Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don’t cave!

It is always fun to meet someone from a different industry and culture who is experiencing the new company and culture I am learning. This happened again this past week when I had the opportunity to meet an ex-dot-com leader gone aerospace. He had a great background with plenty to offer (multiple languages, industries, functions and cultures).

Then it happened! I asked him a question about why some group was not involved in a particular meeting and he said, “To reduce travel costs.” This was an ex-dot-com leader that had, for the briefest of moments, forgotten that people do not have to travel to take part in a meeting. Phones, web-meetings and VTC’s are meetings too. When I pointed this out to my new colleague, he immediately knew what had happened and thanked me for reminding him. At the close of our time together, he coached me to continue to probe and move forward.

Driving back that evening, the question that kept bothering me was, how do I even know when I’m starting to cave? How do I catch myself when it starts to happen?

What tools have you used to remind yourself to never accept the status quo and challenge the way things are done?


Junior Jabbie said...

Knowledge. I try to stay as plugged in as possible. Whether that means reading various trade magazines, local/national newspapers or various blogs/newsletters. My ability to stay relevant is dependent on my understanding of what indiviudals and companies are doing out in various industries. I benchmark myself and the company I work for against best in class ideas and solutions.

Tom Magness said...

I ask a lot of questions. Challenging the status quo can be as simple as that. And when I smell even a trace of "we've always done it this way," I probe deep! Great stuff! TM

Jeffrey Jackson said...

I completely agree with George's comment; it is a very insightful analysis of human behavior and culture. In order to make the move forward we need to teach leaders that leading includes enabling the actions of subordinates as well as the skill of listening to (and encouraging) the constructive advice of subordinates on the team. Without this skill set within the leader no team is going to follow in the manner which I have proposed (leading from below).

Perhaps the best example of this structure I have seen was in a movie I saw about mountain climbing. The climb was structured so that there were 3 leaders; an ascent leader, a descent leader and a ground leader. The ascent leader was the best climber on the team and during the climb acted as boss. When it came time to climb down from the mountain, the descent leader took over because he was the best at descending. The ground leader was in charge of monitoring the weather and environmental conditions on the mountain and continually updated the team via radio. If he said the weather was about to turn bad, the team obeyed his command whether it was to make camp and hunker down or to climb down the mountain.

Leaders and followers need solid examples of similar team dynamics as well as practice enabling this dynamic so that we can finally generate maximum value from our best resource. Whether it is a formal structure as in the example or just a leadership style, we have to do better.

Stanley said...

"Overexposure can lead to drift" -- the best way to avoid drift is if you are well anchored to your values, or if you have someone who can always keep a mirror in front of you. If you cave -- you cease to evolve. As a guy who was in the example -- I believe John will be a breath of fresh air to any culture he joins....

Les Hedgespeth said...

I have experience in several industries, and for the most part am probably not an expert in any of them. That being said, I tend to ask leading questions. 'Why does the process flow in that fashion?' or 'What other options exist to allow for greater ease and efficiency?' are couple general types of questions that open the door to get the real reasons why decisions are being made.

That allows me to get to the root of my Drive to NEVER Cave. Often times the group moves in the direction of the idea that comes from the strongest leader in the group. That singular vision will never get a company to a culture that drives leading success. The best leaders will openly guide the development of solutions, but will encourage the group to jointly solidify their individual ideas into a singular successful solution.

Add to Technorati Favorites