We all watched with deep anxiety the media video feeds that emerged from that dark, collapsed San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile. August 5: 33 miners trapped deep underground with solid rock and earth separating them from life! The dire situation appeared hopeless considering the resources available both in the mine and one-half mile above at the surface. Advisors to the Chilean President told him not to raise expectations that the miners were alive. Yet, on October 12, after a seemingly interminable 68 days, the first miner was brought up from the mine with his 32 companions soon to follow. A miracle by most accounts, some compared it to the Apollo 13 rescue mission.
What we must learn about leadership from the Chilean Miner Recovery:
1. BHAG Power: The Chilean rescue team had a "we will succeed, against all odds" mindset. They defined a "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" (J Collins "Built to Last") to bring every single miner safely to the surface within three months. They then directed their energies and resources to achieve that BHAG. The BHAG inspired commitment, sacrifice, and a high morale work environment. Application: what is the BHAG your organization, division, or team is focused on presently? Is there one single high stakes, challenging goal that everyone is fixed on? If you assess that your team is "just going through the motions", it is likely time to introduce a compelling and relevant BHAG!
2. Team trumps Individual: After the rescue was completed we learned that deep in the mine the miners had created a pact that the fame and reward awaiting them would be shared equally. "All for one, and one for all" became their mantra. They were even so specific as to agree that every single dollar of fame revenue would be split evenly. Imagine this, the more charismatic and communicative miners who would carry more magnetic media attraction sacrificing their individual opportunity to "stay in" and "build up" the collective team. Application: In a narcissistic society that tunes in daily to the WIIFM radio station ("what's in it for me?"), what are you doing to push back against the focus-on-self tide to cultivate and feed a team mindset and culture? What types of recognition and rewards have you used to focus individuals on the team, the company, the organization, the collective good? Better, what are you modeling by your leadership focus? (J Collins, "Good to Great", Level Five Leaders: commitment to sacrifice and do what's in the very best interest of the company)
3. Strategic Partnerships: The Chilean government recognized early on that in and by themselves did not have the resources to pull off the BHAG recovery of the 33. Therefore they reached out, asked for help, formed strategic partnerships with external resources. Specialists from NASA and drilling experts from a dozen or so countries were brought together to form a team packed with wisdom and talent. Application: who and what are the external partnerships you have formed to take your business to a higher level? What aspect of your business, or what area of your operational framework, has been "stuck" for years without a solution presenting itself internally? Who might you reach out to, what resources lie with another company, or possibly even with a competitor?
"It is better to have a partner than to go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps. But a world of trouble if there is no one to help!" --Ecclesiastes 4 (select)
Your partner and friend,
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