In the days of my engineering career, I had a colleague called George who was slightly older than I, certainly more worldly wise and indeed wiser in general. George cultivated a rather detached view of life, being something of a rebel but unwilling to rock the boat too much. His great saving grace was that he had a wicked sense of humour.
In the early days of his career, he had been one of three partners in a contract engineering design and drawing office and, as he said that he was the only one with a tie, he had the job of going out to see Chief Designers to generate some business.
On one occasion he found himself in front of the Chief Designer of a major rubber processing company who told him that they needed some rubber moulding tools to be designed and could they offer some assistance?
George said confidently: "We are world experts in the design of rubber moulding tools" which encouraged the Chief Designer to give him the assignment. On his way back to his office, George popped into the Lending Library and found a book on the design of rubber moulding tools which was a total mystery as far as he and his partners were concerned, and proceeded to get to work.
On presenting the designs, the Chief Designer said: "You're right, George, you really are world experts. We have been in the business for years and we couldn't solve this one and you have done it!"
As George said to me afterwards: "It's a good thing that he didn't tell me beforehand that the job was impossible, so we just went ahead and did it!"
And the moral? I suppose that it is all about the "can do" attitude as against the shake of the head, and the sharp intake of breath approach to life. It is the prerogative of the leader to engender a positive attitude in the team and, most importantly, to ensure that nobody is blamed if something doesn't quite work.
I know that I have banged on about the importance of positive thinking in previous posts but this story reinforced my attitude to the solution of issues. As Henry Ford said: If you say you can or you say you can't, you're always right".
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