Monday, December 10, 2007

Sinatra Never Set Up His Own Piano

I decided to write this related post, because I wanted to juxtapose these two schools of thought in one place. Thus the reason for two posts on one day.

"Frank Sinatra never set up his own piano," explained an inspirational speaker to a club I was a member of one day in our meeting. He then explained what he meant: great talent rarely comes from being a generalist, but from a person developing a particular skill to its utmost and performing it. If Frank Sinatra had spent a lot of time knowing what it took to move a piano from place to place and then tune it after the move, then he might have been a great lounge act somewhere, but because he focused his talents on his music, we know him as Old Blue Eyes. The speaker was encouraging us as businessmen and community leaders to reduce our involvement in the minutia of our lives that kept us from being the Frank Sinatra of our field.

Managers often have a tendency to micromanage - to make sure every detail of every project is reported to them - because they want to be in control. If, instead, they would learn to delegate to people with a talent for different parts of a project, they could use their talents to expand their businesses.

"Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life," he also told our group. By finding a field that insipred us to work harder, think broader, or reach further, we would not find our job such a daily grind. One of my church leaders recently explained how his father realized he should change fields. His father was a scientist, and they often worked problems together in their home. One day, as they were working one such problem, his father reminded him they had gone over some aspect of the problem before. Then he asked, "Hank, haven't you been thinking about this problem since we last worked on it?" When he admitted he had not, his father said, "Then you need to find another field of study. The men you will compete with in this field will constantly be thinking about it, and you need to find something that inspires you to think like that." He ended up studying business at Harvard and teaching it at Stanford, and he was grateful for a father who gave him such great advice.

Right now, since there is no professional bridge tour (I'm sure it's coming, since they already have Poker and Blackjack), I continue to spend my days imagining better ways to move freight. All kidding aside, I would love to one day teach a course at a college or university on civic leadership, and another one on entrepreneurship or consulting that teamed students with businesses so they got a feel for how those businesses functioned. I took two courses like the second - consulting and small business management - and I know the first one exists at my university. I just don't have the experience yet to really teach those subjects as well as I would like to. For now, I am quite happy learning more about business as I work in my own.

-- Robert

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