Imagine it is your job to be a traffic officer at the busiest intersection in a large city. You wake up early each morning before the sun comes up, put on your uniform, grab your whistle, and arrive at your intersection before the rush hour traffic emerges in full fury. You were hired for this position after putting in hours of training and proving you had the skills for the job. Your predecessor taught you well. Also, you have a deep passion for keeping people safe on the roads because of a near tragic experience from your past. You take great pride in keeping the traffic moving while maintaining a zero-accident-rate for the past year since you started. Although you love your work, you recognize it is temporary and some day you will move on to other opportunities. This compels you to consider your replacement. You want someone that will continue the legacy of keeping the busiest intersection in the city flowing and safe.
This story highlights the fifth and final principle in the Positive Performance Culture blog series: We are stewards of our position. A steward is someone who manages another’s property or financial matters as if it were his or her own. There are four characteristics of a person who is a steward of his or her position that must be fostered to create a positive performance culture.
1. Care – Each person cares for their position as if it belongs to someone else.
My brother is a professional musician. A few years ago, he was given a very expensive guitar from a friend to use for a period of time. He treated that instrument as a precious gift and wanted to make sure it was returned in better condition than he received it. That is the type of care that should be applied to a position.
2. Temporary – Each person understands their position is only for a season.
The second characteristic is every position is temporary. Temporary may mean 6 months or 20 years, but it is still temporary. At some point the position will be relinquished. When that position is completed and cared for well, the holder of it can confidently hand it off to the next person.
3. Replacement – Each person develops their replacement.
The handoff of a position is the third and one of the most critical characteristics of a steward of the position. Organizations and teams lose time, quality, and trust when the replacement of a position is not done well. Thus, identifying and preparing a replacement reduces many challenges within organizations.
4. Flow – Each person keeps their flow of resources moving.
The final characteristic is flow. Just like the opening story about the traffic officer, resources are constantly flowing into, through, and out of each person’s position. Resources include information, money, skills, knowledge, tools, and one’s time. If a person stops or delays the flow, the system gets clogged up and does not function as well. For example, imagine a person coming to you and asking about growth opportunities. This person wants to learn and advance in his or her career. You can choose to ignore the request (stop the flow), stall the request (delay the flow), or help this person find answers (continue the flow). A steward of the position keeps the flow going as much as possible.
As an inspirational leader, you have the opportunity to intentionally create a positive performance culture. Modeling, teaching, and encouraging people to be stewards of their position will help build this culture.
What actions can you take this week to help people recognize and act as if they are stewards of their position?