Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

19 12 2006

I have just discovered the piece written by Elbert Hubbard in 1899, A Message to Garcia.

Inspirational and as relevant today as when it was written 107 years ago. A must read.

In 1495 words Elbert Hubbard has captured the essence of what being responsible is all about. A magnificent example of how independence, clear objectives and discipline can generate desired results.

Excerpt: “In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.

When war broke out between Spain and the United States it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. What to do!

Some one said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia.

How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia – are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?”

By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing“Carry a message to Garcia!”…….. Link

The majority of analysis I have found related to this piece focuses upon the employee. How we all wish to have individuals who do the job, who don’t require complex instructions, supervision and followup.

Disciplined individuals who are able to adapt to unfavorable circumstances and maintain their sense of mission. People who get the job done without whining, complaining, negotiating outcomes and deadlines.

Take a look at A Message to Garcia from the point of view of the leader, President McKinley. Faced with the need to notify Garcia in the jungles of Cuba, he trusted one man, Rowan, with the nearly impossible.

McKinley was satisfied that his instructions were clear, and did not give Rowan tips and tricks on how to get the mission completed. He was confident in Rowan’s abilities, or was prepared to accept failure. There were no committee meetings, no majority votes, no back-up army or alternative plans considered.

Here are some questions related to mangement and leadership to reflect upon.

  • Have you surrounded yourself with capable individuals, and trained them?
  • Do you trust that they have the capacity and abilities to do their job?
  • Do your people understand and embrace the mission and objectives of your organization?
  • Do they know you will support their actions and in order to reach that goal?
  • Have you enough confidence in them to let them carry the message to Garcia?

Related Links

Leadership – who do you want to lead

Are we killing team performance by over-communicating

What defines an exceptional leader

Motivation – Heroic Moments

Wikipedia: Elbert Green Hubbard

Quotations by Elbert Green Hubbard

A Message to Garcia

Advertisements




Showtime – how do you want to live your life?

8 09 2006

I’ve had limited experience in show business. The highlights of my entertainment career include the magic show I produced and starred in at age 8, various band performances, and a walk-on supporting role as a wise man in a Nativity play. Oh wait, I forgot to mention, my biggest show business role. I was involved in retail sales.

Retail sales can be a limiting and brutal environment, physically and emotionally. But it is one of the best environments for learning and practicing how to perform with and for others.

Retail sales is all about people, it is not about merchandise. Listening to what people want and helping them find it. You are performing all day, and when you realize this, it can be an exhilarating and fun experience. You can prepare, rehearse and modify your performances daily.

What am I talking about? Performing? Exactly. If you assume the role of an enthusiastic, informed and helpful person you can give something to each person you encounter during the day. You will feel great about yourself and the client or co-worker walks away with an unexpected gift of meeting and connecting with a positive human experience.

I was involved in the fresh flower industry. Olga and I opened a “bucket-shop”, which at the time was an innovation, and dedicated ourselves to making every customers experience distinct and important.

No one buys flowers because they have to. They are sought when one wishes to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, birth of child, graduation, religious holiday, or wedding. They might be using the flowers to recognize an illness or death, as a thank you, to recognize a special person, to say I love you or I’m sorry, or as a emotional pick me up.

Flowers are objects that represent an emotion. Customers were not buying flowers. They were seeking a symbol of their feelings or the feelings they wished to transmit. Isn’t that true about most consumer items?

Understanding this, how can you NOT be enthusiastic about coming to work and giving your best performance?

During the time clients were in our environment, we were part of their search to represent their emotions, our advice was of great importance in order to find the right symbol, the perfect flowers. It was much more than a commodity transaction.

It’s important to recognize that false enthusiasm isn’t going to work. You have to believe in yourself, your abilities and knowledge. You have to believe that you are going on-stage everyday, and that your “performance” has to be genuine. You have to listen to the people around you, and determine what they are really seeking, and help them get it.

People used to stop in and visit us to get a shot of enthusiasm and positive attitude. There was always a smile, a greeting. The environment was light, fun, open, accepting. It was an amazing experience for us and for the clients. We gave a positive attitude, and customers gave us back more positive attitude.

All it took was our dedication to providing the best “performance” we could manage, everyday, no matter who was in the audience.

It’s “showtime” in your life every morning (remember Rob Schneider’s performance in “All that Jazz”?). It’s your decision to assume the role you are going to play. Will it be the angry, grumpy, distracted, negative you? Will it be the upbeat, enthusiastic, focused you?

It’s “showtime” right now.

It’s always “showtime”.

Related Links

Change your life – change your attitude

Passion – Enthusiasm – Common Sense?

Motivation, what gets you out of bed?