Performance comes from Performing People

by Guy Ralfe on January 27, 2010

Last week I was returning back from Europe to the USA via London’s Heathrow airport. I won’t go into the airport security experience, but to say that the whole security debacle, while necessary, produces such a negative image before you have even set foot in the country. My story begins after the pat down security screening. We cleared the gate and were walking down to board the aircraft when we were stopped at the entrance to the elevated gangway that connects the terminal to the aircraft.

Slowly the number of people backed up until there must have been around 40 passengers waiting to board. At this point an official notified us that we needed to wait a few minutes while some tests were conducted on the aircraft. A lady in front of me stepped forward and asked if there were any problems. The official discarded her request by saying it was just some routine maintenance checks. The lady returned to the line but was not quite at rest. Some time passed with engineers running back and forth past us out the gangway, before we were given a shouted out notice that they were having to start the aircraft engine to test it and the wait should only be another 10 min. The official disappeared but the lady ahead now looked decidedly uncomfortable.

When the official returned she asked him what was wrong? He responded routine maintenance again. She then became very concerned and began demanding that she see the signed maintenance work order, that she wanted to see the pilot’s signed approval. The official did not help the lady’s concerns and so she became louder and demanded even more proof of acceptance. The official said he would not be getting that for her but she then argued it was her right to see the authorizing paper. I am not sure if it was her right, but she now had 39 people focused on her.

I was intrigued watching the situation, now the other 39 people in the line were not concerned about the maintenance but rather was this lady going to cause a situation that delayed their flight? The official just wanted the lady to calm down and not work up a commotion among the crowd, he cared less about the maintenance – he was flying nowhere and just wanted this plane dispatched.

For me the intrigue was with the lady;

  • she felt so strongly that she pulled herself from the conforming crowd to take care of her concerns at any cost
  • in being so concerned she could not reason – no pilot would be taking-off if they had any doubts about the maintenance yet alone the 39 other passengers eager to board.

So where am I going with this observation? Following on from last week’s post Measure for Success, I have since been fortunate to participate in a strategic session based on the Franklin Covey designed, 4 Disciplines of Execution, methodology to align an Organization with its Goals/Objectives. This methodology is entrenched in setting up measures, more so it advocates the measurement of leading and lagging measures to help identify the onset of issues before they become issues. What my observation brought forward for me is that you need a methodology as a guiding principle for an organization but do not forget how that applies to the individual. Each person has their own set of concerns, part of this is their ambition and goals.

These concerns are what individuals hold most dearly and if we can align the correlation between the individuals concerns and the organization you can produce superior performance by the organization in the marketplace. If the lady did not hold her concern for safety she would not have mustered up the courage to go the extra mile and challenge the official – the other 39 people held the concern of getting out of the jetway, the same attitude held by your clock watchers in the organization.

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