JMT Certified

Now please wash the soap!

No floating bowls, please!
~ A key to domestic harmony ~

One of my early lessons for ensuring domestic harmony, was that after each meal when I had finished the washing up I needed to make sure that the washing up bowl wasn’t left “floating” due to some of the food remains clogging the drain.  We had one of those sink drains that had a filter plug, the type that would gather any remains and could be removed to dispose of any solids separately, rather than having them flow into the drainage system and thus cause a blockage further on.  

The consequence of not avoiding the “floating bowl” was to have the filter removed (by someone else in the family) which would allow some of the solids to bypass the filter, after which I would have the job of addressing the ensuing blockage.  All I had to do was ensure that the filter was emptied before completing the washing up and thus avoid the floating bowl and encourage domestic harmony.

Another early lesson I learned was to make sure that I washed the soap.  After I had completed some manly duty outside, like working on the car or in the garden, one of the first things I would do would be to wash my hands.  However, it was entirely possible that I might have managed to leave the soap encrusted with just the tiniest residue of whatever I had been working on.  So long as I remembered to wash the soap to leave it nice and clean when I had finished my ablutions, domestic harmony wouldn’t be disturbed.

I discovered that an essential key to domestic harmony was found in alignment; alignment of intentions and alignment of actions.  Whenever intentions and actions were both aligned harmony was within reach.  

I had a similar experience as a project manager.  One of my duties was to make sure that the project costs were in line with the initial budgets, and account for any discrepancies.  One area that often proved challenging was to account for the time spent on the job. Sometimes the team that provided the on-site commissioning services (the Field Services team) were less than prompt in submitting their timesheets each week, and my project budget forecasts would become increasingly inaccurate.

It was understandable really; they spent most of their entire working life on-site at customers’ premises, and so far as they were concerned the timesheet was only needed to make sure that their overtime hours were paid accurately.  Despite the company procedures telling them to get the timesheets in on time, and despite briefings and prompts from their line manager to get their timesheets in on time, they were consistently late.

However, by putting their timesheets in late made my project budget accountability really difficult to report on, and particularly as the project was coming to a close!  Actually, all it took to make sure that their timesheets came on on time was a chat with the Field Services team working on my project.  When they understood the implications of submitting their timesheets late they made every effort to get them in on time every week. Where the company procedures and the briefings from their line manager failed, a short conversation providing an understanding of the implications was all it took to solve the problem.  

An essential key to project harmony was found in alignment; alignment of intentions and alignment of actions.  Whenever intentions and actions were both aligned harmony was within reach.  

I was at a conference recently where Sir Clive Woodward shared some awesome stories from his time at the helm of the British Lions rugby squad and later with the British Olympics Team.  Several of his stories were about the alignment of intentions and actions, which he described as Teamship rules.

One of the stories from the British Lions had to do with timekeeping.  The team concluded that they wanted to adhere to what they called “Lombardi Time”  Apparently it worked this way.  Vince Lombardi was an American Football coach, and he expected his players and coaches to be 15 minutes early to meetings and practices.  The person who was only 10 minutes early would be the last one there; anyone who arrived after that was late.  After Lombardi’s death in 1970, at the football stadium for the Green Bay Packers, where Lombardi was head coach from 1959 to 1967, they even had a clock outside the stadium that was deliberately set 15 minutes early, as a tribute to the legendary NFL coach.

One of his stories from the Olympics was about recognising the challenge of avoiding the transmission of sickness by touching, such as colds and coughs, which could be avoided by the washing of hands.  He raised the issue and asked the entire team for their solutions.  In the end, they decided to install hand sanitisers around the Olympic village and they established a “Teamship Rule” that no-one could pass a hand sanitiser without using it.  Woodward had to pass five sanitisers on the way from his office to the canteen and used every one of them, every time. Everyone did!

An essential key to team harmony was found in alignment; alignment of intentions and alignment of actions.  Whenever intentions and actions were both aligned harmony was within reach.  

The key to effective alignment is for everyone involved to contribute to the discussion, and for everyone involved to agree to the outcome.  Even one dissenting voice means that the team has to think again.  Finally, the result is discussed with the leader, who can then decide whether to agree to sign off the outcome and make it a rule.  

This principle can be applied in all sorts of ways and at all sorts of levels wherever we have a collection of people who want to work together to achieve a successful result.  It applies as well to large issues as well as small issues.  

Another example that Woodward explained had to do with preparing the team on how to deal with team selection for the Rugby World Cup Final in 2003.  Out of the 31 players in the squad, just 15 would be selected to start, and a further 8 selected as substitutes.  The remainder would take no active part in the match. 

One of the things that the team were asked to think about in preparation for the Cup Final was how they would react if they were picked to start, how they would react if they were picked as a substitute, and how they would react if they were not picked to play in that game.  They all had to agree on their response, in advance of the selection process, and they would all hold each accountable for their actions and reactions when the team selection was announced.

Whether it’s domestic harmony, project harmony or team harmony, alignment of intentions and alignment of actions have an enormous impact.  Whenever intentions and actions are both aligned harmony is within reach.

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.