The Way I See It… Amid the Storm


It’s early Sunday morning, and I’m writing Curve Benders, my next book set to release this fall. In chapter two, I’m writing about the fifteen forces we’ve researched that will impact your personal and professional growth journey. Here is an excerpt:

If you understand the forces that may give you headwind, you can more proactively plan to maneuver around them. Conversely, you’ll want to take advantage of the forces that may provide a tailwind to accelerate your growth journey making you more attractive in the market. Other forces yet, will create turbulence in your ability to connect with prospective Curve Benders, for which you’ll have to learn to adapt and ride through the temporary storm.

This notion made me nostalgic for flying. Between 50-60 global speaking, various innovation consulting, coaching, and executive education engagements, I was on the road 208 days last year. Specifically, these five ideas to consider as you continue to navigate living with Covid:

  1. When You Navigate, You Anticipate. I‘m coaching my executive clients to manage their present while they invent their future. Managing the present is all about running the day-to-day operations, making real-time adjustments. Inventing your future is hard, as the decisions you make today have consequences on both you and those you lead. An astute sense of self-awareness, self-love, and consistent gratitude goes a long way in balancing that dual responsibility. If you live with the attitude that you’re seldom the smartest person in the room, you’ll continue to stay in those moments of inquiry, experimentation, and exploration longer. If you ask better questions and surround yourself with cognitive diversity, you can often anticipate a broader set of prudent options in inventing your future.
  2. You Don’t Have an Innovation Challenge; You Have a Culture of Status Quo Defenders. One CEO I’ve worked with for the past several years has been talking about, pushing, prodding, launching multiple innovation initiatives. And yet, he’s perplexed that they seem to have “innovated” more in the past several months, than the last several years. The rallying cry may just be this global pandemic, but what it’s highlighting for me is that “let me think about it” is as dysfunctional as “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” It illustrates a culture comprised of senior leaders more interested in defending their status quo vs. challenging it. It illuminates a culture afraid of taking prudent risks, challenging tenure, and engaging others in healthy, respectful discussions – all considered career-limiting moves! Think? Sure. Plan? Unequivocally, yes. Move with speed and agility, even in uncertain times? A must!
  3. Strong Economies Mask Leadership Shortcoming. It’s Time for Wisdom to Lead. The board looks to the CEO to lead the entire organization. As such, she/he is the one neck to choke when expectations don’t align with the realities in the organization. I’ve long believed that strong economies mask a lot of organizational flaws and leadership shortcomings. An astute CEO has her/his figure on the organization’s pulse through unfiltered, unpackaged, and uncleansed data points. You can’t do that from the mahogany row. I’m coaching CEOs to go on virtual listening tours – what better time to reach out to the rank and file through virtual one-on-one sessions to understand what’s happening differently? Where have adaptations of previous standard processes, purposeful abandonment of old norms, and new digital tools served us well? Who in the organization is still espousing old leadership soundbites, and where are the surprising new leaders the rank and file are cheering for? Crisis leadership is hands-on leadership. It’s relationship-centric leadership. It’s knowing when to exercise wisdom to step in and take charge of those you’re charged to take care of.
  4. Crises Often Bring Painful Lessons. And Incredible Growth. Ask any battle-tested leader, and they’ll confirm that some of the most valuable growth opportunities in their career and life have come in times of crisis. In times of uncertainty with limited available data, multiple challenges, limited line of sight to design, develop, and deploy any strategy is when the best leaders shine. They do what they know to do. And they figure out the rest as they go, which can lead to painful and expensive lessons along the way. As my friend and MG100 colleague Gary Ridge, CEO of WD-40, often says, “We don’t fail. We create learning moments.” As an Eagle Scout and a proud father of one, my son and I often talk about how “prior preparation prevents poor performance.” Military leaders live by the notion that the more you sweat in peace, the less you’ll bleed in war. As part of my son’s Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge, we created crates of emergency supplies in the back of every one of our vehicles. A group of friends I ride motorcycles with often tease me about the tow straps, duct tape, tire repair kit, and the extra water and food I always carry in my rear box. The same friends are in awe of just how often we use misc. items from the said rear box. Wonder what learning moments you’re capturing and what things should be in your leadership emergency supply crate?
  5. Fantastic Way to Reenergize Your Relationships: Celebrate Small Wins. Do you know what cheers most people up, even amid the current pandemic? Celebrating people and their small victories. Think about it – it sends a powerful message that the leader notices everything. When so much of what we try to accomplish daily seems like a production, small wins reinvigorate us. When our relationships see and give us little kudos, we’re over the moon that they noticed and were kind in their mention. When a leader publicly recognizes a job well done, not because corporate PR told them to, or someone provided them with talking points, but because they observed it or heard it firsthand, or from a partner, customer, or read it online, it’s magical. Many leaders are quick to address and attempt to fix mistakes, errors, or challenges in the system. The best ones, identify, elevate, and bolster small wins. They authentically and consistently celebrate individual relationships for thinking, feeling, speaking, behaving, and leading with candor and courage. Celebrations, recognitions, gratitude, and relationships seldom have to be expensive. They should always be thoughtful.

Amid the storm, on that flight, the dark clouds, the constant rain, and the strong wind all make everyone uncomfortable. During this flight of your organization through this storm, similarly, dark clouds of uncertainty, the constant rain of ambiguity, the strong winds of market demands will make you and your team uncomfortable. But the sigh of relief when the plane lands safely at your destination is a welcomed one. So will be your growth, experience, and gained wisdom as you embrace the unexpected and look forward to a safe landing on the other side of the current horizon.

And that’s the way I see it,


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