Last night I caught up with an episode of Three Rivers I’d saved on my DVR from two weeks back. You may have seen it: Two firefighters give up a portion of their own lungs to save the life of their captain, a man denied transplant candidacy, and without other ‘Ohana to turn to. A brave and generous act to be sure, with both making the choice to do so for reasons of their own, yet still requiring decisions of much courage. The captain was a very lucky man to have it play out as it did, for he was catalyst, but not reason. He provided the opportunity for their decisions, but he was incidental to their choices.
I’m guessing that every manager watching the episode would have silently had the same thought which crossed my mind: Would my staff have done something like that for me?
There is a lot of grit in management: Stuff that is dirty or ugly, and can really grate on you, on others, and on the work to be done. It is stuff you do have to deal with, for ignoring it is far worse. Grit is often abrasive. It leaves marks behind which scratch, mar and will remain, often defying any covering up. Grit becomes a constant reminder of when things didn’t go as well as you had hoped they would.
There is some degree of grit and its remainders in every single relationship existing between a manager and the person they manage. Sometimes we merely sense it underfoot. Sometimes there seems to be so much of it we feel the tornado effects of a swirling dust cloud of the stuff all around us. Grit is unavoidable, for it comes with the beast, and because we humans are as complex as we are, it’s often unpredictable, and can appear in even the best of relationships. All we can do is manage it best we can, hoping to eventually move on enough so that we don’t look back at those traces of grittiness left behind us.
Oddly, grit can produce a badge of credibility for managers.
We all accept the inevitability that grit will appear in even the best of circumstances, and so we equate managerial success with the ability to deal with it somewhat gracefully and ethically. When there is a lot at stake, those making those management hiring calls look over their candidates trying to see the scratches so they can ask the question, “How did that happen?”
When you’re asked the question, you know they accept the inevitability, and what they really want to know is how everything turned out” would someone give you half a lung like those firefighters did? And if so, would they do it for their own reasons, or for you, and because you helped bring Aloha into their life?