The fallacy of 'self-made'

In today’s world, self-made people don’t exist.

How did this false phrase ever come to life?

Perhaps in the early 1600s when the phrase “self-made” was first documented, it was possible to step into the wilderness alone with nothing and survive into a successful life.

Certainly we can take ownership of the “want to” and the first step, although even then, environment plays a big role.

But never will the path of growth be paved by efforts of only ourselves.

What is the cost of lowest bid wins?

A lowest-bid-wins strategy is always a choice.  And it has a cost.

Price can only be the determining factor when the benefits of all purchase options are exactly the same. 

Inflexibly assuming the benefits of every bid submitted are the same (you do if all that matters is low price) motivates your bidders to give you - more of the same.

If you're always rewarding your supplier base for more of the same, it's the opposite of innovation.  Because innovation is something different that creates value.

So don't be surprised if your industry or organization lacks innovation.  It's the natural cost of using a low-bid-wins strategy.

Good is the enemy of great

Leaders are providers and provisionaries. They look to the future to guide people to a better place.

But change is conflict with the status quo.  

The more good there is in the present, the harder it is for people to let go.

Good is the enemy of great.  If people are losing something, the loss speaks to them more loudly than what they are set to gain. 

Therefore, make your case for change logical and imminent with a strong link to the benefit of the people.

“For where there is no vision the people perish.” 

Meet the people where the people are

If you wanted to make your organization more innovative...

You could,

Demand your people to think bigger, remind them of popular brands' success stories, introduce them to celebrity executives who seem to exemplify the creative brilliance you need to be innovative.

Or, you could learn their language, understand them more deeply, build empathy and craft a clear path - from where they are to a disciplined process driving change that creates value for customers.

The first option is easy, but largely ineffective and the second option is hard, but usually effective.

Don't expect people you've hired to be reliable and consistent to be suddenly inspirational and risk taking.  Magnify strengths and make weaknesses irrelevant, said Drucker.

If you're building innovation capability, meet the people where the people are. 

Use your mistakes instead of hiding them

It's almost instant rapport when you meet someone and find out they've been to your home town.  Even better if they know the name of the hamlet or town instead of the closest city.

It's the same when you share experiences.  A shared experience is a powerful tool in building rapport.

However, mistakes, failures and problems in life are not fun experiences to share.  It's uncomfortable and requires more courage than many are willing to muster.  Much easier to keep those hidden.

But when others know you've experienced a similar problem, you're that much closer to establishing rapport and opening the door to using your mistakes to improve the lives of others.

Be courageous today and, to the degree it is valuable for others, share your mistakes.

Solve the stress paradigm with clarity

Many teams operate within the stress paradigm, where mostly all the work is done under high stress.  More priorities than time allows.

If you find yourself in one of these environments, here's how you can elevate your performance.  Clarify before committing.

  1. Here's my understanding of what we need to achieve, correct?
  2. What does this replace on my current set of priorities?
  3. What is the rationale behind the timing?

Any good leader will respect you more for helping to shape the future with solid thinking...  reducing your stress and elevating your reputation in spite of the fast paced circumstances around you.

(Hat tip to Coach Mike at Accurate Business Coaching for the insight!) 

Two roads diverged in a wood and You...

Thinking introspectively and about your purpose in life can be hard and scary.

It isn't very tangible.  How do you know you are making progress?  What are you supposed to think about?  How do you show results when you are done?

Imagine two people with only one difference.  One sets aside a half day every month to think introspectively, cultivate new beliefs and refine purpose.  The other does not.

How might their paths in life diverge over time?

Embrace the fuzzy intangibles of questioning your purpose, your growth and your next.

It may not feel like progress in the short term, but it will produce in the long term.

Take the path less traveled by and it will make all the difference.

What works today, won't work in the future

One way to strengthen a company is to make it reliable and consistent.

One way to make a company irrelevant is to keep it reliable and consistent at the same.

There is tremendous pressure on established companies in mature markets to "stay the same".  Wall Street loves consistent numbers.  Yet, the very thing that makes us successful today, can be what prevents us from achieving tomorrow. 

Wouldn't it be great if we could just keep doing what we do - without fear of disruption?  Imagine how comfortable that would be.

...but then we wouldn't need leaders.  Leaders routinely assess trajectories of those they lead.  They are the eyes to the future.

Ask yourself today, am I ok with our current trajectory, or must we change?  What evidence do I have to support my conclusion?  Do my trusted independent advisors believe the same?