Entries in Paradox (6)
Red, Right, Returning – when returning from the sea, make sure the red buoys are on the starboard (right) side to stay in the channel. This phrase was drilled into my head as a kid when I learned to sail, leaving the secure confines of our harbor for the big wild sea.
Every business, organization, entrepreneur, C-suiter, yes, humans need ballast - guiding principles, missions and core values to help navigate the big wild sea.
Herein lies a fundamental paradox: the importance of getting outside one’s comfort zone, exploring, discovering, lens-shifting and living at the edge based on a foundation of values providing guidance and ballast – like the bell buoy at the harbor entrance.
What’s your Red, Right, Returning?
- For businesses and organizations, it’s your mission and purpose – the reason the organization exists, the way you benefit your customers, employees and stakeholders, the way you create powerful outcomes that others can’t;
- For entrepreneurs, C-suiters and humans, it’s your personal values you won’t compromise, your integrity, character, the impact on those that work for and with you and the impact on those around you – family, friends, acquaintances.
The photo is of the Pemaquid Point Gong Buoy #2 at the entrance to the Johns River and Pemaquid Harbor. It is my favorite bell buoy gifting a sound that gives me comfort, rest and peace. A sound I return to over and over – after a long day of excitement, stress, hectivity, whatever (yes, I have it on my iPhone).
As you approach the end of summer, before the fall arrives, what is your Red, Right, Returning? What is your ballast? Defining, refining, communicating that is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s not something that ‘can wait til later.’ It’s something that is critical to your organization and business, to your customers, your employees, your stakeholders and yourself. Please spend some time to reflect, rediscover and then launch out to sea, knowing that buoy is always there.
We use the term "trump" a lot (hum...gambling influence on our culture?). So I thought I'd posit a few trump cards of my own for the summer - here they are:
Meaning & Purpose Trump Money & Profit: While we see this in the younger generation, isn’t it really true for all of us, even if we don’t admit or realize it? Hey, ½ (or more) of our lives are ‘at work’ – so we should enjoy it, relish it, be passionate about it. It should be a means AND an end, not just a means to an end….
Challenge: Increase the meaning and purpose of those who work with and for you before the end of August.
Paradoxical Thinking Trumps Critical Thinking: While I was raised to think paradoxically (more eastern than western), for most of us, it’s formidable – we’re been trained in logic & linear progression. But life, work and innovation are about AND/BOTH, not EITHER/OR – that’s a false choice. Look at the edges.
Challenge: Discover a paradox, perhaps at the fringe, to help you and your team innovate before the end of August.
Culture Trumps Strategy: The best made plans are worthless if they’re not aligned with the culture. Sometimes the strategy can help transform the culture (for good or bad), but if the culture doesn’t support it, it won’t happen. Perhaps that’s why I think CEOs need to be CCS’s – Chief Culture Stewards.
Challenge: Start to check the health of your culture – really, be brutally honest -before the end of August.
Strategy Trumps Structure: In most crises, the first thing the organization does is restructure; ok, problem solved. How can you restructure without knowing where you’re going and how best to achieve it? Yet I fight this all the time with most clients. Remember – Form follows Substance. Structure is a trailing indicator, not the cure.
Challenge: If you have a good strategic direction, check to see if you’re organizationally aligned to make it happen before the end of August. (if you don’t, email me!)
Structure Trumps Processes: In helping clients formalize SOPs, we’ve realized that structure can stand in the way. Understanding how process improvement in one area affects another can help you negatively affect other process in other areas. It’s the 2nd, 3rd order effects, the ‘unintended’ consequences that can get you.
Challenge: Identify a few key processes and see their ripple effects throughout your systems before the end of August.
Please share your efforts on these challenges so we can learn from & help each other!!
This is just a quick post on something that hit me yesterday. In preparing for a strategic planning session this week, I realized that no matter how many of these I do, there is always a paradoxical feeling of being nervous about doing an excellent job for my client and being confident (hopefully not arrogance) in being great at what I do. After all, the stakes are pretty high: people’s livelihoods, families, safe working environments, taxes paid to schools, police, etc. and the rest of a business ecosystem to say the least.
It’s that paradoxical feeling that keeps me on my toes, asking dumb questions, challenging the status quo and trying to draw out the client’s wisdom and courage to grow. This week, the client’s leader is the epitome of paradox! He is one of the most innovative, creative, ‘out-there’ thinkers I’ve ever met and one of the most dependent on routine and habit. That paradox is the reason they have more than doubled growth in 3 years - paradoxically in an industry that is shrinking!
As some of you know, I love paradoxes. They make us think, explore, reflect, discover, search, question. Innovation is found in new combinations of existing ‘stuff’. Paradox is crucial to making that happen – it leads us to revisit and question assumptions, to combine things in ways we didn’t or couldn’t have imagined, to take the best of both and discard the worst. Paradox makes us ask Why and Why Not repeatedly. Paradox puts us out there at the edge (per John Hagel), where new things are happening, even if it’s not always ‘safe’.
So this week, as a few of us will be intensely embracing paradoxes, why don’t you too? Look for just one area in your business, organization, environment that seems counterintuitive, that is an oxymoron and question why, and why not. Please share what you discover.
I believe mentoring is a gift for the mentee and the mentor. Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed with incredible mentors who, perhaps unknowingly, taught me how to mentor. It’s something I take seriously and joyfully. It is a paradox - an incredibly selfless thing that is also very selfish.
Recently, my mentoring has increased. In addition to mentoring Brown seniors and startups, I’m mentoring Oberlin College students applying for a fellowship to start their business after graduation in May. Many of these kids were in my recent Business Model Innovation class. They are eager for advice and guidance. They really listen! For some reason, the stakes seem higher to me than in mentoring 'adults'. For these kids' their first entrepreneur experience will shape their view of entrepreneurship, innovation, success and failure. That's part of why they are making me a better mentor. How? They make me challenge my own ‘status quo’ views and improve my ability to ask dumb questions. Here’s what I have (re)learned from them:
- Status Quo is a powerful Siren Song: It’s so easy to succumb to the status quo; though I fight it, it’s the boiled frog syndrome – and it’s so very human. When you’ve been doing, investing in and supporting startups and consulting with businesses for a long time, it’s easy to get lulled into thinking you know a lot; and you do, but not everything and not forever. In our dynamic world, the lifespan of knowledge is increasingly decreasing. I have to challenge my own reasoning and ideas;
- Paradox of Inexperience and Experience: The blank slate, the fresh naïve perspective these kids have creates innovative solutions to real needs with non-traditional business models for non-traditional customers and markets. I learn so much about different perspectives, shifting my lens so I see the ‘usual’ in unusual ways. And my clients will benefit from lessons I’ve experienced from the inexperienced.
- Mentor Mentors: Through the network of alumni mentoring women at Brown and my friend Whitney Johnson’s insightful, must read posts about mentoring, I’ve learned how to be a good mentor: what does/doesn’t work, when, why, in which circumstances. This has also broadened the network I can share with my mentees – teaching them the importance of The Network.
So, take some advice from these kids – start mentoring. It will stretch you in ways you can’t imagine, let you to share your learnings with others for their success, and provide life-long experiences to be shared, imparted and enjoyed.