“Ruthlessly Focused On The Objective”

There’s a great scene in one of the original Star Wars’ movies where old Yoda tells young Skywalker to raise his X-Wing fighter out of the swamp using the Force. Luke sighs and says, “All right. I’ll give it a try.”

“No,” says Yoda. “Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

Growing up on the farm, I often felt overwhelmed by the responsibility and tasks my father expected of me. His philosophy was, “Can’t never could”. I admit that is not a very positive viewpoint, but it sure prevented me using “I can’t” as an excuse to not do something.

Effective leaders know when to bring the gift of challenge. When people hit a wall, they are able to help them look beyond the fear, exhaustion and limitation. Leaders show their people what they might become or achieve by pushing through the fatigue, frustration and the consuming desire to quit.

Gene Kranz, of Apollo 13 fame, explained that the magic to saving Apollo 13 was keeping his Mission Control team at NASA “ruthlessly focused on the objective.” He explained, “If you’re thinking about the what ifs you’re wasting time.”

Everyone has limitations in their ability, both real and imagined. The power to rise higher comes from being able to distinguish between the two.


All You Need To Know To Get More Done With Less

…that it is possible.

Seth Godin shares a great story on his blog today about an ultra-light weight hiker whose trail name is Wolf.  “Wolf was carrying a super-small pack which weighed 14 pounds including food and water.  When asked how he got his pack weight so low, Wolf would reply, ‘All you need to know is that it’s possible’.”

Leaders across industries and business sectors are facing shrinking resources and fewer qualified people.  Meanwhile, delivering on commitments to clients and meeting profitability goals is becoming more demanding.

Productivity is determined by your philosophy.  If you have a scarcity view of resources you may only focus on why something is not possible.  It’s easy to make excuses and find reasons not to press on, to be creative, to get things done in the face of inadequate resources.  It’s not easy to demand more of self and others.  It’s not easy to figure out how to get by on less money, less people and less infrastructure.

While you may be racking your brain to stretch the few people and little resources you have, all you really need to know is that it’s possible.  It may not be easy, but it is possible.


Leader Fly-Ins Can Be More Costly Than You Think

Speaking of unintended consequences, leaders can do more harm to productivity than good when flying in to check on the troops.

Last week a VP of Operations shared his frustration over the CEO, CFO and President flying in for the day without an agenda. They asked, “What are you guys doing?” and then sat with frowns on their faces as the local team made their presentations. The VP explained that these leaders do not seem to understand that their visits scare everyone to death, distract from real work and consume time and resources in the days leading up to the visit. Productivity tanks as everyone focuses their attention on preparing presentations.

Leaders who want to be visible and connected to the people on the front line should pay close attention to how they will be perceived.  Those who do it best have a clear and purposeful message to communicate and they deliver it in a sincere and inspiring way. More importantly, they are fully aware that people are listening to every word and analyzing body language.

In times like these when everyone is worried about keeping their jobs and being as productive as possible, leaders will do well to communicate candidly on the state of the business, acknowledge the things people are doing well, explain what has to be done in order to succeed and show a little positive energy during the engagement.

Next time you show up, make sure it doesn’t cause your people to slow up.