The way of the contrarian...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I was reminded a couple of days ago that I am a contrarian; it was not the first time, and usually not meant as a compliment. For those not familiar with the word, a contrarian is a person who takes an opposite or different position from other people. And this reminds me of a story - 

Many years ago, in a land far away, there was a very prosperous city state that was the envy of all.  The city was ruled by a council of eleven wise elders and all city decisions were their responsibility, including ruling on any disputes or crimes that came before them; majority ruled on all decisions, with each of the eleven elders having a vote. One day a man accused of a heinous crime was brought before the council and after hearing the story, each of the elders voted guilty. At that point, the wisest of the elders announced the final judgment of the council; the accused man was to be set free. In disbelief, the on-lookers shouted their disapproval and wanted to understand how such a ruling could be made.

The wisest of the elders stood and explained that when all of the members of the council agreed, they believed that there was a common bias that existed among them, they were looking at the situation through the same eyes, and they had not uncovered the unknown details that would make for the best decision - In short, when they all agree, they have made a flawed decision.  

The strength in making better decisions lies with contrary discussions, differing positions, ideas and different ways of thinking; with the contrarian acting as the facilitator. Being referred to as a contrarian is a good thing, a necessary thing...

  • They will help you pressure test your thinking to ensure it is sound.
  • They challenge groupthink. 
  • They help look at a situation in a different way.
  • They remind us that everyone thinking the same way does not necessarily make for good decisions.
  • They help advocate and adapt to change.
  • They introduce new ideas.

I knew a CEO who designated a person, as part of their role, to always challenge his strategic thinking... to be that executive contrarian. His rationale was simple, if his thinking could not stand up to the rigors of the board room, how could it ever stand up in the real world.

Embrace those people who don't agree with you, hear them out, encourage the discussion... your thinking will be better for it, and most likely your decisions - Even if they don't agree.


People and money... building a good foundation.

There was a an "old school" leader I worked with who played the game of business hard... smoked hard, drank hard, and he played to WIN hard. With a drink in hand, I remember him telling me, "A good manager is determined by how he manages his financial picture". Over the years I have remembered his words and although they do ring true, what he said lacked something so profoundly important.

What he should have said in my humble opinion, is something to this effect, "Good managers are determined by how they manage their people and financial picture"

PEOPLE and MONEY - It is, and always will be, about people and money.

Let's start with MONEY as most of us want it, like to spend it, and will leverage the perceptions of having it. When I say money however, I am actually referring to how you manage it... how you generate it and how you effectively work it; spend it, invest it, and control it - It is the fuel that runs everything. And if money is the fuel, then PEOPLE are the engine... nothing, simply nothing, run's, operates or gets done without people. Full stop.

If you watch successful leaders and managers they always have their Finance and HR partners very close at hand and are ever present (sometimes commercial is included, but that is usually to remind them revenues are not enough... a truism to be sure, as they never are). The effective management of people and money is the foundation for any business success. I had once "acquired" an assignment, and will go out on a limb to say it was a category five "shit storm" - Within the first two days I was asking for my HR and Finance partners. They worked with me understand our bench strength of people, the structure we were working with, and our financial health. In the end, finances were put in order with established controls, people and structure "righted", and as a result, activities in-line with our objectives started to take shape. Success was starting to take hold.   

People and Money, like the engine and fuel, are the fundamentals of a "vehicle" that will take you anywhere and allow you to do anything. It's important to get good at driving - 

  • Know your HR and Financial partners; meet with them regularly.
  • Involve your HR and Financial partners in your team meetings and activities.
  • Ensure you have personal HR and Finance development objectives, as part of your annual goals.
  • Ask leaders you respect about their philosophies regarding people and money management.
  • Develop a lead and lag indicator dashboard that highlight your people and money goals.
  • You want individual contributors to be well versed with people and money as it strengthens the bench, increases engagement, understanding, and optimizes execution.
  • Elicit constructive feedback and be open to it.
  • Don't underestimate how complex and complicated people and money can get, particularly in times of rapid growth and expansion. 

Remember that time when you ran out of gas, or heard a piston that had ceased up in the engine and the car came a halt? You were so happy to see the friendly tow truck driver... well, with PEOPLE and MONEY, someone analogous to a tow truck driver shows up, but more often than not you aren't happy to see them, and they generally are not very friendly.

It's best to build a good People and Money foundation and stay on the move.


Is your vision aligned?

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I was at a meeting a while back when a business leader suggested the need to spend some time together to ensure our "visions are aligned" - There was great leadership in this simple request. In it, he would ensure the parties around the table truly had a vision and in turn understood their goals, as well as ensuring that there was a commonality and in that effectively work together. 

A vision, or vision statement is sometimes called a picture of you in the future, but it'’s so much more than that. Your vision is your inspiration, the framework for all your planning and all of your activities. Individuals and organizations should have a vision and it should be in a form that is easy to articulate... it should roll of the tongue effortlessly.

One obvious reason is that "everything you do" should be connected to your "vision for the future", allowing you will achieve whatever you have in mind for yourself. As the conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat tells us , "if you don't know where you are going, it doesn't matter what road you take" ( What they didn't mention is that some roads are easier to travel than others ).

Another reason for an articulated vision, and I will suggest even more important than above, is that very few things are ever built alone... success comes when you work with others. Having a vision that is very easy to articulate makes it simple for people to understand, engage, and align - People rallying around a common vision is how momentum to do incredible things gets started, and more importantly sustained. This is where motivational sayings are made. 

But, what happens when you find yourself in a situation where your visions do not aligned?

  • Differing agendas and personal conflict.
  • Poor and ineffective execution.
  • Frustration.
  • Lost opportunity and wasted effort.
  • Mediocrity. 

This is a result of not being able to clearly articulate visions and determine if there is commonality, synergy and alignment to make things happen. Understanding this, is where leadership is made. 

Having different visions is just fine, but trying to build something with misaligned visions is precarious to say the least. It is important that all of us bring a clear vision to "the table", so we all know what we will rally behind ... or not.