The Barn Car

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In 1968, the movie “Bullitt” was released, starring Steve McQueen.

Frank Bullitt, McQueen’s character, was a police lieutenant working in San Francisco. He was assigned to protect a high-profile witness in an organized crime case.

His witness, however, was killed in his hotel room by a hitman while on his watch.

This drove Bullitt to embark on a relentless investigation to catch those responsible. As you can imagine, mayhem then ensued.

The film is remembered for its spectacular car chases. In the movie, McQueen drove a 1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback.

Fast forward to 2018. The car used in the movie, which was presumed lost, was discovered in a barn in rural Tennessee. It was in rough shape, but was authenticated as the real deal.

The Barn Car.

After restoration, the car sold at auction for a whopping $3.74 million in January 2020.

It turns out that “Barn Cars” are a thing. They are cars that are often found in very poor condition but have high inherent worth because of their rarity or other historical significance.

As leaders, we all encounter “barn cars” throughout our leadership lives. For us, these are people somewhere in our sphere of influence who may be in rough shape.

Poor performance. Life challenges. Difficult personality. Maybe just generally worn down.

But – all of them have inherent worth and a contribution to make somewhere.

Not all of these folks, as in our car analogy, can be successfully restored. But, as leaders, how can we make best efforts to achieving positive outcomes?

Here are eight ideas:

Potential – Everyone has hidden potential, but they may not have had the opportunity to showcase it. By investing some time in relationship, a good leader can recognize and unleash this potential by providing the right environment and opportunities.

Empower – Everyone wants to make a difference somewhere, somehow. But they may have forgotten or just given up. Tough times can do that. Looking past the surface will give insight into how we can best coach, train and support. Providing growth opportunities is sometimes all it takes to reignite the flame.

Experience – Everyone has valuable experience. Some detective work may be needed to discover where it can be applied. Ask them directly how they feel their past experience can contribute.

Off Road – Sometimes going “off road” with someone helps unlock potential. Be open to unconventional approaches. Boxes keep things tidy, but jumping out of them from time to time with people may help.

Patience – People, teams and projects all need time to recover from setbacks. During these restorative periods, remain patient and go the extra mile to support the restoration of confidence and success.

History – Take time to understand a person’s history and the seminal moments in their life story. This takes time, but sometimes gold isn’t found by panning in the river, you have to dig a little deeper.

Adapt – Is it possible to adapt any facet of what you are doing to help restore a person’s confidence or strengths? Perhaps by changing a job description, work environment, or reporting relationship? Simple changes sometimes allow a person to thrive.

Depth – Swimming on the surface is fun, but the real beauty lies underneath. This applies to people as well. Invest the time to see what’s there. You’ll probably find some good stuff.

We may ultimately need to part company with someone in need of restoration.

But, most times, it’s worth giving restoration a shot.

We may just help someone in the shadows discover and live their best life.

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