Are you a hero?
In your life and career, you have encountered and practiced, a range of leadership styles. In our work transitioning founder-run businesses into professionally managed enterprises, we have found that most leaders can be grouped into two distinct categories that we call “heroic” and “post-heroic”. Which are you?
Self-reliance, stubbornness and determination are prerequisites to getting a new enterprise off the ground, so in the early stages, a “heroic” leader is just the thing; blazing a trail, leading the way and inspiring followers. The style is efficient, intuitive and highly effective.
It is a great irony then, that the leadership qualities that got a fledgling business launched are the very qualities that will limit its growth. "What got you here won't get you there" in the words of Marshall Goldsmith.
“Heroic” management is the work of a single actor, amplified by a staff of reactors; a dictatorship where the leader decides and dictates actions for others to carry out. This is our default notion of leadership and when we think of a strong leader, he or she is probably exercising this style.
In the “post-heroic” style, decisions and actions are made by a collective intelligence; a team of people properly motivated and coordinated to work effectively together.
This is a much less intuitive style of leadership and making this transition is difficult, but we think it absolutely critical to get beyond the "Tribal Limit" of about 150 individuals that both Dave Logan in “Tribal Leadership” and Malcolm Gladwell discuss in "The Tipping Point".
So, are you a hero? Or are you post-heroic?
Building an enterprise requires vision, discipline and skill. It requires something else as well: Effective collaboration.
Enterprises fail: not because the vision was wrong;
not because of a lack of discipline
not because of a lack of hard work and
not because there was not enough skill.
Enterprises fail because of people.
That’s right. Good people, trying hard to work together and failing to do so.
It happens all the time.
Here is the problem:
We are not only not trained in effective teaming;
We are actually trained from an early age not to team!
Not only that:
Competition, not cooperation, is hard wired into us!
Our evolutionary history bred into us, a need to vanquish. This is a need that resides in a primitive part of the human brain. A part of the brain that cannot reason. A part of the brain that has no access to language. A part of the brain that manifests in emotion, in feeling and in action.
Not to fear, there are ways to work with this part of the brain. It's not through reading, it's not through reason. It's through action. Feeding that primitive brain with reinforcing emotional payoffs. We all know the feeling when we have succeeded, when achieving something very rewarding makes us feel ... well ... good. See? There's no language or reason here. Just feeling.
TopTeam puts that to work in building an effective team. We allow each player to feel the success of achieving something spectacular, something clearly not achievable alone; to get that feeling again and again; to become addicted to that feeling!
The Heath brothers, in their book "Switch" use an effective metaphor to talk about two elements within us that determine our behavior. They introduce the idea that our nature, that feeling part of us, is like an Elephant; huge, powerful, and willful. Sitting atop the Elephant is the tiny Rider, representing our logical and rational selves. It’s not hard to imagine the Elephant having his way if he wants it! That’s exactly what happens when we are emptying the ice cream tub while our brain screams NO!
Changing behavior in a lasting way involves two steps:
Creating a path for the "Elephant" and
Educating the "Rider"
Unless there is an easy path for the Elephant to take, the Rider will have little control.
Applying this philosophy to promoting effective collaboration is powerful, effective, and it is what we help you do.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” says this:
“Not strategy. Not technology. It’s TEAMWORK that remains the ultimate competitive advantage both because it’s so powerful and so rare. If you can get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction you can dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”
Never having been to a "Hackathon", I didn't know what to expect. Now I can see why some of the people I met this weekend at the Yale event are self-described "Hackathon Junkies". It was an energizing, fun weekend with an exciting group of young people, each passionate about making some aspect of healthcare better. More than 50 "Pain Pitches" evolved into 35, 3-minute judged pitches for topics ranging from relieving a child's stress while waiting for treatment, to better ways of training radiologists to interpret images. First, I joined a group trying to come up with a way to make personal medical information more readily available to first-responders and to streamline intake at medical facilities. After finding that our ideas were readily available, we "pivoted" to address the reasons for poor adoption of such methods. 15 minutes with a clinical mentor convinced us that the solution was to overhaul the whole US medical system (not a bad idea), or move to Finland, so we "pivoted" again. Another mentor had discovered a sole individual beavering away at a prototype who clearly needed a team.
At 4pm on Saturday I joined Sathya, a 3rd year engineering student from India who had flown in specifically for the event with a passion to develop a device to enable his friend with ALS to regain some ability to communicate using only his breath in puffs. An hour later, we were joined by Yusuf, a freshman from MIT who dove in to develop the text-to speech portion of the code. By 10am Sunday, the device spoke its first words, at 10:20 we pitched to a "Genius Bar" of judges and mentors who provided feedback. At noon, we submitted our PowerPoint deck and at 2pm we were on the stage in front of judges and an audience of over 200 describing the device. Insane energy, controlled chaos, satisfying outcomes.
Kudos to Yale CBIT http://cbit.yale.edu/ and the organizing staff for managing a superb event.
I just finished a book that I think should be required reading (I don’t get a commission, I just really liked the book)
Superforecasting is about much more than forecasting, but its relevance now, after the spectacular failures in forecasting of the last few months is especially acute.
The author, Phil Tetlow is a prof at the Wharton School. He was born in Ontario and did his undergrad at UBC, then got a pile of US degrees, but he retains what I think is an identifiable Canadian voice in his work which I find refreshing.
Funded by IARPA (like DARPA but Intelligence instead of Defense), the work he has overseen to quantify and improve forecasting outcomes is nothing short of revolutionary in my view. (There’s the Canadian voice .. an American would have put the period three words sooner) So much of what he talks about in decision making process, working toward the best outcome, and the impediments to getting there has been embedded in my work since 1988.
A $70M specialty supply company is healthily profitable, but growth has stopped. Despite trying everything that had worked in the past, sales volumes continue to backslide. “Why? What can we do about it?”
In early employee interviews, one senior executive astutely observed: “We don’t have a management team. We have one manager and 200 Administrative Assistants”
It became clear that we had found our limit to growth. Just as driving a speedboat does not serve well as training to command an ocean-liner; neither does starting and growing a successful business train you to manage a corporation. Now we had to define the objective of ownership. Did they want to get out of the speedboat?
The project we defined built a new management team. We worked to get the right people “on the bus”, coaching and training existing staff and managing new recruiting to fill gaps. We engaged the team in the process of determining the strategic vision of the company. This team then developed the tactical plans to serve that vision, leading to accountable and committed execution. The company can now support a return to growth. Furthermore, with a functioning management team, the company is much more stable as an acquisition target, or as an acquiring platform, opening significant new opportunities for the owners.
Scott C. Lewis has 3 successful startups, 2 turnarounds and dozens of coaching and business development projects under his belt. In 30 years of tech entrepreneurship, he has developed product, sold, managed the sales process, developed and managed advanced manufacturing, support and distribution... all through effective teams.