Making Greatness

An important question is "What stands in the way of us being great people or real leaders in maintenance?" In other words what stands in the way for maintenance folks to speak and to have the whole company see something for themselves and follow us? Maintenance has a great contribution to make to the success of our organizations, particularly in these tough times. Many of the lessons we've learned would be applicable to the whole organization.

What distinguishes the great maintenance leaders from the rest of the competent but not inspiring and leading practitioners?

Is it intelligence? There are many brilliant people who cannot get any traction for their ideas and projects. Some retreat after the first few failures and become cynical, resigned but still brilliantly intelligent.

Is it tenacity? If we were making a greatness stew, we would certainly add a good sized dose of tenacity. Yet maintenance people are already tenacious to the point of being bull-headed. More tenacity might be a problem for everyone around us.

Is it talent? How many of us have seen talented people fail? Talented people face a serious problem in maintenance. No matter how talented you are, there are more problems than any human has resources to cope with. Talented people frequently excel but don't necessarily make it past the hurdle to greatness.

Is it discipline? We all know people who are extremely disciplined; who do good works and have their jobs and lives well-organized but never seem to rise to the level of greatness.

We are looking at what makes a leader in maintenance. Is it opportunity? Often greatness is thrust upon people. Some of the most effective leaders just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Clearly opportunity is necessary but it is not everything.

Is it genetic? Some people may be born with the right combination of intelligence and tenacity to be successful in life. The problem with that is that if greatness is predetermined from birth then we can't do anything to change it. We might as well hang it up now since we can't change our genetics.

Is it contacts? "It's not who you are, it's who you know." How many people have heard that? This is very true. Give me a maintenance professional with a wide range of maintenance and vendor friends and I'll show you someone who can find an expert to help solve problems quickly. Is knowing more people going to make us great? Better possibly, but great?

Perhaps it is intention. Certainly intentionality is important to producing results. But too strong a drive makes people annoying and engenders resistance. This is the opposite of greatness. Greatness creates a charisma that people want to follow.

Of course it might be luck. A famous phrase is "It's better to be lucky than to be smart." That applies to maintenance like any other field. Even a dim manager can look good when the price of their product doubles. Remember how smart the oil companies looked when their prices shot up? But a great maintenance leader will, to some extent, make his or her own luck.

Some of you might be thinking we could make up a recipe for greatness from the ingredients mentioned above. But even with all that, there are hurdles, traps and impediments in the way of maintenance people who are reaching for the gold medal. I submit that what stands in the way of greatness might not be personal to us but is something going on in our organizations.

To be continued...