A Done Done Culture: Habit Nine

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They don’t get distracted by the little stuff

Maybe you felt like Mother Teresa wasn’t a great match for you when you think of high performers. Maybe it touched and challenged some others, but you were just chomping to get to the next habit and find a role model that was more like you. Someone tough. Someone strong. Someone who laughs in the face of danger. Right? Never fear. Let me introduce you to Yogendra.

Let me introduce you to Yogendra Singh Yadav

He’s one of several Indian soldiers who was tasked with taking Tiger Hill. Three enemy bunkers awaited them at the top, and if that weren’t enough, to get there would mean climbing a cliff that was pure ice, straight up for over 16,000 feet. No one wanted to do the climb, so Yogendra volunteered. And as he climbed, he would nail in the ropes up the face of the cliff so others could come up behind him.

He wasn’t half way up when the bad guys at the top started shooting down at them – and killed a bunch of the guys around him, including his commanding officer. But he didn’t stop climbing. Then he got hit. Once. Twice. And even a third time. But bullets were nothing to a man on a mission. So he kept climbing.

When he got to the top he didn’t even pause to take a break and see if the rest of his team arrived or had a plan. His plan was simple – run towards the enemy bunkers. Did I mention they were firing at him? It didn’t matter, because he was focused on his mission – and so as he lobbed a grenade into the first bunker, he made his way to the second. At this point maybe you’ve stopped calling him Yogendra and started thinking of him as Chuck Norris. Right?

In the second bunker he killed four guys with his bare hands. And then he moved to the third, by this time convincing the rest of his team that they could join him in his completely badass ways. They managed to take it as well and could declare the mission a success. Broken leg, broken arm, and about 10 bullets, but that was the little stuff.

And high performers don’t get distracted by the little stuff.

Can we talk about “The Catch”?

People remember Joe Montana as a hall of fame quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers. Some, because of their love for Notre Dame will remember him as their national championship quarterback. My parents will always talk about him as being the most relaxed quarterback to play the game – calm under pressure. But I’ll remember him for “The Catch.”

If you don’t follow football, it’s hard to explain what it felt like to be a kid watching football up in my parent’s room, on their bed, knowing Montana could do anything to win a game. After all, he had a fantastic record for fourth quarter comebacks – something like 31 come-from-behind-for-the-win moments. It didn’t matter if there were just a few minutes on the clock – you know Joe could do it. Montana was the Reggie Miller of football. Calm, cool, and ready to deliver under pressure.

So there I was, ten or eleven years old, watching the 49’ers play Dallas. They were behind and at their own end zone. Joe took them, one play at a time, up the field. And then, with less than a minute left, he takes a snap on third down and starts backing up…but the defense comes charging in and pushes him almost off the field. And at the last minute, he throws it. High. Deep. And Dwight Clark jumps up to catch it – and win the game.

High performers don’t talk about how they almost got sacked. High performers don’t blame their own offensive line. High performers figure out a way pass “too tall” Jones and throw the ball.

Because high performers don’t get distracted by the little stuff.

Let’s be honest for a second

I can’t stand the small stuff. I mean it. I’m horribly late with my expense reports. Sometimes I forget to turn in the paperwork for a day off. Sometimes I get emails asking where the form is that I’m supposed to fill out when I’ve hired a new employee, or am letting one go. I wish I could tell you that all of that was because I was acting like a high performer and wasn’t sweating the small stuff. And sometimes it’s true. But other times it’s just because I’m not a details kind-of-guy. So let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting that this is your excuse for not taking care of details. You still have to. Or hire someone to do it. But either way, don’t use me as your rationale for getting yourself in trouble.

The Ninth Habit of a “Done Done” Culture

I have a daily call with my staff. Our “pulse” call is the time when I ask them about what they’re achieving. Not what they’re working on. What they’re getting done. And as we go around the virtual circle, I’m looking for three things – what they’re getting done, who is slacking, and lastly (and most importantly), what is holding them up.

You and I both know that Joe Montana would be nothing without a front line. Just once I’d love to see a quarterback who talks with too much pride experience the feeling of having his front line just stand on the side as the entire pass rush comes at him. Quarterbacks may be incredible people and high performers but they need protection.

And just so I’m being blatantly clear: you are the front line. Most managers like to think of themselves as the quarterback. But it’s the wrong paradigm. If you’re trying to manage high performers you don’t just have one Joe Montana, you have several. And even though the illustration falls apart because this would mean one person on the offensive line with multiple quarterbacks, that’s what it means.

Your job, just like mine, is to provide cover. To provide protection. To make sure that they have time to get the job done. Your job, in short, is to remove all the little distractions – or as many as you can. That way, they only have to ignore a few more.

And when you’re doing that job right, it’s a beautiful thing.

Team Discussion

As you gather together, ask yourselves this question:

  • Are you spending time highlighting what’s slowing you down?
  • Are you discussing the roadblocks you’re facing?

Sometimes I notice that discussion doesn’t happen for fear that you don’t want to admit that you’re held up. A general rule on my teams is that if you’re stuck for over 30 minutes, you need to bubble it up. I need to know about it. That way I can help. And here’s the last one:

  • What causes you to shy away from mentioning that you’re stuck?