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“Red” is beautiful

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I remember participating in my first huddle. In the true sense of “practicing what we preach,” our lean team decided to huddle around certain metrics for our work. At the time, we chose to track event preparation and agreed on a stretch goal. This is what we always did in lean events. Shoot for the stars and you are much more likely to beat the target you might have otherwise more conservatively set.

What that meant though was that you would be challenged to reach your goal. And those challenges meant showing “red,” a visible signal that you still weren’t on track to achieving the goal. I can’t remember a time when I felt like I didn’t perform. But there I was speaking to my metric and feeling lousy. In those earlier times, none of my events were on track. I was working very hard to get them there but a host of things were getting in my way. I was frustrated and as I started to present in huddles, I found myself bringing excuses. “Well this one is not really red because the sponsor wants to do it this way.” Our coach challenged, “is it red or not?” I grumbled under my breath, “It’s red.”

It was only after getting past this shock to my system that I realized my thinking had changed. As a leader, you’re programmed to promote the great stuff. It’s how you get promoted. It’s how you get the next opportunity. It’s how you shine. Now I had to talk about the misses and I had been taking it personally. One of the popular lean quotes states, “It’s about the process, not the people.” I started to realize you couldn’t make “inspiring bold” change without first talking about the issues. Real, open, candid discussion.  This type of discussion meant our team could analyze the root cause and work the solution.

Alan Mulally is one of my favorite leaders to study. I remember the video that showcased the first executive leader that brought “red” forward at Ford. Dashboards had shown all things green and on track. Then one leader said they were “red” on the Edge product line. Alan Mulally leaned back and clapped. Applause and a smile was the reaction to “red.” Alan knew it meant that now their team could have those real discussions and do what leaders are meant to do, solve problems.

“Inspiring bold” change in the world starts with embracing “red”, the stuff no one wants to talk about at first.

This link provides a quick summary of the Alan Mulally story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=19&v=Lb2Chj5zHVo). Grateful if you could spread Inspiring Bold by following me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/inspiringbold/) or Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/inspiringbold/).

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