FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | February, 2010
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus is told of a magnificent song sung by the sirens of the sea, but one that would lure unsuspecting sailors dangerously close to the rocky shore. Lacking the discipline to stay safely away from the rocks but close enough to hear the sirens’ tantalizing tune, previous sailors had sailed closer and closer to the sweet sound until their ships were dashed into the depths.
Circe offered Odysseus a solution.
Around this time of year, many of us may be slipping further away from the course we charted in our New Year’s resolutions. It is easy to get caught up in the urgency addiction of the workplace or homefront, allowing those important – and often less compelling – objectives to crash into the rocks. Perhaps it is time to get “lashed to the mast.”
Commitment to goals can come from many sources. Here’s one of the more effective sources of commitment I know of: Enlist the energy of others who will help you stay true. Recruit friends and family, ears having been “filled with beeswax,” who will refuse to give in to your convenient excuses and ultimately keep you on course. Consider these specific suggestions to help keep each other accountable:
- Announce your intentions. You might even broadcast your goal (I’m going to lose 10 pounds by April) in social Internet forums, such as Facebook. People are bound to keep asking you how it’s going. The last thing you want to do is let everyone know two months down the road that you failed.
- Put the written goal in clear view. Tape it to the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or dashboard of the car. This constant reminder keeps your intentions front and center.
- Create a scoreboard that others can access. If your friends are far away, use common file servers such as Google docs to share a spreadsheet that allows everyone to track your progress. Give access to a handful of friends who aren’t afraid to ask you why you’re behind
- Insert incremental pieces of your goal into your weekly and daily planning routine. Tiny steps every day add up to big progress over the long term.
Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the sweet song of the sirens, even as you approach your intended destination!
In the world of manufacturing, the “Toyota Way” has always been held up as the epitome of lean and six-sigma manufacturing. One of the more prominent concepts in lean is called the Andon Cord.
The andon cord is literally a cord that workers can pull – a cord they should pull – any time something in the manufacturing process goes wrong that would compromise the quality of the product or safety of the people. The line stops immediately. Everyone’s attention is turned to the problem. Everyone helps to solve the problem. And the line doesn’t restart until the problem’s been fixed, thus ensuring that zero scrap or defects are allowed to perpetuate.
Some have called auto manufacturers’ recent recall woes, pulling “the big andon cord.” Although I’m sure these events will weigh on their reputation and short-term sales, righting wrongs is never bad for long-term business.
It’s remarkable to me how many of the 13 Behaviors from our Speed of Trust practice are manifest in the actions being taken by industry lately to fix these gaps in reliability and consumer confidence.
- Confront Reality
- Talk Straight
- Right Wrongs
- Get Better
- Practice Accountability
- Show Loyalty
- Deliver Results
And the list goes on.
Each of us can take a lesson from this industry “time-out.” I’ve gained a greater appreciation for stepping back from the line and fixing things the right way when they go wrong. Individuals and teams can “pull the andon cord” and avoid a path of perpetual mediocrity.
A few years ago, my team and I were working feverishly on creating hundreds of training documents for the dozens of different positions across a complex and dispersed workforce. It wasn’t until after scores of freshly published training procedures had been implemented that we realized the format of the documents didn’t meet the expectations of the organization’s own quality control standards. As painful as it was to admit the mistake and redo much of the effort that had been expended, we vowed to immediately notify management, correct the faulty documents, and promise to meet a revised (albeit still challenging) deadline. Pulling the andon cord was the right thing to do.
The trust that comes from owning up to a mistake early on and taking swift corrective action is a much better alternative than the suspicion that comes from trying to get away with a mistake that is later discovered by someone else. In fact, it is ideal to create a culture where people are actively looking for mistakes in order to pull the cord.
The sooner we fail, the sooner we succeed. Don’t be afraid to pull the andon cord.
Dr. Covey has done it again.
In their most recent FranklinCovey publication Great Work Great Career, Dr. Stephen R. Covey and Chief Learning Officer Jennifer Colosimo combine to offer relevant and timely thinking on “creating one’s ultimate job and making an extraordinary contribution,” as suggested by the book’s subtitle.
The authors encourage the reader to define what a “great career” means to him or her – to reflect on the level of loyalty, trust, and contribution one currently experiences in the workplace. They cite some profound examples of individuals who have achieved an obvious level of greatness (borrowing from Leading at the Speed of Trust workshop content) such as Dr. Fiona Wood, “Australia’s most trusted person.” Their brand of storytelling draws the reader in and makes the message more relatable and interesting.
They introduce a Venn diagram or model to suggest that one’s unique contribution is only discovered in the intersection of one’s talents, passion, conscience, and the need or opportunity that exists externally. They offer practical tools to help the reader “Know Your Strengths,” “Discover Your Cause,” plan a “Need-Opportunity Presentation,” and draft a “Contribution Statement.”
The closing section, “Build Your Own Village,” offers timely advice on connecting with others who mutually support one another – good ol’ fashioned networking. But here the authors bring networking into the 21st century by addressing the need for individuals to create professional blogs, participate in online social networking, and to “carve out” one’s space on the Internet.
In their closing thoughts, the authors suggest that by applying the tools and methods outlined, the reader doesn’t “look for a job; you look for a significant problem to solve or an exciting opportunity to leverage. You look for a profession you love and that people will pay you to do. You are not a ‘job description with legs,’ but a thinking, creative human being with unique and irreplaceable talents.”
I put this book down more energized and excited to “define my contribution” than ever before. I had written a contribution statement and walked hundreds of clients through the process. But now my contribution statement literally stares me in the face, taped up on my desk lamp, off to one side of my computer monitor – a constant reminder of my motivating professional causes.
If this book and its message don’t light a fire under you, there wasn’t a spark to begin with!