At the Descartes Evolution event this morning, Tom Flick followed my keynote with an inspirational talk on leadership.
One of the most poignant points in his talk was when he described being asked to go into a game (he was backup quarterback for the Washington Redskins) against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers.
His years of quarterback training kicked in (he had a fabulous college career) and he scanned the defensive formation to see if it was overloaded on any side and whether to call an audible. He was relaxed when all of a sudden, he hears the fierce Jack Lambert, missing front teeth and all, shout at him “Hey, who are you?”
As Flick humorously described it his own offensive linemen also focused on the question – yeah, who is this guy and where is our starting quarterback, Joe Theisman?
Lambert – the guy that rookie John Elway (now Hall of Famer) said of in 1983: "He had no teeth, and he was slobbering all over himself. I'm thinking, 'You can have your money back, just get me out of here. Let me go be an accountant. I can't tell you how badly I wanted out of there."
Flick did okay in the game – they almost won, but the question rattled him through the flight back home. “Who are you?”
It was Flick’s way of saying times of stress and challenge make us humble and reach deep for our true values and to stretch ourselves. It was an awesome talk where he also described the fears that drove NASA when President Kennedy challenged them with his moon shot speech.
I think every innovation team should have their own Jack Lambert poster or a proxy to motivate them to higher scales.
I plan to ask myself the “Who are you?” question on my flight this afternoon.