to the Kansas City International airport to catch a flight bound for Chicago and then onto Louisville, Kentucky. I even checked the flight status before leaving home – On Time. No sooner had all 137 passengers boarded the plane when the captain entered the main cabin and announced over the intercom that a ground freeze had been issued for all flights coming into or out of Chicago due to severe thunderstorm activity. We would wait another 45 minutes – in the plane, at the gate – to hear him offer another apology for why we need to wait yet another 30 to 45 minutes. After the third appearance and regrettable announcement, we were now 2 hours behind schedule – while waiting the entire time on the plane. The temperature in the main cabin seemed to fluctuate 20 degrees in either direction during our wait – sometimes too cold, sometimes too hot. To add insult to an already difficult situation, once the freeze was lifted and we finally pushed back to the runway, the captain turned off the starboard engine, came back onto the intercom and announced that the dozens of planes now bound for Chicago had been given an order in which they could take off and that we were scheduled to leave in another 45 minutes. We took off 3 hours late, due to a late summer thunderstorm that was 500 miles away.
Granted, this would have been a challenging scenario for anybody, but I was still surprised by the various ways that different passengers dealt with the delay. I was particularly taken back by the language spewing from the woman seated directly behind me. I’m guessing she could have issued a tongue lashing that would embarrass a hardened criminal.
The storm was completely out of any human control, and yet some people behave in ways that serve only to make the situation worse – for everybody.
I’ve flown enough to know that getting upset doesn’t help me or the situation. I figure, if I can’t model some of our principles – such as Be Proactive – I don’t deserve to teach them. That doesn’t mean I’m always perfect, but this scenario was the perfect lesson to reinforce why I don’t typically book travel on the last flight of the day, why I study my driving options, why I always take manila folders full of projects and books to read while caught waiting in unexpected places.
In fact, I got caught up on quite a bit of work during my 6-hour journey to Kentucky and tried to get to bed as quickly as possible once I arrived, in order to be fresh for my client assignment the next morning. Two days of successful project management instruction followed. I made my 90 min. drive back to Louisville on Friday afternoon, checked through Security, only to learn that my flight (among several others) was delayed yet again. And what made the situation almost laughable was that this delay was caused by the same storm that had kept me waiting on Wednesday! Yes, the exact same system that plagued our mid-week departure from Kansas City had slowly made its way across the country eastward during the intervening 48 hours, only to tie up air traffic in Baltimore, Maryland, where many of the planes were coming from on Friday night.
This taught me a valuable lesson about life. Perhaps you’ve been there, too. Often, once we appear to have overcome a particular challenge or obstacle – be it physical, mental, personal, or professional – there’s a good chance that the same barrier will rear its ugly head again, sometime in the future. When we count on bumps in the road, when we plan to be detoured from time to time or delayed along our intended route, we are much more prepared to deal with each diversion much more constructively. Good planning turns to great when you and I have a rock solid Plan A and a thorough Plan B to back it up.
Undoubtedly the principles that are taught in our curriculum – such as responsibility, planning, follow-through, abundance, listening, collaboration, trust, etc. – become even more relevant during times of economic retraction. Most organizations have felt the pinch of our economy, in some way or another. It has translated into palpable nervousness for many associates who are increasingly more unsure about their future. I can’t help but revisit an early theme I shared in my first blog posting – that living these principles is the answer to recession-proofing one’s career.
However, as I reflect further on the deliberate arrangement of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as organized in the Maturity Continuum model, I can’t help but recognize the correlation that exists between the Private and Public Victories and what businesses expect from their employees during these tumultuous times.
Consider this. The Private Victory is about me. Not me, as in Todd, but me as in everyone. Be Proactive, Begin With the End in Mind, Put First Things First. I am completely and 100% in charge of whether or not I live these first three habits. I can turn them on and I can turn them off. I alone am in control of the level of effectiveness I wish to experience by taking responsibility, formulating a plan for my life, my year, my week, my day, and executing that plan in the face of constant distractions. There is tremendous gratification that comes from working a well-thought out plan and reaping its rewards. One benefits personally and is in a position to do more for himself, as well as others.
On the other hand, living out the Public Victory – Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand…, and Synergize – require at least some cooperation from others. The Public Victory requires, well, the public! I can do everything right to get my own “shop” in order, but if my co-worker doesn’t want to work well with me, a Public Victory can be easily compromised. It takes an inordinate amount of effort to convince others (especially if they themselves haven’t achieved a Private Victory of their own) to think abundantly, to truly empathize with all parties, and to painstakingly work toward collaborative solutions that represent the 3rd Alternative.
Therefore, I must recognize more and more that living the Private Victory is simply the lowest possible threshold my employer is willing to accept among potential job candidates who are seeking employment. What differentiates me from the pack is going to be my ability to bring people together and actively work toward interdependence and the Public Victory every day of the week! My ability to synergize is what will differentiate my performance from the next “B-level” player who is only concerned about excellence in his or her own work.
In other words, living ALL seven of the habits completely is much more likely to ensure future opportunity and security than just doing my own thing and staying out of the way. More and more, potential employers are only willing to take a candidate seriously, if he or she can demonstrate what it takes to bring out the best in themselves and everyone else.
Where can you better leverage the Public Victory in your own work? How will you differentiate your contribution from the rest of the pack? What do you put at risk by only worrying about your own deliverables? Let’s be careful how often we utter those infamous words, “That’s not my job.” They could turn into a very undesirable reality.