Your organization’s maturity and your own growth as a leader are often tied to the extent to which you take things personally. If you’re fortunate enough to enjoy success, you learn to do a better job of asking questions, spend lots of time listening, and spend a good amount of time planning. Taking a breath, widening your lens to the big picture, and reflecting before acting … these things take work.
At ITW we operate like a hockey team. Our Rule #2 is “Never Leave Your Wingman.” Jay and I are invested emotionally and professionally in our team. But the fact is, people move on and career directions change. In the past, when a Wep would come to me and announce their pending resignation, I took it very personally. What had I done wrong? What could I do better? Do we have a major problem? Pain, followed by panic … that was my knee-jerk reaction. But that has changed. We have changed. Maturity.
The first key to avoiding disappointment is being clear about what is expected with people up front. Not just for potential hires, but also for the company itself—getting clear about what a new team member can expect from the organization. By setting these expectations, it has become easier to manage our existing team. It’s also easier to describe the life a new hire would be committing to. By setting clear expectations, both the potential hires and the company could make better “fit” decisions.
Once a new hire comes on board, their first 90 days are fully structured. Daily checkmarks are pursued in training and familiarization with team and tasks. Weekly tests ensure we are on track. Monthly reviews with senior management confirm that expectations are still clear and the passion is growing – not waning. That’s how they become Weapons Grade. What we look for is that they are “buying in” to our way of work and life. This means there are fewer surprises if things don’t work out, because expectations were set clearly.
The second key to avoiding disappointment is recognizing that people can run out of gas. External motivation and incentives from the organization only go so far. Sometimes people change. Sometimes their priorities change. People move on. Their passion for ITW can burn out. While I don’t like it – I accept it. We respect their choices. We don’t take it personally. For those that leave after years on the team – it’s a bittersweet goodbye and they remain a fixture in our history. We honour them. When we write the memoirs, they will be included as key pieces that helped us get there. I will ask them to sign my copy and we will grab a beer & reminisce.
Running a business can be tough.
“The road to success is always under construction” – Lily Tomlin