Jump in the River

True, caring leaders act with courage. They jump in the river. Phillip Kane

November 27, 2020

Last week, near my hometown of Akron, Ohio a police officer dived into the freezing Mahoning River to rescue a woman who had driven her car into the rushing body of water.

Patrolman Christian Tussey, the officer who saved the woman, by breaking a window in her vehicle so that the two of them could swim to safety treated the event like just another day at the office despite the incredible courage and bravery he demonstrated in the act.

In watching coverage of the event, I was struck by the notion that his job is not one many would want. The job of a true leader is one many end up end up taking a hard pass on. Because they aren’t terribly comfortable.

I think that the attractiveness of any occupation or task is directly proportional to the level of comfort it provides. Jumping into freezing rivers and otherwise putting one’s life on the line daily isn’t particularly comfortable. As a result, such scary jobs are rarely coveted – except by those with great courage. Those who recognize that the value of the result is far greater than the cost of the discomfort.

It seems likewise true that accomplishing things of any great value are never particularly comfortable. Achieving great things almost always requires great courage.

And that’s the point for the week.

As the great long-time Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes said, “Nothing good comes easy.” He may as well have said, “Nothing good comes without courage.”

To me, courage is little more than a recognition that the goal is worth the cost and a subsequent willingness to pursue it.

It’s not that those with courage are not afraid. Nor is it that those with courage ignore the fact that achievements come with risk or that they can be costly or dangerous. It’s that they do not let fear keep them from acting. Too, those with courage have simply determined that the cost of discomfort is worth enduring. But it likewise proves that those with courage are not defined by what they do, but by who they are.

It’s not defined by words on business cards. In fact, courage is distinctly lacking in many in so-called leadership positions. It’s what causes most organizations to spin in place.

But neither is courage defined by a reckless want to confront any danger come what may. See, there is a vast difference between courage and fearlessness. It’s on a par with the difference between perseverance and stubbornness. One is intelligent, well thought out, and likely to lead to a better future for all concerned. The other, well, not so much.

But the undeniable truth of life is this: whether saving people from rivers or taking on the most difficult issues in any business, achieving great outcomes, requires great courage. 

Without courage, nothing much happens. Those who pass the buck, those who shy from difficulty, those who use their own people as human shields and those who lead from the back lose. Period.

But with courage, greatness can be achieved. Those who display courage, who look trouble square in the eye, who stand between their people and fire and who lead from the front, first in the fight – those people win, and along the way earn the undying love, loyalty and trust of those they have the privilege to lead. 

So, be like Patrolman Tussey. Be courageous. 

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE


Lead with a Grateful Heart

Lead with a grateful heart. Phillip Kane's blog.

Thanksgiving 2020

This year has been one of great challenge and in many respects, significant loss. For many, life and business have become more difficult. Year over year results are well off. Lay-offs and other austerity measures have become the new normal. The world is doing more with less. And within three degrees of separation, everyone knows of someone lost to this virus. It’s been hard to find a lot to be grateful for. But for those we have the privilege to lead, a grateful heart is what they want above almost anything else. 

People will endure nearly anything – if they believe they are doing it for people who truly appreciate them. People need to know that they are valued. Humans simply want to believe that what they do matters. And they want to do it for people they believe actually care.  There’s no way to fake it. Either you care, or you don’t; and people can spot a fraud a mile away. And throwing money at the problem won’t fix it either. People don’t want to be showered with cash. They want to be showered with thanks – when they deserve it. Gratitude is free. But it has to be real. 

That’s the point for the week.

Pretending to be grateful won’t work. Either you are or you aren’t. When you are people will know. Any behavior must be genuine. The point isn’t to change your behavior so dramatically that people wonder what happened to the real you. The object is to show people that you are truly thankful for them and the contributions they make to your success and the success of the organization.  It isn’t hard.  A handwritten note.  A handshake or a literal pat on the back.  Public recognition for a job well done.  Words of encouragement vs. a dressing down when things don’t go so well. These simple acts of kindness, done with genuine feeling, convey to others that they matter, that they are valued, and that you wouldn’t want to go through a fight with anyone but them.  Best of all, while they don’t cost a dime, to those on the receiving end, they are near priceless.

Simple acts of gratitude which convey sincere thanks and appreciation for the efforts of others are more important than money, or promotions, or prizes.  This is a fact.  A $500 bonus is nice. But if it doesn’t come with a sincere expression of gratitude it’s meaningless. It’s a waste of money. Folks will take it and spend it, but it won’t do one thing to engender loyalty or stickiness. A turkey in a box at Thanksgiving?  Same. Unless it’s accompanied by a speech or letter to the assembled masses expressing genuine thanks for what they do, it’s a waste.  People simply want leaders who wake up each day with a grateful heart.  And right now, it’s more important than ever, because people are scared.

This pandemic has brought with it a great amount of fear. Like at no other time in recent history, people are afraid – for their health, for their jobs, for the safety and security of their loved ones, and for their lives. Fear is a deeply disruptive emotion. It causes humans to behave in ways that might otherwise be viewed as irrational, or at least unexpected. When fearful, humans become focused only on their own survival, on extricating themselves from the threat. Working in a thankless environment adds to their fear. Workers become insecure.  Worried for their jobs, they lose focus, they begin to look elsewhere, they become cynical, and sometimes bitter.  Typically, unenlightened leaders, in response, double down on command and control, tightening reins, increasing discipline and generally making matters worse. But grateful leaders stop these problems before they even start by providing the reassurance that comes with gratitude.  When companies tell associates that their efforts are valued, their associates feel more secure.  They spend less time worrying about impending job actions and more time on efforts to enable their companies to win.  Because fundamentally all of us want to win.

No one wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, “I cannot wait to go lose today!”  To the contrary, humans have an innate desire to succeed.  Companies that foster a culture of gratitude, likewise foster a culture of winning.  Every event eliciting a thank you feels like a win.  Small wins beget bigger wins propelling the organization forward with speed and force, building capability sufficient to overcome virtually any obstacle.  All because its leader made the choice to show up with a grateful heart.

So lead with true gratitude, and win.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE

Change Your Elevation

Change Your Elevation

Change your elevation. Phillip Kane's blog
Copyright Peanuts Worldwide LLC

November 6, 2020

This week a friend of mine sent me a picture of his dog laying on top of a box he had made for his cats to sleep in. It was humorous to look at. Think Snoopy. But it was clear why the dog was doing it. He was changing his perspective. By moving atop the cat box, he could see the world differently than from the porch below. From his higher vantage point, had line of sight to things that he’d miss if not for the change in elevation. See, a change elevation, up or down, affords an opportunity to see things that would otherwise remain invisible had the point of view not been altered. 

And that’s the point for the week. 

There’s an old adage about forests and trees. It became an old adage because it’s true. When we remain at the level of the ground, all that is visible to us are trees. But add a few hundred feet, and a forest becomes visible. Add a few thousand more, and plains, hills, rivers, dwellings and more are shown to us – all because we changed our elevation. Moving back down, the trees come into view again, along with the detail of their leaves, the texture of their bark, and the number, faces and sounds of the creatures that live in them – all of which would be impossible to see from above. A point in between won’t split the difference. What can be seen from thousands of feet can only be seen there. Likewise, what is available to the eye on the ground can only be seen on the ground. 

Living a well rounded life or being an effective leader, parent, community member or provider of truck service becomes eminently more possible when we learn to, then remember to, or more aptly choose to, change elevation fluidly throughout our day. When we do, we’ll see the forest for the trees and vice versa. We’ll gain a complete perspective for what our associates, children, or customers are dealing with. We’ll gain a better understanding of the implications of the decisions we’ve made or are about to make. And we will see and meet people we’d otherwise likely never have had the opportunity to know. 

Maybe most importantly, we will gain the trust of others who see us taking the time to learn what it’s like to be where they are. To care what happens in one place when you pull a trigger someplace far removed. And to stop to wonder why when things go well for you they don’t always go well for everyone else. 

At a minimum we become more effective at whatever we do. It’s not hard. It’s a simple matter of elevation. Of moving seamlessly between 5 and 50,000 feet. Of understanding the tactical and the strategic implications of what you’re doing. Of understanding that what looks good on paper might not always look good in real life. Of seeing that record earnings in the company might not translate to record earnings in the households of the people who work for you and recognizing that’s a problem. Of realizing that what the company wants matters only insofar as the customer thinks it matters too, and is willing to pay for it. 

When together we master the ability to change elevation, we not only trust more and accomplish more, but we learn to relate more to one another too. And as we do, something truly remarkable happens. We realize that fundamentally, we are all pretty much the same. That we all value many of the same things. And that deep down, we all want the same thing – to be viewed as having been a winner. 

So choose to change your elevation.

And win. 

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE