The world today is changing so rapidly that organizations need people with leadership skills on their team. Leadership expert Steve Wood provides readers with ideas they can use to improve their leadership and management skills.
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In organizations today we invest quite a bit of money and time into studying best practices. We try to replicate proven practices that generate success. We then train everyone to follow these practices. While this works in situations that have similar business conditions, it can be a very ineffective strategy in situations that require unique, customized solutions.
Successful managers are good at managing repetitive practices that yield standard results. Successful leaders are good at helping people solve unique problems with unusual, non-standard solutions. To learn this, leaders need to often take “roads less travelled.”
The Road Not Taken. This past weekend I was honored to attend a wonderful memorial service for a very accomplished gentleman I knew through my church. His favorite poem, which we read as a responsive reading, was The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (see poem below). When this is read at a memorial service or other ceremony people often misunderstand Frost’s message. (That wouldn’t be said for my friend, he knew the message very well.) But many people assume Frost means that the person telling the story in the poem took the “road less traveled” and had a more fulfilling walk or life. Actually, the poem is about regrets – he regrets not taking the road less travelled. How many of us, when faced with a decision, take the easy, well-trodden route and then regret it later?
Carpe Diem. In the movie Dead Poets Society a teacher named John Keating, played by Robin Williams, delivers this legendary line to a group of male students,"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." Keating inspired the boys when he quoted Herrick, who wrote these opening lines in a poem, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles to-day, To-morrow will be dying.” In the movie Keating encouraged the boys to explore, to put themselves into difficult situations so they could learn, to make their lives mean something, and to do something right NOW because every day might be their last.
Suggestions for Taking a Different Road. A large percentage of our day as workers, managers and leaders is pretty routine, so we fall into a routine ourself. It’s natural. We’re like the moon in orbit around earth – we rise, we set, and we predictably change our phase during our normal business cycle. This routine, if not nudged out of orbit, becomes complacency. Complacency doesn’t teach us how to take a different road – just the opposite. Here are five things you can do to learn to take a different road:
Recognize when a problem is repeating itself. Solving it the same way will likely mean it will repeat itself. Try a different solution.
When you hear or think a “killer phrase”, see the situation as an opportunity to take a different road. Here are a few good “killer phrases” from Chic Thompson–
a. Yes, but
b. We’ve always done it this way
c. It will be more trouble than it’s worth
d. We haven’t got the manpower
e. It’ll never fly
Practice using intuition and reason when solving problems. Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” For many challenges, our intuition knows the best course, but we don’t listen because we let reason win out. Intuition needs to be developed and, when combined with reason, can lead you to new places. There are many intuition exercises on the Internet – explore them until you find one or two that work best for you.
Interrupt at least one routine task each day; change your approach to problem-solving regularly. Routine interruptions could be as simple as eating something different for breakfast, walking a different route at lunch, or re-writing that standard e-mail you send every Tuesday. Changing your approach to problem-solving could include regularly involving different people, asking questions that provoke different thinking, and visiting other businesses or offices to obtain different view points.
Start a “Bucket List” and start doing things on the list. Try to use one of these experiences to give you new insight into solving a challenging problem.
Effective leaders have no regrets and often take the road less travelled. Will you?
The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients. READ MORE >>
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.
Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer.
Strategic Planning - Many organizations have a plan or pieces of a plan, but only a few have a thoughtfully developed strategic plan. Strategic planning is a process that has a beginning and no end! It starts with the formation of a mission and core values statement. The process continues with the development of a vision statement, long-term objectives, regular SWOT analysis, strategies, and short-term objectives. We can help you achieve your Strategic Planning goals.
Organizational Development - An organization is a group of people working together for a common mission. As the organization succeeds, more people (employees, customers, stakeholders) are involved and the organization grows more complex. Culture, structure, and systems evolve to deal with these growing complexities. Leaders at all levels develop. Ask me how we can help you achieve your Organizational Development goals.