Guests on this world class cruise were either taking a moonlight stroll on deck or soundly asleep in their cabins. Marconi Telegraph Operators worked busily into the night, planning tomorrow night’s extravagant party. Over the telegraph lines, they gathered details from friends and family from New York to Boston so they could make the party extra special. Imagine their excitement as the plans started coming together.
Are you getting excited about an upcoming party? How do you feel the night before? A little nervous? Your excitement builds as you see the pieces fit together. You see the end in sight.
And then disruption.
Something TOTALLY unrelated crashes into your party planning.
Have you ever experienced that kind of disruption?
How do you handle it?
The night is April 11, 1912. Marconi Operators are aboard the Titanic. As they work the telegraph lines to plan the perfect party, they are interrupted. The annoying disruption?
Weather reports of icebergs.
Annoyed by the disruption, they quickly rebuke the inbound radio operators for their interference and keep the main task at the forefront: Party Planning.
Look, you can’t blame them for staying focused on their primary job responsibility. After all, Marconi operators weren’t even employed by White Star Cruise Lines. They weren’t members of the crew! Their specific responsibility was guest services. Key metric: Customer Satisfaction.
Reporting weather conditions to the crew wasn’t in their job description.
If you are a High Performance leader, you’ve seen this a million times. You give your team a specific set of responsibilities. They execute smoothly, efficiently, responsibly. Everything is working great.
Then something out of the ordinary disrupts the smooth flow. There is an innate human instinct to return to normal as fast as possible, not giving the disruption priority.
What does your team do when disruption IS the priority? How many times as a High Performance Leader have your encouraged your team to ‘stay the course’? Ignore the disruption and crash forward?
Yep, me too.
We teach our teams to Ignore or Minimize disruptions. We think of them as distractions.
It’s difficult to train a team to handle the unexpected, especially to train them to pivot AWAY from their primary job responsibilities and pivot TOWARDS disruption, making IT the new highest priority.
High Performing Teams are fluid. They’re built on trust. They execute their primary job responsibilities efficiently and smoothly. And they keep the primary values of humanity and organization at the forefront as they either disregard distractions OR pivot towards disruption.
As a High Performance Leader, it is of the utmost importance that your team operates with organization values that GUIDE behavior in both normal flow and disruptive flow.
Make Your Organization Values Explicit.
Conduct training which proposes hypothetical situations that challenge those values, pushing moral and ethical boundaries. Help them discern between Distractions to Avoid and Disruptions to Prioritize. Believe me, these hypotheticals are better navigated in training rather than in real life.
Is your team focused on the right things? Will they apply your organization’s values as they navigate the unexpected?
Let’s avoid the icebergs and cruise to success!