“It is a fine game to play the game of politics,
and it is well worth a good hand before really plunging.”
Winston S. Churchill
Jonathan with Business Coach & Author Keith Cunningham
On Monday I had the pleasure of going to the Business Excellence Forum and Awards. We heard from some great business leaders such as Keys To The Vault expert Keith Cunningham, BNI founder Dr. Ivan Misner, and Travis Bell, The Bucket List Guy.
Keith, like Warren Buffett, maintains that each business needs a scoreboard, and the scoreboard gives you vital optics so you can plot your path to success. Buffett believed that if you can’t read the scoreboard, you can’t tell the winners from the losers. Sound advice for us all, but reflecting on Churchill in his time, imagine how much more important that scoreboard would have been.
If you have ever visited Churchill’s underground bunker: The Cabinet War Rooms, you would agree that potentially one of the most understated rooms is the Map Room. Peering through the glass, one is immediately struck by the cramped space in this tiny room that was of such great significance. The bank of corded telephones in the centre channel of the desk, where up to five operators would sit incessantly taking and making calls, brings the technology advancements of today into perspective. Imagine how busy they would have been, especially during the Blitz! For me, it is incredible to think that Churchill masterminded the victory in 1945 with one computer (courtesy of Alan Turing), basic communications, and maps.
Inside the Map Room
This world map represented the scoreboard Churchill frequently checked to strategically plan his next move. Keith told us that the key to using the business scoreboard is knowing how to interpret it. A scoreboard gives you numbers, but those numbers then need to be converted into actions, and they determine whether you are on the right track, or need to make a course adjustment.
There were many battles during the Second World War, and at times we were badly losing in the field. In those moments, Churchill would view his scoreboard, convert the numbers to determine how his strategy should adjust.
In business today we all need that scoreboard. As leaders we need to know how to measure and how to convert those numbers into strategy. Our scoreboard will show us the reality of how our product is being welcomed in the market place, and how are team is performing. ‘When you learn the tools that work, you get the results that are possible.’ – Keith Cunningham.
“ARE YOU KEEPING SCORE?” is part of the Lead Like Churchill Series
London in June can be a beautiful sight to behold. The flowers are out, trees are in bloom, and the birds chirp from dawn until dusk, tweeting out their beautiful and engaging songs for all to hear, bringing in the summer on the cusp of their joyful music. Standing in Parliament Square, looking around at the magnificent yet imposing architecture, the light begins to cast a shadow and as it creeps the mass of black begins to take form. First the tip of an unidentifiable head appears, then bit by bit, the rest of the body takes shape, and within minutes you find yourself standing by the cast shadow of Britain’s greatest hero, my great-grandfather and Britain’s Wartime Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. I briefly closed my eyes, allowing the sunlight to beat against my face. The unaffected world passed around me as I peacefully stood imagining myself there, in that same spot also in June, seventy-five years before.
The European war had been raging on for nine months and the Allies were being overrun on every battlefield. The people of Britain eagerly awaited positive news but until Churchill took over the war effort leadership less than a month before, all news had been bad news. 1940 was one of Churchill’s most challenging years. History bears witness to the close-call of defeat that lurked around every street corner, and bred a fear that infected every household. Over the crackling wireless my great-grandfather’s voice echoed with words that struck deep into the hearts and minds of every Englishman, and every ally. “We will never surrender,” was the assurance with which Churchill pinned Parliament’s colours to the mask, and gave Britain the goal she had until now lacked from the leaders who brought us into this fight unprepared. “We will never surrender,” Churchill’s determination that gave hope and courage to millions in the face of almost certain defeat was never more needed than in June 1940, as thousands of ships, boats, and other flotillas crossed the perilous English Channel to rescue the 400,000 troops stranded at Dunkirk. It was a miraculous victory, and the one Churchill so desperately needed to silence his skeptics and solidify his premiership. Within three weeks of Dunkirk, France would surrender and the great Battle of Britain would begin.
From July to October 1940, the Luftwaffe subjected Britain to the cruelest of attacks, indiscriminately bombing civilian populations, churches, hospitals and private homes. Night after night Churchill stood atop his underground bunker, (the Cabinet War Rooms), horrified as he watched the attacks on his people, courageously with them above ground, but as the fires around the city rose, burning the centuries-old buildings he had known in his youth, he realized with frustration that in that moment he was as equally helpless to act.
Churchill scorned Hitler’s monstrous attacks and it served only to strengthen his resolve, “…he will have to break us in this island or lose the war,” he told Britain… “And now it has come to us to stand alone in the breach, and face the worst that the tyrant’s might and enmity can do.”
Before Churchill, Britain had been all-but ready to surrender. Chamberlain had sadly proved to be a weak wartime leader and there was a great national relief when he resigned and Churchill was appointed. “We are ready to defend our native land,” Churchill told the people at the height of the London attacks. “We are fighting by ourselves alone; but we are not fighting for ourselves alone,” he said. “…let all strive without failing in faith or in duty, and the dark curse of Hitler will be lifted from our age.” Never before had the British people heard a voice of such determination, and it was infectious. Every man, woman and child rallied. Neighbors who had never spoken began passing the time of day. Years old conflicts were put aside and as the fences were rebuilt, Churchill changed Britain’s focus from the threatening reality of defeat to the possibility, however narrow, of victory. “If this long island story of ours is to end at last,” Churchill told the War Cabinet, “let it end only when each of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”
Standing opposite the Parliament building I scan the droves of tourists, free and happy, laughing as they walk, some briefly stopping for photographs, others meandering around the square and off down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square. Before moving on I briefly glance up at the statue of my great-grandfather and quietly thank God for him. The realization of how close we came to losing, that but for Churchill many of us wouldn’t be here, and Britons would be speaking German, hits hard. In 2015, we face wars on smaller scales but each with the frightening ability to escalate, and “without having improved appreciably in virtue or enjoying wiser guidance,” Churchill warned, “[Mankind] has got into its hands for the first time the tools by which it can unfailingly accomplish its own extermination.” We need a Churchill today and we need a Churchill now.
Unless you know Westminster, where the Parliament building sits, you might fail to notice the small thin road that passes between two large white buildings aside Parliament Square; Great George Street. Leading to the Wellington Memorial Arch aside which sits Apsley House, (Number One, London), the home of the Duke of Wellington, this road, beautifully eclipsed by evergreen trees, was travelled by Churchill on many occasions during the Second World War. Whether first or last, the road Churchill more often took was Horse Guards. Unknown publically until the 1980s, Horse Guards Road was the site of Churchill’s very secret bunker; the Cabinet War Rooms. While the bombs dropped above ground, the business of war continued below.
The innocuous entrance to the Cabinet War Rooms camouflaged itself behind sandbags. Although it would be rare that Churchill would enter from the road as there was an adjoining tunnel running from 10 Downing Street into the bunker, it was imperative that no one knew of its existence. “This is the room from which I will direct the war,” Churchill declared to those accompanying him on his first visit. During the five years of his leadership, 115 Cabinet meetings were held there, the last being in March 1945, when Hitler again attempted to break the Britons spirit with the V-bombs.
My first impression on entering the Cabinet War Rooms is a mixture of awe and bewilderment. Were we to face a war on a similar scale today, the bunker would most definitely offer a form of protection, but not much beyond. Governments wage war from the comfort of their official buildings. The President of the United States has his Situation Room, and the British Prime Minister has Downing Street. Communication over a secure channel is much simpler today. The old Transatlantic Room, where Churchill sat many times to speak with President Roosevelt is cramped with space only for one desk, one chair, one desk lamp and a phone. The sparse surroundings gives one the feeling that they are peering into a prison cell, not a communications room. On the occasions my great-grandfather entered the room and picked up the phone, a click was heard on both ends, signifying a listening ear. Both great leaders, desperately wanting to be honest with each other, knew that some secrets were best kept until a face-to-face meeting could take place. ‘Careless lips,’ were the watch words in that room, and often, when either Churchill or Roosevelt touched on sensitive subjects, the line would suddenly go dead, as the listener cut them off to ensure our secrets remained so.
My next stop was the Cabinet Room itself. Twenty-two black plastic-covered seats around blue cloth draped tables occupied the majority of the room, with little space to walk around. I sat in my great-grandfather’s chair and looked out through the glass that was once a wall. Behind me was a large world map, and on the table in front, an old red box, the type used by Cabinet Ministers. An unlit cigar sits in the silver ashtray on what would have been Churchill’s left, patiently awaiting its owner’s return. It’s amazing, even after seventy years the smell of cigar smoke still lingers, and the air of awe still fills that room.
Further down the corridor one passes the many rooms that housed the various personnel who were stationed in the bunker throughout the war. Churchill and my great-grandmother Clementine had separate bedrooms, and close-by were their security details. The walls of my great-grandfather’s bedroom are covered with maps. There is single bed with green coverings. At the back of the room sits a desk with an armchair on its right. The desk itself is nothing to write home about, like all the furnishings in the bunker, it is what it needs to be; functional. I felt a whiff of nostalgia while sitting behind my great-grandfather’s desk listening to Phil Reid, the Director of the Cabinet War Rooms, speaking of the many hours Churchill spent in that room and the speeches he gave from the desk where I now sat. In this day and age, it is hard to imagine what life was truly like in those days. Historical accounts, although accurate, offer only the facts but are devoid of the most basic and important of senses; touch and smell. But sitting in the room, again the pungent smell of cigar smoke filling my nostrils, I felt empowered, as if Churchill himself were there beside me. How amazing that even after such a long time Churchill’s presence, like the never fading smell of his cigar smoke, remains.
Of all the rooms that were occupied during and preserved as-they-were after the war, the most impressive must be the Map Room. From here, Churchill could see the full movement of our troops. From this room, Churchill watched engagements in real-time. The White House Situation Room has been featured on many films, and I would imagine that the room itself is much more impressive in the flesh. Computerized maps are thrown-up on screens with satellite footage of troop engagement, and in the White House Situation Room, Presidents have access to almost anything at the simple touch of a button. Wars are fought from that room, just as Churchill fought the Second World War from his Map Room. But standing in the Map Room where my great-grandfather had stood some seventy years before, I was totally gob-smacked by the lack of technology around me. A wooden table, divided in the middle with a bank of telephones on a raised shelf, was the only technology in sight. Phil took me over to the large wall-mounted map. At a glance you see only notes that have been stuck in various places on it. However, on closer inspection you begin to see millions and millions of tiny holes covering almost every spare space. My wife Sara asked Phil about this and he smiled, “Pins were used to indicate troop positions,” he told her. “As they moved, so did the pins.” When Britain entered the war on September 3, 1939, we were heavily outnumbered. We had little manpower and few weapons, barely enough to last the year out. Unmoved by the facts before him, Churchill proceeded as always in the direction he had set; the road to victory, and nothing would deter him, no matter how much Germany had in comparison to Britain.
From the Map Room I walked along another corridor to the Churchill Museum, “We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow-worm” Churchill’s words etched in stone, is the first thing you see as you enter. I was present at the opening of this addition to the War Rooms and I remember the event very well. My cousin Winston, (Churchill’s grandson), was present. While looking at the amazing video footage and Churchillian memorabilia on display I heard Winston’s excited voice from across the room, followed almost immediately by a loud booming bang. I went over to investigate. A group had gathered around him and when he saw me, he beckoned me over. “I want you to watch this,” he said. Standing by a giant computerized cabinet table with dates running along both sides, Winston started to flick at the table and the dates began to move. He selected 1945, August. The date he chose was the 6th. Up popped a digitalize sheet of paper with the announcement of the first Atomic Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. Suddenly a loud bang rang out, and the screen shone with a bright white light, followed by another sheet that gave more facts of the day. Winston was very excited. The interactive Churchill Museum is crammed with some of the most interesting Churchill memorabilia around. One of his Siren Suits is on display, the pistol he used prior to his capture from the Boers in 1899. There are digital images of his paintings, many of his original letters, awards and other such items, but one thing that draws more attention than most is his US passport.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy created my great-grandfather the first Honorary Citizen of the United States. Sadly Churchill never got to use it, and the honor was accepted on his behalf by his son Randolph. However, Churchill’s love for the United States and its people was no secret, “I cannot help reflecting,” Churchill quipped in front of Congress in December 1941, “if my father had been American and my mother British instead of the other way round, I might have got here on my own.”
In June 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, I, along with my wife Sara, am conducting a luxurious, exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of what is titled: Churchill’s Britain. The Cabinet War Rooms represents part of that tour, and as a guest you too will have the opportunity to go behind-the-glass where visitors are not able to tread. You will stand in Churchill’s bedroom, smell the waft of cigar smoke as you enter the Cabinet Room, feel the seventy year old pin holes representing the various campaigns of the Second World War, and then eat in the Switch Room. After dinner you will have the chance to revisit the rooms you wish to, or meander through the museum exploring the 90-year life of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill’s Britain 2015 will be a fun and next-to-none experience for all.
For more information or to book your place on the tour, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SPACE IS LIMITED AND FILLING FAST
The brochure can be viewed and downloaded at: http://wscint.com