Our little vignette opens in July 1976, segues neatly to November 1977, and fades to black at the bottom of this article. I had just been assigned to be the fourth person in a team, and I was junior by a long shot. My job was to do whatever I was told. Literally. It was about a 1/2 mile to the flight line, and generally us maintenance types tried to lump many trouble tickets into one trip. But that still meant a bunch of running back and forth. You can imagine who does the running.
Team members came and went, but apparently my willingness to do whatever lead to Tom Larson (the big bad sergeant) teaching me way more than I ever realized. In some cases, it would be years – and in this case decades – before the lesson jumped up and smote me about the brain housing group. There are time I can be incredibly dense. And further analysis would indicate that the denseness is… well… dense.
Today’s BFO: people are tools. Wow. Really? But not in the negative semantic sense. More in that they are an asset that needs nurturing and developing. But what am I tool of? Whose tool am I? I submit that those questions are self-defeating.
Instead, make your question be about “Force Multipliers” – I was a force multiplier to Sergeant Larson. And in time, others were to me also.
Let’s define a few terms before we go too much further: Here is a nice business-related definition. This example here is a purer definition. For those who really want to know where the terminology as used today comes from, you can read up on this here. Forbes.com has a nice little outline complete with examples. If you find yourself seriously interested, take a look here.
But those are the bright folks talking – full of big words, university and big business language, esoteric theory, and sometimes a more than pedantic viewpoint. What is some proletariat type such as myself to do with this definition? And, pray tell, how can this possibly affect me on a day to day basis? Clearly we are not electricity, the steam engine, artillery or some other military “force multiplier.”
Let’s see if I can successfully tie both sides into one pretty bow. Unless you have been living in the same cave as me, you should be somewhat familiar with the message found here.
We work as part of a team. Not one of us is standalone. You might think that your manager is on his/her own. But that is not the case. The newest engineer on my team might see me as being a standalone resource; but that would be mostly wrong as well. We all have a place in the larger team. We all need support at some point about something: admin, technical, sales, PTO, whatever. Notice that the technical part is only ONE piece. For someone else on the team, maybe the admin is more important, and the technical gets sent to the background. What I do know is that I don’t know everything.
About 5-7 times a week, it is impressed on me that the junior engineers on my team know more than I do about something. And I hope that never quits. It drives me a little further down the road, and hopefully I am pushing them ahead of me. I need my manager, my PM’s, the sales dude/dudette, and all the myriad supporting cast members to accomplish my job. They are the human tools that delivery uses. They are my force multipliers. Think about that. I think you will agree that without them, delivery is sunk to doing one thing at a time instead of being able to keep (at last count) 6 projects going at once.
So here is the introspection question: Am I doing everything possible to assist all those other team members? Am I a force multiplier for them? What can I be doing to make their job, and mine, easier or more effective. Are there actions I can take that will positively affect my immediate team members?
OK, so we all work in a team of some sort, and I assert that we are all co-dependent and that furthermore, a high-performance team will exhibit diversity in all aspects. Each team member is not only dependent, but also creates dependencies and support trees that enable a synergistic environment that outperforms traditional solo-efforts.
But you have to want it and work for it.
How does November 1977 work into this? November 9th, 1977 is the day I was given my first team, and I remember all the angst that went with that team. However, enter Sergeant Tom Larson – he taught me that (a) you are only as good as your team, that (b) the two person team can accomplish much more than an individual, that (c) the four person team can do more than the two person team but it needs coordination, and (d) that the leader teaches, supports, drags members along if need be, carries you if that is what is needed , and that the follower learns and supports and does all things pertaining to being a leader in training. Jobs and tasks all are taught one layer above and one layer below – more if there is time. And finally, together the team succeeds, but apart they fail.
Are you in this with your team? Really supporting or leading? Are you a tool for others to use? Are they a tool for you? No other way works.