- Best Practice
There exists no better example of herd mentality than that of best practices. I have always thought that a so-called best practice stops the minute it is branded as such. Best practices defend the status quo and limit innovation by ensuring people/processes follow the same practices. You cannot distinguish by accepting likeness. The idea of best practices is nothing more than mixing norms at your own peril. Smart leaders innovate past best practices, always in search of next practices. If your choice to do something is made because others are doing it the same way, you are doing nothing more than conceding advantage and opportunity to those competitors more creative than you. Lean manufacturing, and most other recent initiatives that are embraced by senior leaders, is focused on driving the organization towards best practices. In our rush to shortcut hard work, we have conceded competitive advantage. To regain this advantage, we need to realize this and stop doing it. Don’t copy, create.
2. Cost Cutting
It is just impractical to beat your opposition to the future by spending less than they do; you get there first by investing more smartly than they do. Companies who surpass their competition focus less on risk and more on opportunity. They are less concerned with controlling expenditures and more worried about finding new ways to create greater return on investment. I have often promoted the idea that the duty of leaders is not to leverage their people but to establish more leverage for their people. Stop expecting your people to do more with less and find ways to provide them with a resource advantage.
There is a big difference between cost cutting haphazardly and reducing the budget by improving reliability. Stop levying hiring freezes and begin an unyielding pursuit of creating a talent advantage. Leaders who complain about a lack of resources are doing nothing more than demonstrating their lack of resourcefulness.
3. Politically Correctness
The fact is that politically correct thinking is most often deceitful, if not altogether intellectually dishonest. Politically correct thinking replaces uniqueness and authentic opinions with socially acceptable rhetoric and diluted behavioral tendencies. I miss the days when most conversations consisted of highly charged and stimulating discourse where people were urged to openly share their true thoughts and opinions. The irony of politically correct thinking is that a society empty of individual thought creates the reverse of diversity. Politically correct thinking results in a programmed group of sheep who completely lack diversity because of a gentrification of thoughts and actions. The sinister secret behind politically correct thinking is that it gradually clouds your senses and sterilizes your inherent capability to be discerning. If you are like me, you don’t want your team to say what they think you want to hear, or what they believe they should say, but you do want them to say what they are thinking. How many meetings have you attended where everyone sat around the table like a bunch of deer in the headlights trying to figure out how to wiggle around an issue rather than address it head on? It is this type of issue that taints our culture, suppresses innovation, weakens our productivity, and condemns those who accept politically correct thinking to a life of mediocrity.
4. Glorifying The Few
Leadership is not a position or a title. It is not a job reserved only for a precious few presiding over the masses. Here is something to keep in mind: if you tell people enough times or loud enough that they are not leaders, you should not be amazed when they begin to believe you. Your job is not to repress people from leadership, but to establish leadership ubiquity. The most triumphant organizations are those where all team members view themselves as leaders. Leadership that cannot be transferrable, scalable, repeatable, and sustainable isn’t leadership at all. Build your organization on a foundation that builds leadership into all team members, regardless of where they are on the organizational chart.
5. Unwillingness to Change
Look at any study on the speed of change, and you will find you are living in an unprecedented time. The rate of change is clearly overtaking most leaders’ ability to learn and unlearn. Most leaders fight to remain current, not to mention find a way to move ahead of the curve. Here’s the thing: if leaders are living in the past, their organizations will be required to travel an extremely rough road to the future.
The solution to the leadership training problem is to scrap it for development. Don’t train leaders–mentor them, coach them, and develop them–but please do not train them. Where training attempts to homogenize by blending to a norm and adapting to the status quo, development attempts to call out the unique and discriminate by shattering the status quo. Training is something leaders dread and will avoid, while they will embrace development. Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and primarily actionable.
The reason it is important to stop doing things that do not add value is to free up the time you will need to start doing things the right way. People are always telling me, “This is great, but I do not have time to do what I am doing now.” I have found myself in this same place, but I eventually realized that about half of what we do each day does not add value. Taking a critical look at your daily activities will open your eyes. How many meetings do you attend that have other members of your team in them? Why? How many meetings do you attend and say nothing? This goes on and on. When I say this I always hear, “Not me. Everything I do adds value.” Sorry, you are lying to yourself because that is not possible. The only way to make a change happen is to do something. To do something, you need time. To get the time, you must stop doing things that do not add value. As a leader you need to understand what adds value. The key to adding value is to take ownership and not use victim statements. Next, I want to explain what I mean when I say that you should take ownership and not be a victim.