Times like these tend to reveal who we can really trust to deliver.
A crazy phenomenon has happened over the past couple of weeks as the world has digested the coronavirus shock. Executives, many of whom have never been in executive roles in a massive shock, have had to take stock of their teams in the most critical of ways. They have had to close ranks and think about who it is that they really trust. Think about that. Who are the people that you trust when it comes to executing all day, every day? I’m betting that they aren’t necessarily the same people you interacted with the most prior to the crisis.
You know why? Crises refine trust.
When you aren’t in crisis, you can afford to take a few flyers and let a few things go to hands you may not fully trust with them. But, today? You probably already have a good sense of who is “in” the circle of trust and who probably isn’t. You probably know who can deliver the goods, and you are probably loading them up with everything they can handle. And, you probably know who can’t, and you’ve probably made choices appropriately.
Mind you, I’m not talking about your “best” talents. I’m talking about those who can deliver. If your organization is like many, it’s your high-bred talents who struggle the most in challenging circumstances. They are often the ones who have had a lot of good come their way due to pedigree and profile, and who haven’t had to make a whole lot of nitty-gritty choices. The worst case is that they have achieved their position by NOT making choices. You know them: They are the ones who probably never had to improvise for a C minus, so now they are hurting when the best and only possible grade is a C minus that requires massive improv.
The ones who CAN deliver in a crisis often look different. Your shop foreman probably isn’t at home on videoconference right now, she’s probably on the shop floor trying to figure out how to stagger shifts to avoid COVID-based shutdowns. Your grizzled veteran HR, Finance, and IT leaders are probably on the job 24X7 right now while you might be simultaneously finding that their younger, shinier counterparts (in some cases, the grizzled vets’ bosses) aren’t up to the challenge.
It’s a good lesson to learn.
Bruce Springsteen wrote a song to go along with the 2008 motion picture The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke. In the song, the washed-up, has-been wrestler declares that he’s a “one-trick pony,” a “one-legged dog,” and a “scarecrow filled with nothing but dust and weeds.” In other words, he declares that he’s not of much use for anything, except…
…the wrestler also declares this:
“…bet I can make you smile when the blood, it hits the floor
Tell me, friend, can you ask for anything more?”
I am going to bet that you are in the middle of finding your own one-trick ponies and one-legged dogs–rediscovering the grizzled talent in your organization. You know them as the people who are specialized enough to be really strong in a crisis.
I’m also going to bet you are finding out that–sometimes–those are the people who might have deserved a bit more attention. You are probably doing the same “trust triage” with your advisors, sorting out the ones who can help you go and go faster from the ones with a lot of polish and bluster but no “go.” You know them, they are the ones who are all hat and no cattle. Judging by the sudden surge in snazzy marketing pitches on LinkedIn around the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of high polish consultants are suddenly in possession of a lot of free time.
While I firmly believe that you should always sort out your show dogs from your working dogs, now is a great time to keep your eyes open for the ones who buckle in and deliver vs. the ones who…don’t.
Because you need to know who can make you smile when the blood hits the floor
Tell me, friend, can you ask for anything more?
I’ll leave you with a link to the song…It’s worth a spin.
What do you think?