Thursday, 30 March 2017

Darwin's Theory

Very few companies are revolutionary in their thinking.  Over the past century we can point to only a few that changed the course of history.  I look at the invention of flight; the invention of penicillin and the invention of the internet among these few.  

None of these was invented by a company. Rather they were the result of innovative thinking combined with trials and errors that often developed in a laboratory or a garage. 

Today’s best leaders are not so much revolutionary in their thinking as they are evolutionary.  They have the ability to see not only the value of an invention but also its’ broader application.  Here are some obvious examples.

Microsoft did not invent the personal computer.  They simply saw ways to integrate a host of different processes on a common platform.  Google and Facebook did not invent the internet.  They saw ways to use it in ways that made it functional for billions of people.  Apple recognized that a cell phone could do more than make a call or receive a text.

In their evolutionary thinking they also recognized that only the strong survive.  Microsoft vanquished IBM; Google has out done AOL and Yahoo.  Facebook overwhelmed My Space and Apple has become the world’s most valuable company.  In each case, the genius was not inventing the tool but in using it.  Evolution, not revolution!

What is the implication for you as a leader? 

You need to be focused on two primary objectives.  The first is to be constantly innovating and evolving.  The status quo is not good enough.  When the leaders of Nokia faced the press on May 6, 2016 during their final days the CEO said, through his tears ‘…we didn’t do anything wrong…’ Well they didn’t do the right things to innovate and change.

The second, and equally critical objective, is extreme execution.  You may have all the innovation in the world but if you fail to execute, you will not survive.

Every day you need to be assessing your company’s performance against these two metrics.  What are you doing and how are you doing?

Darwin had it right.  The strong survive and dominate because they adapt.  They find their place in the pecking order and learn how to dominate in that space. 

Will you dominate or become extinct?  Your commitment to leadership will make the difference!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Pay it Forward.

There is an element of leadership that appeals to the lone wolf.  This person wants the responsibility of the final decision.  They don’t mind being held accountable.  They are very much a person for whom ‘…the buck stops here…’

The fallacy though is that these aspects of leadership apply to everyone in positions of responsibility.  It is not something unique to the lone wolf.  Every leader is ultimately accountable for the decisions made. But the wise leader also covets the counsel of a trusted mentor and the input of valued associates. The broader the base of quality input, the better that the final decision will be. 

Some may view this is as a sign of weakness; a lack of confidence; or a lack of competence.  In fact, the opposite is true.  When you recognize your own limitations and the value of input, you make superior decisions.  The issue is not the quantity of comments that contribute to the decision but rather the issue is the quality of the decision.

If you already have a mentor, you know what I am talking about.  If not, I urge you to explore your options.  Here are some suggestions worth consideration.

1.     Find someone in your industry in another geographic area whose business is a success.  Develop a relationship that allows both of you to share experiences and offer opinions and support.
2.     Contact speakers/consultants who appear at industry events who have impressed you.  Interview them to determine your level of comfort with their ability to communicate with you on a one to one basis.
3.     Connect with former associates with whom you developed a level of trust and confidence.
4.     Search out blogs that speak to your industry and consider contacting the authors for input.
5.     Use your Chamber of Commerce to source potential mentors whose experiences may not be in your field but who have been successful in their own right.

Clearly these represent only a few options.  The issue is that you find someone whom you trust and with whom you are willing to be open to the point of being vulnerable.  You want someone who is strong enough to be supportive and critical at the same time without you taking personal offence at that which you don’t care to hear.  The goal is to be better and that may not come without some polishing.

Over time you will grow.  Your decision making process and your decisions will improve.  And you will find yourself in a position to mentor others. Pay it forward!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Two outa three ain't bad!

When we delegate an assignment there is an implicit understanding that the individual receives not only the responsibility but also the authority and the accountability to carry out the task. Having the responsibility and accountability is fundamentally unfair without the appropriate authority to carry out the task.  Two outa three does not cut it!

If we build a stool we understand that there must be at least three legs on which to stand if it is to serve its intended purpose.  With only one or two legs you do not sit; you balance in a precarious position.  Two outa three does not cut it!

As a leader, your behaviour comes with certain expectations. Quite apart from competency, a leader’s behaviour must excel in three areas.
1.   It must be legal.
2.   It must be moral.
3.   It must be ethical.
If ‘…two outa three ain’t bad…’ applies, which of the three are you prepared to invalidate?

Before you jump to a conclusion, think about those impacted by your behaviour. On one hand, there are those within your company. This includes those on your team; those to whom you report; and others upon whom you depend to get your job done.

On the other hand there are those outside of the company; your customer base; your suppliers; your allies; your competitors; family and friends; and the public at large.

Now decide which aspect of your character you can afford to compromise without negatively impacting your reputation and your performance.

Perhaps from your perspective ‘two out three ain’t bad’.  But you need to see things from the perspective of those looking up to you.  If they are not worth your best; how and why should you expect their best in return?