Up Front: Know Your Limitations
On a recent five-hour plane trip, a young woman asked the flight attendant, “How much longer until we land?” The flight attendant looked purposefully at his watch and with an air of certainty replied, “56 minutes and 37 seconds.” As the perplexed young woman was deciding how to respond to the slightly odd answer, I stepped in to hopefully break the uneasy feeling that had just set in. “You know, ‘about an hour’ would have done fine,” I said. He glared at me and was visibly not amused with my unsolicited flippant attempt at humor.
That last leg of our flight (about an hour) got me thinking about how different we all are as people, and that is definitely a good thing. In fact, these differences are what make us unique. We also need that diversity in our business. Imagine if everyone was the same? Sometimes it seems that employers try to force everyone into a certain role, into a way of thinking or they try making people something they are not. Progressive employers embrace the differences of key personnel and try to fill their needs and not the other way around. For example, isn’t the person who is obsessed with every detail and extremely meticulous the kind of person we want flying our commercial flights or keeping our books? What these people tend to lack in personality, they often more than make up for in other areas. Good leaders recognize these differences in people and put their talents to their best use.
Lee Iaccoca saw itThere are few success stories that can rival the resurrection of Chrysler Corp. by Lee Iaccoca in the 1970s. Mr. Iaccoca noted that in business he needed two distinct types of people to succeed, the bean counters and the creative people who inspire ideas. He also noted that they are never the same person and rarely agree on anything. He noted that the inspirational people came up with the ideas, sometimes outlandish and impossible. They can take companies into new directions and are often considered the creative lifeblood of business. These people have some distinctly notable characteristics. Typically they are good speakers, passionate, gregarious and they find budgets constraining and annoying. Unchecked, they can also get you in trouble. This is where the true value of the bean counter comes in. What they lack in imagination and creativity, they more than make up for in keeping companies on budget and living within their means, as Iaccoca noted in his book.
Most people are a mix of both; a little creative and a little bean counter. Sometimes you meet people that define one side of the spectrum to a tee. I have met many people who proclaim they are the ultimate of both bean counter and creative inspiration. No one is a master at both. Everyone has a weaker side. Good leaders recognize this in themselves and seek balance by hiring others who compensate for their weak side. To be your best in life and business, you must figure out which is your stronger side. This is one reason partnerships are a great idea and-unfortunately, at the same time-they rarely work. Each partner thinks they are the driving force behind the success of the company, both the creator and the bean counter. Partners who are both bean counters will lack the inspiration and creative ideas to stay on the cutting edge of success. Partners who are both creative will lack the discipline for financial restraint for staying within a budget. The best possible scenario is having one of each to balance the equation. The trick for each partner is to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each other and how they complement each other to make a great team. While this seems obvious and so simple, it rarely works. Typically the bean counter gets jealous of the popularity of the creative/inspirational partner, all the while knowing that he/she really does all the work. But, a successful business needs both.
If you are running a company and have someone who is better at dealing with people than you or can be influential with others, use that to your advantage. You do not always have to be the star of the show. Do not try to change the basics of that person to fit an image you want. People rarely change their basic personality and traits, especially when forced. To be the best employer, know your limitations and that of your key people.