Here’s an idea to help become more aware of your working environment. Reading time: 3:15.
The pilots were stunned. They were flying way too fast, more than 100 miles an hour faster than their B-29 bombers has been designed to fly during World War II.
The unplanned speed played havoc with their aim: fewer than five percent of their bombs accurately hit their planned targets.
And no wonder when nearly 100 American airplanes found themselves inadvertently swept up into the jet stream — the ribbon of fast flowing air at high altitudes. Then at 30,000 feet those pilots were flying under the influence of the outside environment as never before and they had to adapt or fail.
Leaders know the feeling of being pushed along by outside forces beyond their control, just like those B-29 pilots.
And that’s why the most effective leaders are those who constantly monitor and adapt to their ever changing working environment.
Here’s an idea to keep you more aware of your surroundings.
Ten years before he would become Prime Minister of Great Britain; ten years before he would lead England to her “finest hour,” ten years before he would virtually preserve our democratic way of life in World War II, Winston Churchill should have been killed.
In a car accident. His fault. By default.
Churchill committed the most egregious sin of all leaders, a sin he never forgot, the sin of reacting mindlessly to something he always knew instead of responding to something brand new. As Henry David Thoreau observed “We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.”
Indeed, think of yourself walking in Churchill’s shoes the next time you take on a new project in a new venue. Become more aware of your new surroundings. Adapt your behavior accordingly as the cliche goes.
“When in Rome do as the Romans do.”
Churchill’s body was in New York, but his mindset was still in London. And that misplaced mindset could have well changed history and cost Sir Winston his life. Here’s how it happened.
Churchill, visiting New York City on December 13, 1931, got out of a cab on Park Avenue and crossed the street between 76th and 77th Avenues. He was hit by a car.
“I should have been broken like an egg-shell,” Churchill grimaced while spending seven days in a hospital. But miraculously he was not badly injured. He was more embarrassed than hurt.
This is the 1st of a 10-part series on Customer Leadership.
In this LEADERSHIP MINTS series, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Steelcase Inc. (founded March 16, 1912) and salute Customer Leaders (a.k.a employees) who have consistently driven Steelcase Inc as the worldwide, office-furniture industry leader for most of its 100 years serving/leading customers. Today let’s examine Customer Leadership from an historical perspective at Steelcase Inc., the $2.4 billion company, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an example of meeting a customer’s specific need.
How do you lead your industry let alone stay in business for 100 years? Stay relevant. Especially in customer-izing your products or services to serve a specific customer need –from Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight to collaborating with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to playing a supporting role when General Douglas MacArthur acceped the Japanese surrender ceremony ending World War II.
That’s the customer leadership performance that we begin examining today with a series of 10 Leadership Mints over the next 10 business days. These Leadership Mints, short stories on customer leadership, are designed to freshen our bottom-line thinking on business success that Steelcase Inc. has earned en route to celebrating its 100th anniversary in March.
“If ever a company marched to its own drummer, this one does– and in perfect step.”
More than 25 years ago, Forbes Magazine cited Steelcase Inc. –the world’s leading office furniture maker – for its unique leadership style in a 5-page story titled “The Steel Behind Steelcase” in the October 7, 1985 issue. “If ever a company marched to its own drummer, this one does—and in perfect step,” opined editor James Michaels. “All very sui generis.”
Consider these historical highlights:
The year: 1927. The place: Paris. The event: Charles Lindbergh soars the Atlantic. Lucky Lindy pilots his Spirit of St. Louis 33.5 hours over 3,610 miles of ocean from New York– the first solo pilot across the Atlantic. And after his triumphant flight, he celebrated with a promotional tour across the United States. When Charles Lindbergh came to Grand Rapids, Steelcase Inc. was there, outfitting his touring plane with a customized desk.