The story of elderly ladies on the bus


Photo by ellecteric

I want our soldiers to stand up in order to make lace for elderly woman on the bus“.

When you think about it, standing up for elderly woman on a bus is a very polite behaviour. But the quoted sentence above, for me, holds much more than just good manners. When I was a junior commander of the operators of communication course in the Israeli Air-Force, our officer repeated it again and again.

What he tried to explain to our team was that he rather have us spend time on education and discipline than on teaching the soldiers the professional parts of the course. This was counter intuitive. Our task was to train Operators of communication course. But for him, making them better soldiers and persons was more important.

Today, I was reminded of this statement, while I was reading the book “Made to stick“.  Like with other management books I wrote about, this book does not need my promotion. So, in addition to recommending it, I will share a number of my thoughts:

  1. I think the most important message of the book deals with trying to find the core value of your message and a memorable way to present it. The story about my commander is a great one. I often talk about it in workshops I give about leadership. One of the challenges mangers face is how to create a message that will allow his team to make decisions when he is not around. When my officer was not around, we could have easily known what his opinion would be. Do you know what your manager wants? Does your team know what you want? Most people are not sure what the goal of their department or company is. As Lewis Carroll Said: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. Don’t be surprised if you or your team decide to go onto the wrong road. There is a great need for more coherence regarding the core values.  If you don’t believe me, believe the CEO of the Coca-Cola company, Muhtar Kent. A Knowledge@Wharton article says: “He explained that his first priority upon assuming the helm at Coca-Cola — based upon what he had witnessed in other leaders in business and in government over the previous 35 years — has been to develop a new broad strategic vision for the Coca-Cola brand. Kent said the leaders he is striving to emulate ‘had the ability to create a clear and compelling vision and they had the ability to articulate and communicate it in a simple way’
  2. When you chose your core values, it is important to stick to them, especially when it comes to intuition. Not only acting against your core values hurts you and your message. The trick is, sometimes, sticking to the core values means you need not to act in ways that seem to be right. In my example, it was passing on more study time for more discipline routine, even if it meant lesser grades for our soldiers. In the book, the writers give an example of southwest airlines, which decided to be “the cheapest airline company in America”. Surveys showed that passengers want the company to serve chicken salad in their flights instead of the usual peanuts. The manager of the company, stuck to his core values, and asked: “will this make us the cheapest airline company in America?”. The answer was off course negative. You read a lot about adjusting your service to the needs of the customers. The costumer is, after all, always right. Well, sometimes, the costumer is wrong. Many times, the right thing to do is to act according to your core values.
  3. Two great concepts for those of us that deal with education and presentations. The power of a good story and the importance of being concrete and tangible. Once I did not believe in the power of stories in classes or presentations. I changed my mind. It happened after I realized that the stories are what I always remember best when I attend a presentation. Think about the last presentation you attended. Try to remember what it was about? Do you remember a story told there? You probably did. A story makes what you talk about to be tangible. So many times you see a lecturer talking about something without explaining what has does that have to do with listeners. Remember, if the lecture is about them, like everybody says, you need to explain to them why what you are talking about is important to them. The best way to do it is to talk about real life consequences of what you talk about. There always are.


One Response to “The story of elderly ladies on the bus”

  1. What will your employees do when you leave for a vacation? « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] So, not only does the manager face the challenge of creating of a clear message to explain the desired outcomes, but, not less important, he needs to make sure that this message will guide the employees when he is not there. […]

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