Leading From The Past With An Eye For The Future
I've had the privilege over the years to work with amazing people, including our Contagious Optimism team today. As a leader in any organization, there is nothing better than having people around you who understand your vision and then execute it successfully. Some call this effect "synergy" and others call it "harmony." Having the right people around you is tough to find and you should consider yourself fortunate when you experience harmony among your team — like a fine motor that is perfectly calibrated. If you are the leader who brought this team together, pat yourself on the back. If you have a human resources manager who accomplished this, hold on to that person as long as you can.
In the past I have also had the privilege to work with lackluster teams that stifled our growth, lowered our morale, and prevented us from achieving our goals. Are you asking, "Why did he say, 'privilege’? That is a great question. The reason I feel this way is because hiring and working with employees who don't perform is an important part of being a leader. For every lackluster employee we hired, trained, and fired, we probably hired 20 terrific employees that performed, delivered results, and contributed to our growth over the years. I wouldn't change that statistic at all; I appreciated the opportunity to learn from every mistake. If any president, chairman, or CEO tells you that they have only recruited the best talent and had never experienced a hiring mistake within their organization, they are kidding themselves.
We hear all the time that we can't change the past. Well, if that's the case, then why not consider the past your personal reference book? The wisdom we gain from our mistakes as leaders all go into this reference book and they serve as the foundation of not only our future but also any organization we lead. Success and failure yield the same byproduct: wisdom. When an organization recruits a new leader or officer, it only wants to hire executives who have experience in handling mistakes, crisis, etc., whether caused by themselves, their team or market conditions. We are measured by how we handle everything—the ups and the downs.
When I was at the helm of Goliath Technology for 17 years, I made sure we measured our teams on everything and made it clear that mistakes were not counted against them as long as they learned from those mistakes. Every employee was advised to record their achievements and setbacks into a book that would stay with them throughout their career. We had what we called a "wisdom book" on every desk for every new hire, including interns.
I recently heard a real estate agent laugh at an advertisement placed by another agent in an affluent, desirable location. The ad read, "Consistently sold X number of homes year after year..." Her response was, "It is easy to do that in that area. If you can't perform there, you are in the wrong business. I wonder how this agent would do in a less than desirable area. Would they be a pioneer that turned the area around or would they suffer in the face of selling in a difficult market?" It occurred to me how accurate her statement was across all industries.
When conditions are great, we can all be successful star leaders. However, it is when conditions are poor that we are given the opportunity to show our true leadership abilities.
About the Author
David Mezzapelle is the author of the bestselling book, Contagious Optimism. He was the founder and director of marketing for Goliath Technology from 1990 - 2007, a data center infrastructure company that supported corporations, schools and government agencies worldwide. In addition, Mezzapelle orchestrated one of the most innovative internship programs ever created which has become a staple for organizations today. Prior to 1990, Mezzapelle was an intern for IBM while attending school at Fairfield. Mezzapelle has been a guest on various radio and television programs. He is a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal and various other publications around the globe.