My wife Margie and I needed to fly to New York in early September, and we had made a plan that we weren’t going to fly on September 11. But you know, life is not always in your own hands. I learned that from Don Shula really clearly when he talked about the importance of being audible-ready. That means you have to have a plan, but when plans go awry, you have to be able to “call an audible.” You have to go with the flow.
So on September 10 when we were on our way to our first stop in Dallas, there were all kinds of problems with the Dallas airport, and we had to land in Oklahoma City because we had to get more gas. We eventually got to Dallas at about nine o’clock that night. Of course, our connecting flight to New York had already taken off. So we stayed at the airport hotel right there. The next morning, September 11, we flew safely to New York City. I think one of the things that makes you relax and be more easy in life is if you have an audible-ready attitude. Shula said that when you call an audible in football, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan. When things change, you just have to call a different play. You can’t get all uptight and ticked off because you didn’t get to go with your original plan. Some people at the airport were really bent out of shape because their plans were changed. They got themselves all out of whack about something they couldn’t control. So sometimes things change and you have to just go with the flow.
We recently offered a workshop at our company called “The Business of You,” that my friend Paul Brenner, who is an MBA and a Ph.D., was conducting with Bob Petrello, a longtime colleague of his. Their belief is that if you are self-aware, if you really understand yourself and your past, your needs, and your strengths and weaknesses, then that’s the beginning of being an effective human being. Then you add relationship awareness, which is about understanding the people around you and what makes them tick. Those are the two key things. Then, if you would really like to accomplish something, how do you do it with other people and get their commitment? It’s being relationally aware of them, and if you can do that, and you can get results. It’s so consistent with what we have been saying, which is that great leadership starts with understanding of self. I think it’s just a fascinating thing.
I’ve been reading a book by Mick Ukleja, who is one of my good buddies. It’s called The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World. He says that one of the ways to keep your integrity high is to harness your moods. He says, interestingly, that a study of red-light violations shows a strong relationship between feeling under pressure and breaking the law. Forty-one percent of the people who go through red lights are doing it on their way to work or to school. But only nine percent of the red light violations were committed by people on vacation. He says, “A basic human frailty is that we allow our moods to master us rather than making sure we master them. You’re probably a lot like us. Sometimes we’ve known what to do, how to do it, and that we ought to do it, but we didn’t do it. You discover that your good intentions can be hijacked by your feelings. We speed through a red light, we cut off another driver, we procrastinate, we shut our minds to others because we’re in a bad mood. It’s easy, especially in pressure situations, to let our moods master us. So we really need to harness our moods. When you feel like you’re in a mood, go walk around the building. Go walk around your house. Get yourself back under control so that you can do what you know is right.” So don’t be moody. And if you are, recognize it and get it back under control. That’s a good thought for today.
A great comment I heard recently from our consultant, Tommy Moore, was: “There is no hall of fame for critics,” Ha! I just love that. A lot of times, people are really good at taking shots at what other people are doing. That’s not really very helpful. Redirection is so much different than criticism: Here’s something that has happened, here’s how it has impacted things, here’s what would really help next time, and I’m still excited about working with you. That’s really kind of a nice thing. But we also have to remember, if you do ever get criticism, that feedback is the breakfast of champions, as Rick Tate always used to say. The best response to any kind of criticism, if you get it, is: “Tell me more. Is there anyone else I should talk to? Oh, this is so helpful.” That will really blow people’s minds because you won’t be defensive or anything. You won’t get your ego in the way. Don’t criticize yourself or other people. Give ‘em a hug. That’s what they could really use.
You know, I was recently listening to a tape by a wonderful young guy named Matthew Barnett, who heads up the Dream Center in Los Angeles. I’m on the board there. They have taken over an old hospital that was condemned, and they have refurbished the whole thing through money raised. They have 1400 people living there; people who are really learning how to turn their lives around. They also have a church, a temple, that was given to them and they run services there. Matthew is just an amazing guy. The essence of his talk was that, when he took over and started to plant the church and they had nothing, he was mainly focused on his own success and thinking about how many people he could get to come to church. And all of a sudden one day, when things were really going downhill for this church, he realized his problem—it had been all about him. And when he got that he was there to serve, and he went out into the streets and met with the people and talked and walked with them and helped and served them and all, slowly they began to trust him. And they started to come to him. And then he was able to, unbelievably, get control of this old hospital. He said when he turned the corner and really realized that life is about serving, not being served, that just made all the difference.