Leaders of a company, division, department, or project had to accomplish a very large number of things right to achieve their current success. They also had to do a number of things correctly many times. All these experiences become habits that we tend to fall back on when we have decisions to make. And that is the problem!
Breakthrough business author Anthony Roberts is quoted as saying
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. ”
That’s OK if the situations you are dealing with have not changed. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, the business world is in a constant state of flux and the rate of change is increasing. This all means that Tony is wrong; if you do what you always did, you will not get what you have always gotten – you will get something very different. And the different outcome will probably make your situation worse, if you believe in Murphy’s Law! This is because you are attempting to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s tools. You would never attempt to set up a pivot table on a VisiCalc program or get driving directions on Windows 95 computer. You would never show up for an important business meeting with your presentation on overhead foils. So why would you not consciously look for new, contemporary, ways to solve your problems. In 2007, Marshall Goldsmith published “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful”. The book’s title says it all.
How do you start to become more in sync with today’s world? This is very easy and yet very difficult. It is easy because there is so much information available on the web that you will be spoiled for choice. You can find great advise and context on millions of blogs, articles, reports, books, tweets, and whatever becomes popular the day after I post this blog. The hard part is finding the time to figure out what you need to know and then to sort through the millions of words on any topic. Fortunately, there is another way.
In most companies, there will some bright, communicative, young rising star that would love to enter into a mutual mentoring relationship with you. You coach her about career development, strategic challenges, difficult decisions you are facing (within reason) and she coaches you about what she learned in business school, how her peers are using social media, current ethics norms, etc. Or maybe you will be as lucky as I am and have a daughter (or son) who is a rising star in her company and is willing to listen to her old dad while telling me about what her generation is thinking and doing. It sure works for me.
By now you understand the challenge and may even think about the mutual mentoring advice, so let me close with a short story. Twice in the past 3 years, I was fortunate to attend talks by Nick Donofrio. Nick capped a 44-year career at IBM by retiring as Executive Vice-President for Technology and Innovation reporting to IBM’s CEO. Both talks were at Bentley University and both were on different aspects of the innovation challenge. He ended both talks by explaining that when he as a teenager, his father wanted him to work after school and hold multiple jobs during the summer to help pay for his college education. Eventually Nick received his PhD and succeeded at IBM. Anyway, one frustration day, young Nick asked his father “Why do I have to work and study so hard? Why can’t I do like the other kids do?” And Nicks father replied,
”If nothing changes, nothing changes.”
Think about Nick’s father and start embracing change – it may be scary at first but will soon make you feel great!