Organisations with big problems often hire smart people to fix them. This is necessary but not sufficient.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them
We regularly work with smart people with a transformation mandate. Here are some probing questions to help them stay on the road to success.
Why are you in the room?
Yes sure they need you, and you got the job. That’s why THEY need YOU. But why do YOU need THEM?
- Validation – further proof that you are THE expert? A bigger version of the problem you solved last time? More CV points?
- Development – to learn or enhance something?
- Money / location / escape?
- Something else?
Most of these will probably be on your list, but what’s your #1? Be honest.
If that is your #1 motivation, how will that affect your behaviour?
How do you react to rejection and failure?
After the initial honeymoon period it’s going to get tough, possibly very. Of course hurdles go with the territory, but what happens when these derail?
What happens if your boss or board doesn’t give you the unequivocal support they originally promised? Or keeping the lights on today always gets in the way of fixing for tomorrow? Or someone knifes you in the back?
Are you a journey or destination person?
When was the last time you felt out of your depth?
Remember how it felt? This is probably your impact on the organisation (although many of your colleagues might not realise that). How does this help achieve success?
Do you have time?
Emergency rescues can be fast, but solving massive endemic problems requires time. Are you willing to put yourself on the line for, say, the next 5 years to deliver? How does this align with your #1 motivation above?
Time is a key tool of transformation – used skilfully it can create drama, energy and urgency; out of control it will destroy progress through malaise. Which time tools will you deploy from your arsenal – panic, urgency, patience or perseverance?
Cure or grow?
Is your job to prescribe and administer medication, or lead the tribe to transform their behaviour?
What influences the tribe?
(Hint: quick answers to this question will almost certainly be wrong).
Contain or eliminate?
Will / can you fire, tolerate or hug ‘problem’ people?
What are NOT your smarts?
Review your Johari Window or other profile results. Are you a manager or leader? Do you delegate or empower? How will you mitigate your development opportunities?
Do you have a fundamental recipe or deep curiosity?
If the media is to be believed then gurus have unique recipes that anyone can follow to succeed. So why is success so difficult?
What do you reward?
You get what you incentivise. Long after you’ve gone, what will they be doing?
How will you ensure that you don’t run out of rooms to be smart in?
If you are the average of the people that you hang out with then you are not going to develop on this gig by default.
For a longer read checkout our book Right is Wrong, 8 essential steps to avoid the pitfalls that smart people make when transforming their organisation.
Ben Ramsden supports transformational leaders in market challengers, not-for-profits and institutions to create enduring breakthroughs.