Tuesday, May 17, 2011

“Leadership with a Growth Mindset”: Amplified

I have been pleasantly surprised by the reaction to my last blog essay, “Leadership with a Growth Mindset”. Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of conversations and discussions on various themes that were covered in the essay, and it seems appropriate to share a few “amplifications.” As you can see in the essay below, there were six ideas or suggestions that I highlighted as being helpful to me and hopefully others. What follows are additional thoughts, ideas, and exercises for three of those themes:

1) Raise Expectations. As I mentioned, it is vital for us as leaders to raise our expectations for performance in a growth mindset. This is especially true for us as individuals. We need to model raising our expectations on OUR OWN PERFORMANCE first, before we start on our teams. I have found it helpful to share what I was personally proud about over the past months/quarters, and at the same time share my reflections on what I want/need to work on and improve for the year to come. Additionally, this is a perfect time to find new ways that might help your team raise their own expectations. Just last week I lead a group of frontline leaders on my team through an “Anchors and Sails” exercise that provided a fresh prospective. (You can read more about the idea of “Anchors and Sails” in a previous blog essay of that name) After a very successful year in part of our business, I had this team of leaders chart out our market based performance for over 60 markets on a grid where the x-axis was share growth and the y-axis was share. The mid-points on both axes were the average performance from the past year, the average growth rate on the x-axis and the average market share on the y-axis. Once completed, I reminded everyone that those markets that were above average in both growth and share were truly “Sail” markets, and leaders/drivers of our performance. Those markets that were below average in both growth and share were truly “Anchor” markets, and drags on our performance. On their own, I asked them to highlight their specific markets of responsibility and ask themselves, “were they mostly “Sails” or “Anchors””. It didn’t require any additional encouragement or discussion for each of the leaders present to identify where they needed to drive improvement and “Raise their Expectations” of performance. Try this approach with your teams and see how it can drive this idea of “Raised Expectations” across your team.

4) Be Paranoid Competitively. This idea garnered a lot of discussion and debate which deserves to be shared. While I certainly have found it productive to keep a sharp eye on competition and never underestimate the competitive landscape, the primary discussion this past week centered on the idea of giving competition too much power to alter your strategy. A great question was posed by a dear friend, “should we let competition drive our actions and thus our strategy, or should we have our strategy drive our actions and thus the competitive landscape?” Excellent question! I think the answer is simply (and complexly) both! Our strategy needs to be well informed by a deep understanding our current, and potentially future, competitors. Equally, our strategy needs to be the guide for our actions in the marketplace; impacting consumers, customers, markets and competition. This synergistic balancing act is now easy feat, but it is the strategic “dance” that is required for success.

6) Take care of yourself/Take care of your team. A member of my team shared with me that while he liked this idea a lot, he thought it was missing an important element. He said, “Bill, I think it should read “Take care of yourself/Take care of your team/Take care of your family.”” So true, I totally agree with the addition! In these accelerating times, we all need to keep our perspective about where work fits into our overall life. A friend today passed along a thought that linked this idea to a previous essay, “5% for #2.” He was at his daughter’s high school graduation and was struck by how he had wanted to spend more time for the things that were truly important, even if they might be urgent at the moment. We all need to remember that we DO work to live, not the other way around! Whether your family includes a spouse, parents, children, nieces/nephews, etc. it would benefit us all to put down our blackberries/iphones and spend more valuable time with the families that we love.

In closing, I am appreciative of the interest and dialogue over the last essay and am hopeful that these additional thoughts, “amplifications”, might be helpful as you look to find ways to “lead with a growth mindset.”