“Zero Visibility Possible” – Road sign in New Mexico
Have you ever seen this road sign, or one like it? It’s a road sign from a state highway in New Mexico, one of several that alert drivers in that state to the dangers that occur when a severe dust storm occurs. Scary when you think about it – driving conditions so poor that there is literally zero visibility.
This is a driver’s worst nightmare – and gives cause to the term ‘driving blind’. No idea what lies ahead, and perhaps even more fear of what may come up from behind. Just the thought sends goose bumps up my back.
For grins, I ‘Googled’ what to do when driving in a dust storm. As you would guess, advice all points to one logical approach: pull over, stop the car, and wait it out. The storm will eventually pass. Or at least you hope so, right?
“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” – Albert Einstein
“No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” – John Stuart Mil
As I write this week’s leadership message, I sit 30,000 feet above the ground on a flight to Washington D.C. I’ve been invited to participate in a series of workshops tomorrow with The Hope Street Group, an initiative chaired by the U.S. Department of Education that strives to bring together the right institutions towards the common goal of developing tools and solutions at the complex intersection of workforce supply and demand. In other words, The Hope Street Group wants to develop a better way for our country to both understand the specific skills needs of our employers while bridging the gap for the development of the proper skills of potential job candidates in our communities. Continue reading
“We’ve all been there: We know we must talk to a colleague, our boss or even a friend about something we know will be at least uncomfortable and at worst explosive. So we repeatedly mull it over until we can no longer put it off, and then finally stumble through a confrontation when we could have had a conversation.” – Douglas Stone
Have you ever a situation where the action of one of your team members has a negative impact on the rest of the team? You know the kind of situation I’m referring to – when one of your team members isn’t carrying their weight. Or fails to follow through on their commitments. Or whose behavior is offensive, disrespectful, or simply counter-productive. Continue reading
“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz
“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Ever wonder what motivates people? Why people do the things they do? Why some are so focused on getting ahead, while others prefer continuity? Why some pour themselves in to their work, while others find great balance in work and family life? Or do you wonder what keeps people engaged with one organization when bigger opportunities or higher pay might exist ‘across the street’? Continue reading
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” – Henry Ford
“You learn as much from those who have failed as from those who have succeeded.” – Michael Johnson
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
In several of my past messages, I’ve spoken of the importance of failure as a part of the growing experience of leadership. And I truly believe it is important. I also believe it is important to have a culture that supports its team members when failure occurs. To be clear, I am not advocating failure for the sake of failure, nor do I think you should be comfortable with failure as an option. The message has been more around the importance of learning lessons from that failure. Continue reading
“Thanks Dad. The party was cool.” – Amanda Wright
(OK, maybe she didn’t actually say this, but I’m sure she thought it) 😉
This past weekend was my daughter’s 13th birthday party. She and four of her best friends celebrated their ‘coming of age’ with a huge birthday bash for 100 of their closest friends. Forget the traditional parties where you have 8 to 10 of your closest friends over for cake and a magic show with Bozo the Clown. This is something entirely different.
So, as the trend goes (at least in the area of Houston we live in), throughout their 7th grade school year the girls and guys pack up in groups of 3-5 and host ‘13th Birthday’ parties for almost their entire grade level. The parents hire a DJ, rent out the local community or recreation center, and decorate like there’s no tomorrow. All for three hours of 13-year-old ‘partying’. Continue reading
“Group and organizational dynamics tend to pull organizations toward average or below average performance. Psychological inertia tends to make innovation unlikely.”
“The status quo tends to defeat meaningful change because people are constrained by their basic nature and the “rules” of the environment they work in – Said another way, people don’t like change because it upsets their world and causes chaos. Every system strives hard to maintain itself and resist change.”
This past week I was in Milwaukee for a series of senior leadership meetings. A key topic of our meetings was around the continued transformation of the business to one that can operate as a “fast and agile company”. This week’s quotes are from a presentation one of my colleagues gave in those meetings around the importance of developing a “culture of change”. They struck me as worth sharing with you, as I have always embraced the concept of change.
Change is never an easy thing. And yes, there must be a balance to how much change you push. But in truth, change is necessary. Innovation cannot occur without change…without challenging the status quo. Without it, organizations are doomed to gravitate toward mediocrity.
I can recall past resistance to change in many of the organizations I’ve worked for and with – be it technology, new processes, or simply changes to the organizational structure. “Stop changing things and let us catch our breath”, and “why would we need to do that…we already have a good process” were two of the many responses I recall. But looking back, there is no question those changes were beneficial to those organizations.
If an organization is to truly become a market leader in its industry, it must evolve. It must change. And it must create a “culture of change.”
“From perspective comes clarity. From clarity comes clear thinking. From clear thinking come ideas. And from ideas come answers.”
By now you are beginning to see a theme emerge around innovation as an “institutionalized” process for organizational success. I’ve been saving this leadership quote for a few months now because I believe it speaks to the concept of innovation, particularly the importance of perspective when driving innovation. What I love about this quote is how it chains the importance of starting with perspective if you hope to end with answers. So let’s speak to the concept of perspective.
What is perspective? Webster’s dictionary had two definitions I thought relevant in this case:
- The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance
- The interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed (point of view)
So what does perspective have to do with innovation, solving problems, or gaining answers? The answer is: everything. Relevance. Relationship. Priority. Point of View. Before you can even begin to develop ideas that lead to answers, you have to gain perspective and clarity on the issue.
Think of how Apple has revolutionized the MP3 player, cell phone, and tablet market. To be fair, they didn’t invent any of these devices. The iPod, iPhone and iPad are all variants of technology that existed far before Apple created them. But what Apple focused on almost entirely was perspective. The perspective of their user. How their customers would consume information. How their customers might use their products. So they had to put themselves in the shoes of that customer. They had to start with perspective. And I think we’ll all agree, Apple products are cool because of “how” you use them. Because of how they interface with you.
This is why it was so important for an organization to institutionalize innovation across the company. Each of you has a unique perspective. Many of you work directly with and beside your customers. And in doing so you gain perspective – the perspective of those customers. That is so important. For any business to successfully deliver on the promise of its offerings it must start with that perspective.