Overheard at the Michigan City In-Water Boat Show last week: Two salesmen from different dealerships were talking across the dock to each other about how bad sales have been this summer . . . while visitors were walking by!
Good grief, I thought, with those attitudes each of those dealerships would probably be better off leaving those guys at home. But, what I was hearing may have really been reflecting a breakdown in leadership.
I confess that many times during my 34 years as president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association I had to be reminded, when things werent going well, the entire LEMTA staff was watching and reacting to everything I did as leader, whether they realized it or not. Simply, the attitude I displayed would be reflected by them.
Ill never forget the time I was reminded of this by a board member who said: Norm, remember the story of the two gas company employees who finished reading meters and challenged each other to a race back to their truck. Sprinting down the street, they noticed a woman running hard to catch them. Is something wrong? they shouted to her. She yelled back: Hey, when I see two guys from the gas company running this fast, I figure I should be running, too! I suspect all of us who head up any business can always benefit from such an occasional reminder.
No matter how good we may be as leaders of a business or organization, its important to recognize that its really the staff the sales, service and administrative teams that do the work and rack up the successes. As for being the leader, check this out: When being congratulated by a reporter for managing the Yankees to another World Series title, the legendary Casey Stengel said it best when he responded: Listen, managing is just getting paid for home runs someone else hits! How true.
Still, the leaders shoulder the critical responsibility of making certain a positive attitude is fostered in all the team members all the time. The leader must always exhibit a confident expectation of success ahead, regardless of past results. In the case of the two salesmen at the boat show last week, their attitudes should have been encouraged to reflect: Yesterday was just a point in time not a life sentence. Today is a brand new day; were at a new show; there are qualified prospects looking at our products; we are going to make sales.
When it comes to always staying focused on the positives, the illustration I draw on most when speaking to groups comes from basketballs Chicago Bulls. It was a game in which Stacey King scored only a single free throw while his teammate Michael Jordan totaled 69 points. Asked in a post game interview for his reaction, King said: Ill always remember this as the night Michael and I combined for 70 points!