One of the strongest driving forces in my life has been a variant of the quote that forms the title of this post.
The maxim “To whom much was given, of him much is expected” has guided my hand. Whenever I’ve found myself saying “yes” to people for tasks and work, where I don’t see a direct or immediate benefit for myself. I do this, because I understand just how many people have helped me at various stages in life, when they didn’t have to, and how much it’s helped me. So, a constant mode of pay-it-forward seemed a small payment in return.
Now, on the one hand, I wonder if I’d stayed on at a mainstream job, and spouted off “VUCA world”, ‘disrupt”, “table the issue” and “leverage” at odd intervals, I would’ve done myself a big favour. Suffer briefly for a lifetime of joy, etc. And that’s a fracturing thought.
In this fractured state of mind, books like this one go a long way in healing.
This is a “Business” book, written by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg & Alan Eagle.
It answers the question: “Who is your Gandalf?”
It’s about this one man, Bill Campbell, who coached varsity football, switched to the corporate workplace, played nice with others, and used fundamental human building blocks to help individuals, teams and indeed, corporations get down to brass tacks, and solve stuff. Big stuff. Such as, “How can Apple and Google play nice with each other and avoid a million dollar lawsuit? ”
When I’d read about him, I had this mental image of a man great at bear hugs, with a big, booming laugh, and eyes that crinkled at the corners. Turns out, I was right.
Authors of the book, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle talk about how he turned every table (including boardroom tables) in the kids table where everyone laughed a lot, about how he was a universal hugger who doled out bear hugs, and about how universally liked he was, and how his big message seemed to stem from …
And funnily, before this, I was given a lovely little book containing a business parable – “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann, that says very similar stuff.
Two books in the span of a week, both saying similar things. To succeed in business, if you are one of its owners, or a similarly big kahuna, you need… to lead… for which, you need…
To give trust.
We can ask people, Kaa like, to trust us or generate that trust with what we do, repeatedly and make that trust.
Support: Not say nonsense like “Let’s not hire women because they take maternity leave” (and ironically, people who sound like that are invariably men and women with papooses at home) Also, support in other ways – you know just as well what kinds of situations.
Respect: First principles, really. Respect is a basic human right. Why we think we can get away with it (karmically, at least) with unfair and unflattering commentary about people in our teams, being rude, or diminishing them in their absence to others… beats me.
There’s more. When making tough decisions like letting people go, do it with respect for who they are as people.
That wasn’t classy in 1999. It isn’t classy now.
One thing this book did is remind me just how many wondrous human beings are there in my universe. If you’re one of them, and are reading this, hi!
One chair at the round table was a throne
I work with growing organisations and find myself spending time with business heads who often feel misunderstood, beleaguered and alone. They often feel like their next-in-line leaders should sort their shit out, and when they don’t they get upset. This is the expectation trap. I always tell them long-winded things, which will henceforth be replaced with “Even King Arthur’s round table had one chair that was a throne”. Meaning, the person with the throne needs to make decisions that nobody else is making – especially unpopular and hard decisions.
Money is not about the money
Money, it’s a gas. Money value is not just economic – its emotional. It’s the value of the work you do for someone. “It is a signalling device for recognition, respect and status & ties people down to the goals of the company.” Damn straight, it is.
Tough love is still love
Trust… remember that trust word from earlier on… if you build that stuff with people, they come to you when scared or vulnerable or just need a friendly voice. Sometimes, they need a hug, sometimes they need some tough love, and be told that they are selling themselves too short. Being able to do both, without the person ever doubting that you are firmly on their side – that is the skill.
Gruff exteriors aren’t definitive. If there is trust that this person wants the best for me, I allow them – even much loved leaders – the chance to have mad moods and occasionally lash out. That trust has to be earned continuously by them, of course – “This person wanted the best for me in 2018” isn’t enough.
Be the evangelist for courage
Coach Bill Campbell apparently “blew courage into people”. I have 2 such people in my life and they keep my courage-o-meter topped up. I understand the value of this service, and very intentionally provide the service to others. It’s an underused and deeply undervalued currency (same root word – courage and currency – nice nerdy side note).
I’m third generation “Add love to everything” sorta person in my family. These things are matrilinear, I’m told.
Bill Campbell apparently did one more thing that made my heart swell – he loved the audacity and heart that business founders have to get going and keep going.
When I read about his particular love for business founders, I laughed out with joy – I was so happy to see that it was a thing, it didn’t have a name, but others had it too. As do I. Look around me – business founders, business founders everywhere! Set me loose around those brave, lone (in their mental landscape, at least) business founders and watch me drown them in appreciation: build websites, clean offices, hire for free, fetch coffee, pick up & drop their kids to and from piano classes… name it!
Well, I don’t… not that much, but I am around others who do use salty language, like Bill Campbell did. And I find myself defending the poor blokes’ right to harmlessly swear without it signalling disrespect to anyone. Swearing and safety are not disjoint sets. In fact, three of the biggest swearers on earth that I know of are among the most respectful men too. They respect people and their abilities to get things done, they give respect first, treat safety – including women’s safety, as a big ticket item, talk about emotional safety, are vulnerable guys, and, well, just swear like truckers. Swearers don’t automatically make disrespectful people, any more than non-swearers automatically being good blokes. Good distinction to remind oneself.
One of Campbell’s catchphrases was “I don’t take cash, I don’t take stock, I don’t take shit” Think of what it takes to actually not take shit. I hope some of the Campbellesque people in my life (and I) get to that phase in life.