Jumpstarts, the XC90 Volvo and Being Transformative

Each time I pick up my car in Bordeaux Airport I am completely aware of one thing. After I land and schlepp my way to the car park, luggage in hand, four-inch heels, and usually miles from the terminal… the battery will be dead. Not just a little dead but completely and utterly dead. Not a sausage of life.

As I’m at 30000 feet and headed there now, this is ever present in my mind.

I will arrive and need to tell the parking team, in my perfect French (I have none), that once again my battery is kaput (you get the issue with my French), and they will once again look at me and think – why doesn’t she get a new bl**dy battery? (It is very new – it’s just my car is France rarely driven).

It’s a comedic routine each time. The parking team sees me coming. They look at each other. In perfect French, they ask me where my car is. They tell me they will meet me at my car. They say things in French under their breath (my lack of French is not a problem to understand what they say), and I am sure they have a bit of a chuckle as I walk away.

The first few dozen times this happened, about 10 years ago, it was a perfect storm. No English from them, no French from me. I was lucky if we both found each other in the car park! And, I would always arrive home much later than had I just caught a cab. (That’s a different story).

But our communication skills were not the only problem. I have a Volvo. For many years, it was hit and miss as to whether the car started at all. I couldn’t understand. I bought new batteries multiple times, I had them tested, I had Volvo look at the issues. Why didn’t the battery start? The cables would be attached, positive and negative to the correct places (yes, on the battery point and grounded – see The Telegraph newspaper 60 second mechanic). I would crank the engine only to hear that famous French word from the nice gentleman with the cables – M***%!

We would try everything, and I would, still in my perfect French, plead with the young men to ‘try again, try harder, please don’t give up, it will eventually start’.

For those of you whom know the XC90, I am embarrassed to say, we were in-fact placing the cables under the hood of the car. Yes, you know where I am going. It was not until about my seventh year of this that I made the realization the battery was in-fact in the rear of the car! Cars are clearly not my thing – we cant be good at everything.

As Jon Wylie, our Head of Mining reminds me, even a blind squirrel finds a nut, and yes, it would eventually get the required jumpstart and turn over the engine. Voila! It would start. I’ll spare you the rest of my battery woes, and yes, I could in-fact simply disconnect it prior to departure.

So why am I writing about batteries, Volvos, the French language and jumper-cables? They provide the basis to a great story on transformation and the need to jumpstart your transformation efforts with gusto. In fact, they talk to the question – are you a transformative leader?

Jumpstarts are a necessary part of life. Sometimes a jumpstart comes with energy, from a belly on fire and great leadership, and other times it’s delivered like a damp wet cloth, reluctantly and soured by poor management practices.

I believe, if you want to lead transformation projects in your business and be transformative you must be all-in. You must look at how you jumpstart the program at the very beginning. You must be on fire. I don’t mean your business or your platform burning, or anything around you being on fire. I mean you. You must have that fire in your belly that makes you need to get up in the morning and make a difference. To want to make a difference in your business more than any other part of your work being.

You must want to jumpstart your transformation with the right language, the right skills, the right tools, the right amount of energy. Fiery energy. You must want to truly make stuff happen.

Importantly, you must want to make it happen through people. Because doing it through people is the only way you get transformative results – and I do wish there was a better word for transformation that everyone understood. It pains me to use such a corporate word for such a personal, human thing. But never-the-less, your goal, as the leader of transformation is to lean-forward and jumpstart your improvement team with a blast, not a whimper. Common language, great tools, confidence building language, right road map designed in the right sequence, right aspirations, right people and skills. Most of all with a leader who wants to lead the parade.

So, what are you doing to jumpstart your improvement efforts and be transformative to not just enable (corporate speak) your people but to jumpstart your teams next level of performance?

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