Integrity Matters Broadcasts

July 1, 2005

Hit the ground running

Dear Friends:

Learn how to "hit the ground running" from someone for whom walking is a challenge. Violinist Itzhak Perlman personifies courage, conviction and creativity.


Perlman at the 2001 Academy Awards: greeted by fans and in concert.
Photos by John McCoy.

by Jack Riemer, Houston Chronicle -- "On November 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches.

To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an unforgettable sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap -it went off like gunfire across the room.

To learn what Itzhak Perlman did next, reflecting his courage, conviction and creativity:

Making "music" with what we have and what we have left:

Observations have been made by the Los Angeles Times about the responsibilities thrust upon Los Angeles Mayor-Elect, Antonio Villaraigosa. Los Angeles voters want a mayor who will do things about the failing public schools, deliver more qualified police officers, invest in housing and commercial development and not say, "I can't." So, how does this new mayor intend to "hit the ground running" and meet the needs of his constituents? In order to hit the ground running, the Los Angeles Times recommends Mr. Villaraigosa do the following:

  1. Build coalitions by bringing people with a wide variety of positions, including critics, onto problem-solving teams, borrowing ideas and then behaving boldly. As a mentor taught me, a stranger is simply a friend with whom one is not yet acquainted. If variety is the spice of life, then civil discussions between and among those with differences of opinion are the crucibles in which constructive creativity and intelligent solutions are found. Listen. Listen. Listen.
  2. Lead and manage the city like a treasured family business with an open and honest city hall. The Los Angeles Times suggested that Mayor-Elect, Antonio Villaraigosa reward the voters and not the campaign contributors. In business terms this means to make sure that all stakeholders are appreciated and served. Respect. Respect. Respect.
  3. Operate with humility and graciousness. Again, from the Los Angeles Times, "Do not use this as a stepping-stone unless and until you have done a spectacular job for Los Angeles for the next four years." Business operates similarly. A fast and effective start means doing the job, allowing any future promotion to come from colleagues who will support a strong leader. Colleagues, new or old, resent opportunists who simply use people as pawns in their personal power game for self-aggrandizement and position. Incorporate behaviors reflecting the Eight Attributes© of Integrity-Centered Leadership - all the time.

Making similar efforts to those of violinist Itzhak Perlman, the new Mayor of Los Angeles will need to work with what he has. He too must leverage his creativity to rally resources and bring harmony and vitality to a giant city in need of reassurance and leadership. Are the efforts of these well-known people very different from what each person is challenged to do, every day? No.

Positive impact requires planning, perseverance and people-skills.

Famous entrepreneur, J.C. Penney, offered wisdom about leadership. He gave a great deal of credit to getting ready for whatever it was he intended to accomplish. Practice was not simply a concept; it was, for him and his team members, a rigorous set of disciplines. His seven "P's" are as profound today as they were a century ago: proper prior planning prevents pathetically poor performance.

Starting a new job, finishing an old one, building new relationships or sustaining old ones - the tasks are the same. A case in point emerges from my February 2, 2005, Integrity Matters column responding to an inquiry about how best to get started in a new position. Here is the question and the response:

Dear Jim: I have recently accepted a significant business promotion, in another state, with a new company. What is the most effective way for me to get started, with my new team, quickly and effectively?

Response: You wouldn't have gotten the job unless you'd developed a strong and successful track record and were effective in selling yourself. Organizations do not move people across the country unless they possess credentials, capacity, motivation and communications skills.

You can manage your successful assimilation into this new company around seven purposeful and constructive actions:

Individuals do not get a second chance to make a first impression. It is important, therefore, to sustain efforts to hit the ground running. To maintain your momentum, reflect on these 20 ways that create negative impressions and minimize positive impact:

  1. Think about yourself.
  2. Talk about yourself.
  3. Use "I" as often as possible.
  4. Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others.
  5. Listen greedily to what people say about you.
  6. Expect to be appreciated.
  7. Be suspicious.
  8. Be jealous and envious.
  9. Be sensitive to slights.
  10. Never forgive a criticism.
  11. Trust no one but yourself.
  12. Insist on consideration and respect.
  13. Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
  14. Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them.
  15. Never forget a service you may have rendered.
  16. Be on the lookout for a good time for yourself.
  17. Shirk your duties if you can.
  18. Do as little as possible for others.
  19. Love yourself supremely.
  20. Be selfish.

However, if constructive momentum is your goal, then modify these 20 counter-productive behaviors and respond appropriately. Think of others first. Be generous. These actions will enable you to create a positive impression and hit the ground running.

Exhibiting courage, conviction and creativity ensures constructive impact. One-third of the executives who rise to the top of U.S. companies don't last three years. While much has been written about what chief executives should do once installed in the job, little has been said about the period after their appointment but before they actually take charge. Interviews with current and former CEOs suggest that this time-frame (between getting the job and starting the job) can be used to improve a CEO-elect's chances for success. Newly-designated CEOs need to carve out time to prepare themselves for their increased responsibilities. By examining their strengths and weaknesses, probing the workings of their new organization and creating a support network, they can build a stronger foundation to improve their immediate and longer-term impact. Our Portrait © process enables leaders to improve operational effectiveness by enhancing self-awareness.

Next month, the August Broadcast will address Success for the Rest of the Year.


Home Page | About Us | Ask Bracher | Services | Resources | Contact Us

©Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership. All Rights Reserved.
1400 Munras Avenue ~ Monterey, California 93940