The World’s Best Street Sweeper

January 25 2015

The Project Manager, Steve, had everyone who was working on the new telecom technology moved into the same room on the top floor of the R&D building. We were there to stay until the work was done. And this changed everything.
What Steve did was different. This was the mid-90’s in Cape Town, South Africa, and I was experiencing for the first time what it meant to be part of a team heading toward success. It’s incredible what a room of people all believing the same thing can achieve together and it felt analogous to the change the entire country was experiencing at that time too.
I am still not sure what caused me to start writing down notes about Steve and the people around me, but I did. In the years since that first project I have had the pleasure of working alongside thousands of people across 35 countries and continued to take notes on observed behavior that led to moments of meaning and significance.
For all of you kind Listserve people, here’s a glance at a few of the best from over 450 notes captured in the past 20 years about people who helped others, gave hope, achieved success and created something important.It is more important to try and be the best street sweeper in the world than being an average boss. Avoid the Peter Principle.

The more compressed a message is, the further it can travel.

Using an oil tanker for water skiing won’t work. Scaled operating models break speed operating models, and vice versa. Speed can grow to become scaled.

When you’re leading you do not have the option of having a bad day. You have to be excited about what’s happening before others have the propensity to feel the same.

Proximity beats hierarchy every time.

Nobody can change the culture of a group (things people do when no-one is looking). Instead, start something nearby in a new environment and with a different purpose that celebrates success often. People will gravitate towards it by themselves. Success is contagious.

You cannot unpunch someone.

There are only three conditions that cause a person to stall: they don't understand what to do, they disagree with the direction or raw “lizard brain” fear. Have genuine concern and fix the situation, not the person.

Being supported is a satisfier. Helping others is a motivator. Until you’ve helped someone else, you’ve never really helped yourself.

Nose in, hands out. Micro management dents dignity and destroys creativity.

The bigger your role in an organization, the more you need to ask: “what can I do to help you?” Also the quieter your tone and the more deliberate your words should be.

If you have to dive into a sea of sharks, bring fish.

And finally; every person in this world has a story, things they want to do in their life and something they care a lot about. Even the shyest of people can ask, “where are you from?” and “what brought you here?”

What else? What are the best things you’ve seen happen in business or in life that changed everything? I’d love to hear them.
I’ve been considering writing a book to capture all of the notes I have so far and adding some additional explanation and examples for each. Is that something you’d be interested in reading?

Thank you for making every day a school day and daring to make a difference.

Ben Love
[email protected]
Atlanta, GA

comments powered by Disqus