Welcome back to a New Year and its rituals of resolutions, reviews and fresh starts. For some, and I hope for many, this is the time of coming back fresh and energised. For others, this is a ‘here we go again’ time.
In any case, one of the tings you would have noticed notice, is that the issues left on the desk have not gone away. If you had that secret wish of a miracle, a twist in history, or a sudden revolution in the background that could change plans for the better, you may be disappointed.
Try Einstein. This is possibly an apocryphal story. Prof Einstein was confronted by his worried assistant in Princeton. Professor, he said, we have a problem. What’s that?, Einstein replied. Well, I’ve got you questions for this year final exam, but they are exactly the same question as last year’s. Widely circulated, as you know. Einstein reflected for a little bit longer than a millisecond. Oh, he said, the questions may be the same, but the answers are different.
Seriously, try that. The questions, our questions, have not gone away. I bet they may look like this: how to increase this lousy productivity, how to engage the workforce in a meaningful way, how to deliver the project properly, how to get my direct reports behaving like a proper leading team, how to shape this culture in need of a bit of shock, how to inject a sense of urgency, how to make sure that the 15000 people in the payroll get the message of where we are, where we are going and the values behind. Etc.
There are another thousand of so questions that may be floating around. Still there, waiting. They have not gone away. Try Einstein this time. Look for the different answers.
If I had to express my number two wish for leaders this New Year (number one was published yesterday) this will be it. The questions are the same. Actually they look pretty much the same, smell the same, feel the same, and most have the same nametag attached. But we must look for different answers. Looking for does not mean to have them handy, that it will be easy. It means to make a concerted effort to look at the challenges fresh and start experimenting with ‘what if we could do this different’? We are the masters of providing a B solution to a A problem. Always. What if there is a better C, D, E answer?
This may sound a little trivial, perhaps uncomfortable. OK, leadership is uncomfortable. A comfortable leadership does nor exist. Involve your teams, other people, the ones who perhaps have never been asked for anything other than ‘doing their jobs’. Bring the aliens (there are always friendly aliens who would be honoured to be asked to find the ‘different answers’; they may even be in the same building)
If we are to progress in this business of leading organizations , we must try the Einstein treatment. Surely what it was good for Eistein’s subject matters, can be good for management and leadership.
Tip: to repeat, bring the aliens, they have a better chance to find them and help you. You may be too close to your portfolio of ready-made, universal answers.