Stand by me

At the weekend I chanced upon a blog post by Bob Sutton (he of the ‘Good Boss, Bad Boss’ book). Bob wrote about Diego Rodriguez, who is a partner of a company called IDEO. Diego had shown people at his company a short Youtube video clip and told them:

‘this is what leadership should look like at our company’

Take a look at the video. It’s a 2 minute clip of a the American national anthem being sung at an NBA game. A girl of 13 had won a competition to sing it. The man you’ll see in the video is the coach of one of the teams.

I loved this for a whole number of reasons:

1. It demonstrates courage and humility

What the coach did was show courage to walk out in front of everyone and support the girl. That sounds easy, but almost everyone would normally sympathise but stand and watch. And the coach then had the humility to beat a hasty retreat at the end, rather than stay and milk the applause.

2. There is too much rubbernecking at work

It made me think of all the times in work where people stand by and watch someone struggling. Or they don’t stand and watch but instead haul people off the stage. For example, if that was a workplace, how often would we watch the girl, and say ‘well, she has been over promoted, we’d better not put her in that situation again, she can’t cope‘. Or ‘I need to put her on a performance improvement plan‘. But do we actually roll our sleeves up and sing with them until they find their voices again?

3. Videos of real stuff have impact

I can write down all the eloquent company values statements in the world, but jotting down a few words and then using a video to demonstrate that value, that has proper resonance. How great it would be to have the list of company values illustrated by short video clips, like this one, that show what the words mean. (And I just mean, real clips, in all their messiness; not manicured corporately pr’d clips). Since I’m about to take part in forming a new set of values at my place of work, I’ll see if this idea has legs.

23 thoughts on “Stand by me

  1. Point three I feel is the hardest to achieve.

    Great video, great guy, great girl – it takes strength to carry on when you’ve stalled, even if you do have a jump lead.

    • Yes. Very hard unless everyone including the CEO and his team works at it. And then continues to work at it. Like fitness – real values that translate into how people behave towards one another are hard to achieve and depressingly easy to let slip away.

  2. Great post – you tell it how it really is. I love the video ambition. The visual cues can be very powerful and way more authentic than manicured corporate ones you speak of. What a great initiative, let me know how you get on.

  3. I think what this does demonstrate is what great man management looks like. I’ve always found that a strange phrase, as there is very little management (in a tranditional sence) involved. Not that I want to argue with Mr H, but I think point 1 is the hardest to achieve, since people either do it or don’t.
    Unfortunately, it’s not just the workplace where we stand and watch people struggle.

    • Hi Gareth and Rick. Thanks for your comments. Gareth, I’ll let you know how I get on.
      Rick, I agree that this demonstrates great management. And one manager commented to me privately that he felt disappointed that he hadn’t always been able to step down and sing beside his managers. BUT what I replied is that I don’t necessarily think this is exclusively a ‘manager’ thing. When that guy said ‘this is what leadership should look like at our company’, it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘leadership’ as in senior managers or even managers in general. To me, it means everyone. All of us are responsible for looking out for someone who has temporarily lost their singing voice. I don’t need a job title to do that. And you hit the nail on the head ‘there is very little management (in the traditional sense) involved’….isn’t that the best type of management?!

  4. As you know, Flora, we’re no longer in a ‘business’ situation but this video touched my heart for how we should behave all the time to everyone we know who is struggling. Whatever is causing that struggle may seem insignificant to us, but a major worry to whoever it’s affecting. Let’s watch out for our neighbours and friends – and even those we don’t know well – to see if we can come alongside and offer that support that’s needed.

    • Absolutely Liz – it’s just a great illustration for life in general isn’t it. And you know what I’m absolutely loving about this blog so far? The fact that the comments and thus perspectives are coming from such a range of people. So far it’s been friends who are ex-colleagues, two friendships formed way back at university, friends I’ve made as a result of Twitter, and your very good self – a friend and ex neighbour. Different perspectives are so helpful, and so much more fun too.

  5. This is a fabulou idea. If its ok, when youve done it I would like to share it with our people. In fact do you mind if I share this taster into TR ?

    Leading by example, while not dominating and then stepping slowly just far enough away so not to not be in the light but still offering visible support is something I have and continue to find hard to.

    Thanks for maing me think again, and so soon 🙂

    • No problem at all…please do share with TR folks. When I was writing the post I actually thought it might have relevance to you, given the conversations we’ve had about leadership.

  6. I really like the use of videos to demonstrate a behaviour or illustrate a point – thanks for sharing.

    I’d be interested in hearing more about your work developing new values – we did this when I first started working here (as I think I may have mentioned). Keep us updated!

  7. Hi Flora,
    I am really loving your blog: you have a great skill at simplifying complex issues.
    For me the power of that video and story is the thought that a small moment has changed the girl’s confidence & self esteem. She could have left feeling totally wrecked… But hopefully she felt supported and ok about taking a risk. That’s what great leaders do, often behind the scenes, to develop their people… For me that is the power of this to use with leaders and ask ‘what impact did that action have?’
    Looking forward to the next one xx

  8. A remarkable and emotive video and lots of food for thought. I love your concept of showing values (ethics?) in this way. Not in the corporate video way but as you say “in all their messiness”. Isn’t this how we see each other anyway!?!

    I’m also struck by the coach coming on and perhaps mentoring that girl. You are spot on (above) but she was clearly receptive to help at her moment of need and he was courageous and gracious in giving it. Who can/will do this for us when we falter? I think perhaps that’s a question worth pushing out there too.

    Great post – thanks for sharing this Flora!

    • I agree David, there is a lot of food for thought in this video. It’s only 2 minutes but there’s a heck of a lot in it. And you are right that we should think about who is there to help us. Glad you liked the post.

  9. Flora I had reason to share your blog post with my management team today as we started to talk about how we can work with lower performers. It really helped get the message across that we must get stuck in there and work with someone to improve rather than ‘tell’ a load of instructions and stand back thinking their job as a manager has been done…

    • Steve, I’m so happy that this post is of practical use to you and your team. I couldn’t be more pleased :-))) I could write a bunch more stuff, but you know how much it means to me.

  10. Love it Flora! Fab idea about using video (and real people!) bringing values to life. “Flash” posters on walls, or “manicured” videos imply perfection – when we all know striving for and living out our values – whether at work or elsewhere, is a daily challenge, requiring vigilance, self-awareness and consistency!
    Love your blog!

    • So you like the blog then Shona? 🙂 Thank you for your comments. Totally agree that living out our values is a daily challenge – just like keeping fit. Including outside of work – I hadn’t thought about it in that way.

    • I bet they did. I’d certainly have a hell of a lot of respect if that was my manager/leader/ceo. Love the avatar! It’s amazing the youth of blog commenters these days 🙂
      Seriously though, thanks v much for taking the time to reply, Jason. I appreciate it. Hope you have a great weekend.

    • Nothing like some first thing in the morning inspiration, huh?! I’m really looking forward to meeting you this pm Clare. And thanks for adding your blog link…I love the way that you’ve not hidden it inside your intranet. Be v interested to ask you more about it.

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