Imagine someone saying to you, “He is the laziest engineer in the world”, or “She is the laziest business leader I have ever seen”. Not a very impressive way to label someone.
When a local newspaper described Dick Fosbury as the “world’s laziest high jumper”, what they really wanted to say was, this young high jumper has an unconventional approach to doing things.
They did not say he was unconventional. They said he was lazy.
Dick Fosbury was not lazy. He tapped into his intuitive energy and imagination, and discovered a more natural way to high jump, which became known as the Fosbury Flop.
Undeterred by the name-calling, Fosbury continued to work on his unconventional high jumping style. After winning the NCAA championships, he went to the 1968 Olympics where he won the gold medal and set a new Olympic high jump record of 2.24 meters (7.35 feet).
Since 1972, every single Olympic gold medal winner and record holder did it with Fosbury’s “lazy jumping style”.
Fosbury started using his Fosbury Flop at the time when sawdust and sand pits were replaced by foam mattresses. He could not have used his backward flop in the old sawdust environment without hurting himself. Fosbury recognized and acted on these changes while others did not.
We must be careful how we look at people who view situations and challenges differently than we do. When someone does something differently, we should be mindful how we evaluate his or her new approach.
We constantly hear; we must be faster, we have to manage our complexity better or we must be more innovative.
Most people, in these situations, do more of what they have always done. If you always do, what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.
More of the same.
Perhaps it is time for us to take a “lazier” perspective, which is to do things differently, even unconventionally, and pay less attention to what people say.
Fosburg flopped his way to the top, perhaps you can to, in your own and different way.
“Relevant & pragmatic ideas, tools and insights to play at your best.”
Have you ever found yourself in a difficult business situation and the road ahead looked so dark that you could not see the way forward?
Use these three triggers to help you reset your way of looking and behaving in the face of an insurmountable situation:
Fresh Perspective – Instead of looking at a tough situation through the long lens of legacy and all of your experiences, imagine that you are brand new in your role, or to this situation and you are asked how to deal with it from this brand new perspective. This shift helps you let go of past beliefs and assumptions that could be holding you back.
Revisit Purpose – It is easy to tire and lose sight of the crisp, inspiring purpose that you and your team set up as some distant point in the past. The machinery of the everyday business can wear down the best of us.
Create some space to get back into your true purpose, your reason for being in this role, with this team and in this company. What did you sign up for that was so inspiring and purposeful for you? Recharging purpose brings a renewed sense of meaning to the most challenging situations.
The Power of Choice – Remembering that we have choice in nearly everything we do brings ambition, energy, and creativity to struggling cross roads. Are you finding strength in the things you get to do or are you dull because of things you think you have to do?
Choice reminds us that we are authors of our life and not simply actors in life, waiting for others to make decisions or tell us what to do.
These three insights help me, and can certainly help you, accelerate through difficult situations when applied with deep intent and discipline.
For You & Your Team
How do you and your team engage with risk?
I use the MAZE to help people and teams understand how they challenge risk, in real time. The MAZE is an 8 by 8 square, resembling a large chessboard marked out on the floor. The team works in two subgroups, each subgroup attempts to move through the MAZE, one person at a time. There is only one safe pathway through the MAZE.
People are not allowed to talk during the activity. They have to concentrate and think together so they can remember where the safe path through the MAZE is. Players are penalized if they step on an unsafe square.
There comes a point in the activity where someone gets to a square in the MAZE where nobody has been before. Participants in the MAZE look to their colleagues for support and advice about which forward step they should take.
Some people stand in the MAZE for a long time, unable to decide what to do.
During the debrief, we discuss why it was so important to get the input of the other team members, when none of them had any information that could help them with the decision about which square to choose. The fear of making a mistake and being penalized was higher than their ambition to move through the MAZE.
In the case of the MAZE, nobody in the team had any knowledge or wisdom that could have added to the quality of the decision. People were afraid to make a mistake, preferring to have the risk shared by the entire team.
We must make mistakes if we want to improve. We must risk breaking convention and falling outside of accepted patterns of doing things. Hiding in the herd does not help you, your team or your business to step out and meet new challenges.
How many times in the past year have you been cautioned by your boss for taking too much risk in your business?
Have you ever received a warning letter because of your risky behavior?
Keeping your head down is an attempt to survive, but it certainly will not help your team or business thrive.
For You, Your Team & Your Business
Leadership teams that play at their best are very clear about the role that each leader plays in the executive team and holds individual members accountable to that role. This is more than the functional role a leader plays in the executive team, rather the role that each leader fulfills as a member of the leadership team.
The Balanced Player Matrix is not an exhaustive collection of leadership roles, yet it stimulates meaningful discussions about how leaders see their role and what executives should expect from each other to create a high performing leadership team.
Let us look at a few examples:
- The functional fanatic defends their business function above all. Admirable to a point, but an executive that serves their function over larger organization interests will hurt the team, and business performance over time.
- The committee comrade is everyone’s friend and values group harmony above all. Yet a need for harmony can prevent a leadership team from confronting difficult issues. High performing leadership teams storm, and do so in a constructive and respectful way. Being too nice can lead to friendly avoidance, a dangerous state for any leadership team.
- The pie in the sky strategist is creative and forward thinking, yet is often too far from reality to bring tangible opportunities into the team or business.
- The operational addict is an executive that has often worked their way up from the bottom, knows the business better than anyone else and, at times, steps deeply into the business, sometime to the harm of others that report to them.
- The balanced player has something of all four characteristics, practices each in a balanced way and puts the interests of the overall business ahead of personal agendas, functional interests or their pathway to past successes.
What leadership types are present in your executive team? How do these attributes help or hurt you as a team that aspires to play at its best?
Striving to create a team of balanced players is a constructive step towards becoming a highly effective leadership team.
People, Places & Technology
How do you create and scale a platform business? How does a platform business differ from a technology or software business? Why are platform businesses so highly valued in today’s business environment? Alex Moazed and Nicholas Johnson from Applico address these questions and much more in their new book, Modern Monopolies. Regardless of your type of business, there are many ideas for anyone curious about the opportunities that a platform business has to offer.
Thought for the Day
“A sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon
a team or organization can have.”