Thursday, March 14, 2013

Expecting Greatness, Accepting the Best

Yesterday was highlighted by the election of Pope Francis, the review of a stunning come from behind win by the Barcelona Football Club, and the discussion of a failing account management team member. In all three I see the potential for learning. In all three events I find myself hoping for greatness and accepting whatever outcome follows.

In an extremely unlikely outcome in professional football (that's soccer for us Americans) the highly talented team brim Barca were down by a margin of three goals heading into the second leg of their tie with AC Milan. Not only down three but in need of a greater total of "away" goals. Typically soccer matches are decided by one or two goals with total scoring of two to four goals. At the highest level of play this can shrink quickly to a final duel of penally kicks to determine which of two equal teams moves on. In their improbable win the Barca team scored four times and held Milan to nil to win the overall aggregate scoring of the two match tie. Certainly an incredible feat, but one that followers of this team knew in their hearts was possible. This team is one of the greats. They have won many titles over the last few years me have a handful of the world's best players on the pitch every match. It was this expectation of greatness that made the game exciting. Somewhere inside you knew they could do it and you hoped for the best outcome. In this place and time the fans were rewarded.

I'm more important matters, our Church elected a Jesuit from the "New World" as Pope. Not only is this the first time in over a thousand years that the Pope hasn't been from Europe but it is the first Member of the Society of Jesus. In several unique gestures the new Pontif demonstrated the potential for greatness as a leader by humbling himself before the people and his peers. He shunned the throne-like seat set aside for him to greet this cardinals. He rode in the bus with cardinals rather than the pope mobile and instead of blessing the thousands in St. Peter's square he first asked to be blessed by them instead. This is clearly a thoughtful man and I feel myself expecting greatness from him. If you have followed religious themes here you will note that I am a big fan of the Jesuit mentality. Another demonstration of this sensibility by Francis was to take his name not from one of they founders of his order but from Assisi the founder of the Franciscan order, in effect the "competition". As we all criticized the TV for getting it wrong we missed the chance to see into the mind of our new spiritual leader. He is not proud but humble. He did not seek to promote his own but to share and unite. He did not seek to be served but to serve. I know his job will be difficult and I will have to accept his best effort over time. I am however hopeful and therefore expecting greatness from him.

Finally, I he lunch with one of our relationship managers yesterday. He is under performing. His team is under performing and he bristles at suggestions of change. Not a good combination at all. I expect greatness from this team as well and thus my counsel to this guy was simple, perform or move on. Take action or have that right taken from you. It is pretty simple in business. We set expectations and then need everyone on the team to pull in the same direction. If one person is not on board or is pulling differently the boat circles instead of advancing. My words read a bit harsh even now but I felt like I needed him to understand the seriousness of the situation. Once the message was delivered I spent the bulk of the discussion offering suggestions and ways to look at his work differently. If you have an underperformed on your team it isn't enough to tell him to get better, you must teach new skills. If they are not listening you must find a new way to communicate. If the work suffers by their actions you must find ways to compensate. If eventually you find that coaching, explaining and expecting greatness are too much for the team member, you must act. We can always accept the best a person can give and be thankful. Sometimes though, we must also understand what is best for the rest of the team. I am hopeful that I gave good counsel as I would like nothing better than to see a Barcelona type turnaround for this team.

If I look to greatness I know my goals. If I act accordingly then even if I don't achieve greatness I will have put forth my absolute best effort. In some cases I will fall short but in others I will win.

And that makes me happy.

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