Over the past couple of years I have experienced some discomfort in my lower back. Since I travel for a living, I have accepted the impact that long plane rides and various bed qualities have on back health. In fact, over 2/3 of the population of the US, will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetime, and the Cleveland Clinic reports that lower back pain is the most common cause of disability in people below age 45. In addition, I’ve had two back surgeries in the distant past. So I didn’t think much of it until my physician referred me to a neurologist who ordered MRIs of my lower back.
Doctors have found my “suspect component.”
The disks in my lower spine are virtually gone due to degenerative disk disease. I met with a neurosurgeon for further review. He ordered more MRIs (of the cervical & thoracic spine and of the neck). We reviewed those images a few weeks later. Spinal fusion is the surgical solution being discussed. I’m not jumping into that quite yet. I’m stretching & managing pretty well.
At some point in time, my suspect component will need to be addressed surgically.
There are “suspect components” in many areas of life. In his book, Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell described how Navy SEAL boot camp was a ruthless elimination process for an elite fighting force that “cannot tolerate a suspect component.” The incredible physical and mental demands on SEAL candidates ensured that only the strongest made it through. The weaker candidates self-selected out.
As another example, we just had the timing belt changed on our 2006 Honda Pilot. Though that critical part has an expected lifespan of 100,000 miles, its age caused it to be considered a “suspect component” that could fail at any time. A broken timing belt can cause incredible damage to a motor. Rather than risk the belt breaking, we had it replaced.
We also see suspect components in workplaces. A team member who over-promises and under-delivers erodes team performance as well as team member confidence in his or her ability to carry their load. S/he is a suspect component.
Bosses who manage by fear and intimidation may generate short-term results from their team. Long-term, though, they experience inconsistent service levels, team members quitting and leaving (or quitting and staying), and little proactive problem solving by team members. These bosses are a suspect component – a key but weak part that could break and cause significant damage.
How do you identify suspect components in your team or company? Before you can hold yourself or anyone else in the organization accountable for performance or values, you have to formally define expected performance and expected valued behaviors. This specifies what an “A+” contributor looks, acts, and sounds like.
With those expectations in place, you observe leaders and players closely. When you see missed performance expectations, you engage, investigate, and coach back to standard. When you see less-than-desired values and citizenship, you engage, investigate, and coach back to standard.
In that environment, suspect components must choose to step up and deliver or to self-select out. If they don’t step up and don’t self-select out, you must lovingly set them free.
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