I am an enthusiastic collector of relevant and pithy mantras, maxims and epigrams and I was pleased to hear one of the speakers at my Vistage CEO peer group say recently:
"You don't have to be sick to get better"
It is logical in business to put significant effort into correcting problems. Indeed it seems that we take up an inordinate amount of time, effort and emotion in doing just that.
There are times when it seems that, as leaders, we are called upon, or in fact take it upon ourselves, to dive in and sort out any problems.
I am frequently told that leaders can't do what leaders are supposed to do which is lead because they have decided to take charge and sort it out. It is called firefighting and don't we know just how seductive it is.
It's the 'Leave it to me, I'll sort it out" syndrome and eons of time are wasted by leaders who don't or can't let go of the day to day.
It is a certain way to ensure that people don't learn other than how to do as they are told. For sure they don't develop and do things better.
There are, of course, many levels of sickness in a business each of which needs a different approach. Perhaps the most insidious is a slow decline into mediocrity.
It can be a zone of comfort and even complacency especially if results are acceptable. It is, however, the result of the "we've always done it this way" approach, possibly the saddest words in the business lexicon.
Mediocrity doesn't mean that the business is flatlining; rather it is a great way to achieve the eventual terminus more quickly.
Where there is too much comfort, complacency and mediocrity in business we lose good people and we gain others who are content to come in to work in the morning, hang their brains up with their coats and only put them on again at the end of the day.
A little radical thinking and indeed action can achieve much simply because it can be exciting and, in an inclusive environment, led by anyone in the business.
Great leaders have the humility to accept that perhaps they don't know everything. They are able to pay people the compliment of soliciting their thoughts and ideas and that is the best possible motivator.
Invention, innovation and radical change must be at the heart of any business going for growth. There has to be a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Leaders need to encourage the people to think, to be radical and to feel free to offer ideas and fresh thinking to the organisation.
It doesn't have to be new products or services or penetrating new and unknown markets. We can achieve much by looking at the way we do things and improving them.
It is, as usual, a matter of the culture of the business, "the way that we do things around here" and driving an innovative approach into the business is the central role of the leader.
Change can be implemented in many ways. My old friend and brilliant thinker, US Vistage speaker Lee Thayer believes that change should be big and dramatic so that everyone notices it whereas David Brailsford, the erstwhile leader of British Cycling is an advocate kai-zen, that is, a ferocious attention to detail and constant incremental change.
The key to it all is don't just talk about it, do it and improve the shining hour. Yet again it's JFDI time.
Thomas Edison said, "There is a better way to do it, find it” and that is a mantra well worth remembering.
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