5 Strategies To Transform The Way We Lead

02/13/2017 06:00AM

“Without strategy change is merely substitution not evolution.” Many of you have heard me say this as early as 2009. Back then America was about to enter the Great Recession from which we have slowly emerged. But have we evolved?

Evolution requires proficiency in what I call the four skills of opportunity management: see, sow, grow, and share. But instead of evolving to embrace new ideas and mindsets and seeing how businesses are losing talent, market share, shareholder value, and innovation by embracing the Cultural Demographic Shift, the result is too often more sowing without seeing, not to mention growing and sharing. Just do the work, check the box, and move on.

That attitude is what the action behind almost every initiative to address and embrace the Cultural Demographic Shift feels like: an act of compliance. That’s what got America into the mess Earning Serendipity tried to prevent: execution and transaction without understanding the need for proficiency in those skills and seeing the value in people as a profit center (investment) not a cost center (expense). This is exactly what happens when initiatives are a weak one-off tactical approach without strategy and fail to move people to the center of an organization’s transformation. The work may have started out with the best of intentions to grow by addressing the unique needs of shift populations but fail after a year or so if not less.

Only with proficiency in the four skills of opportunity management and what I call in my new book (February 2017) the six characteristics of The Innovation Mentality, and these five strategies can we truly break through and evolve to create the organizational greatness American enterprise needs:

1. Actively Manage Scarcity

Scarcity is a buzzword in business these days but do you manage scarcity and find ways to be innovative or do you just do what you are told? In fact, too many of us don’t even think we have it. As long as the balance sheet is in the black we like to think we have abundance even if resources are scarce. But abundance blinds us. It is a lot of noise – so much noise that we don't know how to detect the difference between having a lot in front of us and doing what we need to do to evolve with what we have. Companies that evolve are always the ones that are the most original but the ones that execute best with what they have and thus see new opportunities and know how to anticipate the unexpected. They allow scarcity to create a mindset that propels a culture of distinction.

2. Have Competency In Knowledge And Wisdom

I used to think that part of my advantage as a leader was being knowledgeable about a lot of things. I can't say that so much about myself. There are things today I have no interest in or don't want to dive into. Any doubt about that was erased as I tried to watch the MTV Video Music Awards. But I shouldn't see this as a problem but an opportunity to transcend likeminded-ness. Like most organizations, I have people who give me the right blend of competencies in knowledge and wisdom. We need both to evolve and they are not the same. Someone could know every performer on MTV that night but not have a sense of why each person or song connects to the audience.

3. Avoid Complacency In Accepting Difference

This is a different kind of complacency than I wrote about recently that leads to inaction. This is complacency in accepting difference by embracing the Cultural Demographic Shift that is clearly slowing companies down – even though the demand already exists to transform the workplace and marketplace. I have written about this constantly and yet it still bears repeating over and over ... instead of evolving to create new strategies in areas such as diversity and inclusion, companies just throw money at the same initiatives that have failed in the past. Remember: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

4. Stop Commoditizing Everything

Working at Sunkist and essentially watching orange juice traded on the futures market, I learned how everything is or can become a commodity. And when price becomes the main factor, we lose touch with the quality of what we produce and how people value those things. This has extended to the workplace. We don’t need to think about people as individuals – people are merely commodities. There is no way to evolve when we look at people through the lens of commodity.

5. Break Down Self-Created Barriers To Entry

You can't control everything so don’t try or pretend you can and stop trying to protect your own domain with barriers to people and partnerships that do what you can’t. Stop living in survival mode and stagnating growth. Be smart, vulnerable, and courageous enough to share all of yourself and everything you can about what you and your company are doing. Take responsibility and accountability to be transparent and embrace uncertainty. When you open up the ecosystem and recognize that leadership and people are more than just “cogs in the wheel,” you give everybody and the organization as a whole the ability to evolve faster and grow.

Unleashing Individuality: The Leadership Skill that Unlocks All Others (2022)