Sunday, February 28, 2010

Explorer or navigator?

During a recent trip to India for business, I was reminded of the importance of trying things that have not been tried before. We were trying to determine how a certain business problem that we had not encountered before would be solved. We brainstormed and hypothesized. We negotiated and decided (over and over again).

In the misted of our session, my Indian counterpart shared that in times like this it is important to remember the most significant discoveries happened when the person was lost. They shared a common Indian quote, “the best explorers are the worst navigators.” They referenced Christopher Columbus discovering America as a prime example. It occurred to me that the same e the same is true in our personal lives. The things you discover on vacation when you get lost are often the most interesting and memorable.

How often do you allow yourself to get lost? Does it most always work out for the better?


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Real cheese

I am not a big Domino’s Pizza fan, but just might try it again. Can you imagine taking a successful product franchise and admitting to it being unacceptable? That is what the president of Domino’s has done. Now compare that to the situation facing Toyota. In the face of clear product safety concerns, the president has yet to emerge and speak to the public. Patrick Lencioni of Business Week noted that in his February 2010 article The Power of Saying ‘We Blew It’ that the common topic is vulnerability. Note how each leader is dealing with it differently.

Different leaders deal with vulnerability in the workplace differently, too. Leaders who are open to new ideas, ask questions, allow tough discussions and allow debate build loyalty among their teams. Command and control type managers might see these traits as weak and indecisive. This might have been true long ago, but the time has gone.

Have you seen a leader successfully place him or herself in vulnerable situations? How did it turn out?


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beware the indispensible!

Tara was by far the most experienced and knowledgeable. She had the tribal knowledge of what happened since the project started. Everyone depended on her for everything. When she got an internal job offer to leave the department my management team said we must stop it and make a counter offer. I listened and tried to talk her out of leaving. It did not work. She left. And you know what happened? The performance of the total department increased. I learned a valuable lesson – sometimes the person that makes themselves indispensible actually holds everyone else back.

I saw it again a few years later at the senior levels above me. There was a SVP that was considered the indispensible and the next potential president. When he left because he did not get the job, the whole company grew and performed better. I thought about this and realized the leaders that make themselves indispensible hoard information, limit people’s potential and don’t allow teammates to make mistakes and learn from them. They instill fear to make themselves more powerful. For that time on, I study the dynamics of all organizations and when I find that so called indispensible person, I visualize how much the team is being held back and how well the team might be performing. Dispensable beware.

Can you remember a time when someone the organization just could not lose left and the whole team benefited from the exit?


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