Keeping Us Real and Keeping Us Growing
Perhaps you heard the rather bizarre true story about the mother that was suddenly awakened from a nap by the crash of a van that came right through the picture window into the very room where her son was playing. The boy was surprised, but unhurt. His mother, of course, was in a panic and raced into the room and screamed out her son’s name. The boy quickly went from astonishment to fear and sheepishly declared, “But Mom, honest I didn’t do it!”
For most of us, that is how we initially respond to accountability; it’s like hearing our name over the intercom to come to the principal’s office. Others have a different reaction, realizing it was that inspiring teacher, outstanding coach or experienced mentor that challenged us to be all we can be.
Probably the most effective and productive form of accountability I’ve found is in horizontal, not vertical relationships. Like the CEO Nexus group I meet with each month. This is a small gathering of what I consider brilliant entrepreneurs, building businesses that do everything from designing medical software to running accounting firms or in my case, publishing magazines.
Though we’re there to help each other build our businesses, there are no subjects we can’t discuss – from cash flow to leadership challenges to once, in my case, how my spouse was adjusting to my changing roles. There is more listening and inquiring than advising, and like AA, everything shared in the group stays in the group.
Keeping the Right Perspective
Unlike many management boards, where it is mostly head nodding, these individuals take a genuine interest in not only your business, but who you are as an individual and help bring sage counsel from varying vantage points. Most of us, with only a few exceptions, find leading a growing enterprise to be both thrilling and overwhelming. It is having a place where we can discuss our challenges that keeps us growing and rising to new ones.
In the movie “Hoosiers,” Gene Hackman plays a former college coach, Norman Dale, with a tainted past who was hired to coach a rural high school basketball team from Hickory, Indiana. Coach Dale leads the team all the way to the state finals. When the team arrives at Butler Field House, the huge inner-city arena where they will play in just a couple of hours, the players enter the arena and are awestruck. Gawking at the seats, goals, the suspended scoreboard and the lights, they are understandably intimidated.
Coach Dale tells one of his players to take a tape measure and determine the distance between the free throw line and the goal. “What’s the distance?” he asks. “Fifteen feet,” the player says.
The coach then tells the smallest player on the team to climb on the shoulders of the taller player so they can measure the goal. “How high is it?” he asks. “Ten feet,” the player says.
Coach Dale then says, “I believe you’ll find these are the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory.” The team members nervously laugh and everybody begins to relax. As they exit the gym, Coach Dale turns to his assistant and whispers, “Sure is big, isn’t it?”
Finding colleagues and groups, like CEO Nexus, that can give you thoughtful input and perspective is essential in a rapidly changing business environment. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself …’”