Have You Lost Your Leadership Jingle?

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This morning, I heard an old Christmas song playing a store: Bobby Vinton singing “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle.” His recording was released in 1964, but it was written by Burt Bacharach in 1957.[1]

This is a corny Christmas song with a moral, which was a popular genre in the 50’s and 60’s. It is in the musical style of the song factory writers of that era.[2]

But today, a line at the end of the first verse caught my attention: “The bell that couldn’t jingle: it had nothing there inside.” It’s an interesting thought. Most bells have a clapper or a ball to create noise. The poor bell in the song had nothing inside.

How are you jingling as a leader?[3]

Is there something there inside? You may have noticed that at times there truly is “nothing left inside.” Can you recognize when that happens?

How can you regain your lost jingle?

In the song, Santa has Jack Frost freeze the little bell’s teardrop and put it in the bell so that our hero could jingle happily on Santa’s sleigh.[4]

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Here are some suggestions.

  1. Reevaluate and update your goals. If your goals are dated or unrealistic, they can cause you to lose your jingle. Current, relevant goals that are meaningful to you can help bring back some of your jingle.
  2. Reevaluate your motivations in life. This ties in with looking at your goals. Why do you do what do? Is it enough to ring your bells?
  3. Seek feedback from trusted colleagues or a supervisor. Sometimes a second or even a third pair of eyes can help you find out why your bells aren’t jingling. Sometimes your spouse or significant other can chime in and help.
  4. Take time to recharge. Everyone needs a break to regain perspective. Whether you are in search of your lost shaker of salt or your jingle, you won’t find it if your nose is always to the grindstone.
  5. More cowbell. Just kidding. Or maybe not. Sometimes your bell has to be struck from the outside. There are days when we need external help to make our noise.

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If you recognize that your jingle isn’t jingling, take the necessary steps to get your jingle back. Don’t be a ding-a-ling about it.

A good leader can jingle all the way.

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[1] Other recordings include Bobby Helms (1965), Burt Bacharach himself (1967?), and Herb Alpert (1968). Vinton’s was the B-side of Jingle Bell Rock.

[2] I have nothing against Bacharach. His songs are timeless, and he was a good composer with a distinctive sound. But his was among the music that our parents listened to in the 60’s. Need I say more?

[3] I am not referring to the times when the jingling gets annoying.

[4] See, I did say it was corny. And because I live in Southern California, that bell would lose its jingle again when Santa gets here.

Isn’t a common purpose enough to build a strong team?

The Houston Rockets’ basketball season ended this week with a devastating playoff loss to the Golden State Warriors. Shortly after the game ended, a headline appeared on espn.com: “Rockets’ season ends and the truth comes out.”[1] Not that this was exactly news to those who follow professional basketball.[2]

James Harden stated: “the season from the beginning wasn’t going our way. We had too many distractions, a bumpy road this entire season.” Jason Terry added: “You will be faced with all types of adversities and how you come through those is a sign of the type of team you have. Our team was just not strong enough mentally to get through those adversities and learn.”

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I would hope that every player and every team in the NBA has the goal to win a championship at the beginning of each season, even if that isn’t realistic. Each player performs at an elite level, although they are not all equal. All have their strengths and weaknesses.

So why is it that a common desire is not enough to win a championship?

Jason Terry opined: “We just didn’t have the chemistry needed. It’s one thing to put the pieces together on paper, but it has to be a tight-knit bond with a group of guys to do something special, and our group just didn’t have that this year.”

What does it take to build a championship team? And what can leaders learn from professional sports to build their teams into champions?

I believe that there are four points to consider.

 

1. Communication. A team cannot function without effective communication. Roles, responsibilities and expectations must be clearly communicated. Team members must be alert to notice changes that are conveyed when plans need to change quickly, and then respond.

An effective team must be on the same page as they work, or chaos will result.

2. Cooperation. It should go without saying that there should be a spirit of cooperation on a team. Without cooperation, there is no team. Team members require a certain degree of flexibility in order to work together. They should “check their egos at the door” and sacrifice certain personal rewards for the good of the team.

3. Cohesiveness. A team without unity is not a team. It is just a collection of individuals pretending to work together.

There ought to be a feeling of collegiality on the team. That doesn’t mean that you and your committee chair have to be best friends: but you should be friends. Respect and camaraderie are vital ingredients to a functioning team. This is what provides the “chemistry” that produces synergistic results.

4. Selflessness. It’s not all about me. It’s about accomplishing our mission together.

We should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and take advantage of individual strengths in order to minimize any team weaknesses.

One teammate might be good at everything, but he can’t do it all. A team plays to the strengths of each member. As a team, we share the load. You have to pass the ball. Sometimes you shoot; sometimes you set a screen.

And all team members should be flexible enough to step up their game when another team member is having a bad day.

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A typical basketball team consists of five starters, with seven more on the bench, some of whom rarely see any action. But every member can make contributions within their roles. The results of their efforts can be seen in box scores and standings each day.

In your organization, there will be various teams, normally ranging in size from three to twelve people. Each team has a designated mission to perform within the organization and the results of their efforts may not be immediately evident. However, their degree of achievement will contribute to your ultimate level of success.

A motivated leader will keep these principles in mind, whether he or she leads a team of three, five, or many more.

A good leader sees beyond the common purpose or goal, and works to build strong teams to create desired results.

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Special thanks go to Jerry Lomenick, one of my coaches, for sharing his ideas on teamwork.

 

[1] This may be found at http://espn.go.com/blog/houston-rockets/post/_/id/2529/rockets-season-ends-and-the-truth-comes-out. Quotes are taken from this article.

[2] I’m not picking on the Houston Rockets. They are a great organization. As a life-long Lakers’ fan, I can’t justify talking trash after this season.

If I Could See Clearly Now

A good leader sets clear expectations.

One of the challenges of leadership is in motivating others to achieve goals. But this is essential in making progress in your organization. It is especially important that the two people be on the same page as they work together. Brian Tracy said “Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy.” With that in mind, why would a good leader fail to share his expectations with those who report to him?

Some things are critical to your success.

  1. Set specific, relevant goals. Vague goals do not help anyone achieve the desired end. I have written before about the time during an annual review when a supervisor told me I needed to be more proactive. When I asked for clarification so I knew what to focus on, I was told “just be more proactive.” I pursued that goal for a year, but not in the direction my supervisor had wanted. I still don’t know exactly what was wanted.
  2. Set deadlines and checkpoints. A good goal must have a target date. And frequently there are intermediate steps that should be checked. Sometimes it is just good to have a progress check. These should be discussed together so that expectations are clear. There is nothing worse than being called in to account for progress on a goal without warning, and being chastised because you are not on track. Just as runners measure their split times at given points, leaders must also take measure periodically and give meaningful feedback to their team members.
  3. Make sure that the metrics for measuring progress are clearly understood. Thomas S. Monson has said “Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” But both sides must be using the same measuring stick. I was once called out (at an unscheduled checkpoint) for falling short on a goal. By the measurements I used, the numbers had doubled from the previous year; I thought I was making good progress. But that wasn’t how my supervisor saw it. Be clear on what you are measuring and how you will measure it.
  4. Praise progress, and don’t focus on shortcomings. Dale Carnegie taught to begin with praise and honest appreciation, then to call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly. The phrase that has stuck with me for 40 years is “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” He also suggested that the leader give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  5. Never ever blindside anyone in an evaluation, not even in a crisis situation. This goes along with the clearly defined checkpoints and clear metrics. If you must call an additional intermediate meeting, give the individual some indication of what will be discussed (maybe not if you are firing the individual with cause). If he or she can prepare, the meeting will more productive for both of you.

John Akers said: “Set your expectations high; find men and women whose integrity and values you respect; get their agreement on a course of action; and give them your ultimate trust.”

Isn’t that a significant part of leadership? We must show trust as well as earn it. In setting clear expectations of others we are doing both.

Have clear expectations, and make them known!