General Patton on Project Leadership
Learning from other leaders in 2011
Take a look at the calendar this month, and Memorial Day pops up. It means lots of things to lots of people: Spring is here, barbecue season is beginning, baseball is underway, and die-hard football fans know that training camp is approaching. Mason contractors may be amazed that they are still in business, but they are! Somberly, we remember colleagues and competitors who chose not to hang on.
Mostly, though, we reflect on those who came before us, preserving and protecting our nation. Great leadership, with which we have been blessed over the years, can only come from great leaders. We can debate which are classed as great, but few thinking people would exclude Gen. George S. Patton from that list of candidates. So I’ve “asked” him (as only Coach Gary can) if he might answer a few questions and offer some comments for us today, since what he has to say to the contractors, project managers, superintendents and foremen of our industry is something we can take to heart now, as well as things we can put into action tomorrow.
Almost 70 years ago, Gen. Patton burst onto the world scene, and just in time to help pull it from the brink of either annihilation or enslavement. Freedom hanged in the balance and could have been lost, but for the military of the West – primarily the United States. And, by the way, Patton was about 55 years old as WWII began for this country in 1941.
What was so great and different about Patton? In a word, attitude. Let’s just see if we can get The General to give us some tips on leadership. If he were heading up your company today, what might his thoughts be? Imagine him at your board meeting, thinking about the state of affairs of your business this year. And so, after being briefed on your situation, here’s what he might suggest.
Coach Gary: General, it’s been a horrible business climate for the past couple of years. Things look scary for us.
General Patton: The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead...Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
Coach Gary: Well…there’s lots of doom and gloom out there. Even the financial commentators are throwing up their hands. They’re just hoping things will work out somehow.They are cautioning against business expansion and warning of impending failure.
General Patton: You need to overcome the tug of people against you as you reach for high goals…Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.
Coach Gary: Good point! Maybe that’s the difference between those who actually do it, and those who only talk about it! Financial writers and pundits have only their careers and credibility at stake, not the business or industry of a contractor. So, if after some thorough research we find a project or a business niche that has some promise, you’d still consider being aggressive, even in this economy?
General Patton: Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more…Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash…Better to fight for something than live for nothing.
Coach Gary: But, General, to be fair, it does look kind of bleak out there for many of our companies.Many say that we should all just “pull in our horns” and wait it out – hope for the best. I’m guessing that you disagree.
General Patton: A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.
Coach Gary: Is there any way to plan for what might be ahead?
General Patton: Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.
Coach Gary: Some people are afraid to move ahead; others think that they must fall back.Your thoughts?
General Patton: I do not fear failure. I only fear the “slowing up” of the engine inside of me, which is pounding, saying, “Keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?”
Thanks to all of you out there who are still fighting for survival, hanging on and believing in the future. And, in the words of our guest, remember that “pressure makes diamonds.”
Most of all, thanks to those men and women protecting freedom around the world and here at home. They truly are what Memorial Day is all about. This year, especially, with our country involved in three “wars,” may our Day not just be about barbecues and baseball.
For more of Gen. Patton’s quotes, visit microsoftprojectclasses.com/general-patton-project.
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.