Leading While Naked: Part 1—“I Like the People and I Believe in the Mission”
November 9, 2010 7 Comments
In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”
At a meeting of the Baylor Business Network of Dallas this week I heard Tom Horton, CEO at American Airlines (and a BU grad, of course), talk about why he returned to American from AT&T where he was the CFO. Paraphrasing a bit, but not much, he said the reasons he returned were these: he likes the people, and he believes in the mission.
Could it really be that simple? I mean, really—I like the people I work with. In fact, I think they are the “A team” in town, fun to hang out with, and rich with integrity and caring for their fellow associates. And I truly believe in the mission of Slalom Consulting: to be the leading consulting organization that helps their clients win on their most strategic initiatives. Easy to believe in that mission and easy to like the people I work with. Is that it? Is that the sum of the real reasons I work here?
Tom also talked about the airline industry in general, the way American has approached managing its financial affairs (I DO like the emphasis they put on capitalism and operating in a free market economy), and what issues face the industry over the next few years. And some other really informative business discussion. But what really grabbed me…what really resounded…what was the great uniqueness about his conversation with us Baylor types was the way he talked about himself and the people. You can see it in people’s character, he said. It’s my job to connect people, places and ideas he mused.
Hmmm. Well I like that. Really, I like that a lot. I relate to those feelings on a heart and mind basis. Not that either is more in play than the other but that both are required in today’s business leadership. And yes, it smells a little (or maybe a lot) like Leading While Naked to me. Put People First! and they will take care of your clients and your business. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Relate with deep integrity (as the great Arthur Andersen himself said, “think straight, talk straight”), create a culture that believes in and acts with honesty (“tell the kind truth” Patrick Lencioni calls it in Getting Naked), and lead with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter the most (okay, sorry, nothing else really matters, I guess).
I met Tom Horton a while back and have spoken to him a few times. He always remembers me. A gracious man who granted me a personal meeting 2 weeks after we first met just because I asked him. And sharing a common alma mater helps too. But really, my sense is that is the real Tom Horton anyway. You can hear it in his words and see it in his interactions with others. Yeah, he has to pay attention to the seriousness of financial matters, difficult union discussions coming up, refreshing a fleet of a gazillion planes, and the daily pounding that Wall Street can give. But with all that, when asked “why?”, his fundamental answer was the people and the mission. Man, I like that and I relate to that not only in a logical but also a deeply emotional basis.
Leading While Naked. It’s about a mindset of risk taking on the emotional level. Yes. That’s right. For example, Lencioni talks about telling the “kind truth” to clients, employees, and I guess probably anyone else in your relationships. He says it is more important to serve than it is to protect your revenue stream. Or even better, if you don’t serve you won’t protect your revenue stream anyway. That in confronting clients with difficult messages (even when they may not like hearing it), while doing it with the recognition of their dignity and humanity, you will achieve greater respect in their eyes. Hey guys – this is artful conversation. From a place of deep integrity. And likely not without some real risks.
But what is the alternative? Tell “kind lies”? Yes, that is what happens a lot. You know it and see it. Better to preserve the status quo in the relationship than seek some correction in the course. Give me a break. Do you think that would be the approach you as a leader would want your people to follow? Or better yet, would they want that from you?
Can’t do it. Gotta Lead While Naked. I like the people here too much. And I don’t think they (and I) will deliver on the mission unless we go forward that way. Happy trails.