People often ask me whom I consider to be the most inspiring and effective of leaders, and mostly they expect me to call out the famous folks–like Jobs, or Gates, or Lincoln or Washington or Mother Theresa.
But I prefer to answer the question from personal experience and not from what I’ve gleaned about people by watching the news, and reading articles and history books. And I’ve never met Steve, or Bill, or Abe, or George, or Mother T.
But I have met Dick Nettell, and he is, hands down, the finest Extreme Leader I’ve met in 20 years of working with leaders across the spectrum of public and private organizations. When we first met, Dick was a VP at Bank of America (pre aquisition by NationsBank ) where he ran the check-processing operation, among other things. I wrote about him in The Radical Edge (bonus points for anyone who finds the reference), but there’s so much more to tell. If you’d read his recommendations on LinkedIn, you’d get a taste of what I mean. There are 41 of them.
Last I checked, I had 8.
I’m telling you about Dick now, because the last time he and I talked, he was finally getting around to writing a book of his own (he’s retired from BofA), and I want to encourage him to finish it. This is my way of giving him a nudge.
In the meantime, he recently posted this tidbit over on our GTY Project Group. I gave it a slight edit (I can’t help it!), and I’m happy to share it with you here. As far as Dick’s wisdom and experience goes, this is the tip of the tip of the iceberg:
“Years ago, my biggest single weakness (and I had a lot) was my tendency to react very quickly to situations, without thinking through the impact my words may have on others. I had a new boss, whose career had been sidetracked for just this weakness.
“One day, after an event where I went off on someone half-cocked, he came into my office and shut the door. I has in the middle of budgets, with papers scattered around my desk as I double checked a spreadsheet with a calculator (yep, it was a long time ago). He asked me what I would do if I found an error.
“‘I’d fix it,’ I replied.
“‘No,’ he said. ‘What specific action would you take?’
“‘I’d erase it and start over.’
“He then held out his hand and asked for the pencil I was using. He held it up and pointed at the eraser and said, ‘Dick, they don’t make one of these for dealing with people. If you are writing something or adding up columns of numbers and you make an error, you can simply erase and correct, and it’s as through the error never occurred. They don’t make an eraser for dealing with people. People might forgive an error, but they will never forget. You have to live with that.’
“That had a huge impact on me. Not only did I not forget, it systemically changed my approach, especially during ‘moments of truth.’ Because of his gift of coaching I was able to not only turn a weakness into a strength, but to share this with countless teammates over the years.”
And thanks, Dick, for sharing that with us.
We’re all looking forward to much, much more.
Aren’t we, folks?