to be wrong because, if you are wrong, you only lost a little bit, but you CAN make a big win in the end by responding to what the environment around you wants! False Assumptions “We Give Answers, Not Questions.” This is a major gap for leaders in just about any organizational type. We don’t focus enough on the reality that “If you want a better answer, ask a better question.” Normally when we have to solve a problem, we jump right in assuming we know the question and all we are doing is brainstorming solutions. Many design firms that are making a huge impact now start at Phase Zero. The client comes with the issue, and they take a step back (much like how a client initially gives a presenting concern to a counselor) and dig into research, examining ethnography, demographics, and other data to determine if this is even the right problem. Then, you develop a better question. There is a love of certainty in organizations. We don’t want to be the person questioning what is known.We now realize the importance of asking the question and delving into our assumptions, rather than assuming we know the question and answer. The “Devil’s advocate,” when it was first pioneered within the Catholic Church, was a rotating honorable position to ask tough questions – not just being the overly negative person in the audience. Roger Martin, at the University of Toronto, teaches to stop and ask, “What • To state who the people with positive energy are in the department. • To complete an exercise called Start, Continue, Stop. This may not work for every leader, but you have to find ways to get the lay of the land the quickest, without any preconceived notions. I try to remind myself, have a very strong sense of urgency, but don’t rush. When all else fails, act like you have it under control even when you don’t. There will be times that the old saying is true, and you feel like you are drinking from a fire hose, and that may be the case, but act like you’ve got it under control – you are in that position for a reason. It is also important to identify the big things and tackle those first. Major on the majors, Babcock, continued from page 35
would have to be true in order for this plan to work?” Anytime your board is meeting, it is imperative to have someone asking that question. Then look at what is actually true. We need to check our assumptions before we build our plans around them. Take an incremental step away from the “planning “We Tell People What to Think.” In innovation, design, and creativity, as in leadership, the first step is embracing empathy. We do market research around our demographics, and do generalizations pinpointing our average service user or donor, but we need to understand the motivations, behaviors, and what lies behind their presenting issues. We need to walk a mile in their shoes.We need to sit down and talk, and gain empathy for what stakeholders, donors, members, customers, etc., are feeling. Then, you’ll have a better question; if you do that as a leader, you become a better leader. That only strategy.” False Motives
is the first step. We tend to assume that if people are coming to us, we understand what they want. But THEY may not always know what they want. There are brilliant products out there, making a difference, that people didn’t even know they wanted. Henry Ford once said, “If I asked the customer what he wanted, he would have said a faster horse.” Ford’s faster horse was very different than what they would have asked for! It takes empathy to understand what is behind why customers are coming to you. Nonprofits are great at having empathy for the people that they are serving, but that may not extend to why people volunteer, or give, or function in leadership.Then, we tailor our communications to those populations based on our understandings. The American Red Cross worked with IDEO to understand, not how to get blood out there faster, but how to have empathy for blood donors and make it more likely to get donors. You would think that with simple marketing, more people would know and they would grow. But they found that people make a personal connection to someone they knew who had received blood. Letting people share stories of why they donate, with the people that come into the room next, increased the donations greater than any sort of marketing or PR campaign.That starts with empathy! David Burkus, author of The Myths of Creativity and LDRLB: Leadership, Innovation & Strategy , and writes for The Creativity Post and 99U . His passion is leadership, innovation, strategy, and the transfer of good ideas. as a leader can show a track record of success. That gives others the ability to acknowledge the success of the changes you make. Traditions are there for a reason, and if it is not broken, you don’t necessarily have to fix it. But at the same time, you have to modernize and move the organization forward. Pick your spots, over communicate it, and then be successful with the ones that you tackle first.This gives you the benefit of the doubt as you move along in your tenure. It is certainly more art than science! Whit Babcock, a former baseball player at James Madison University, became Virginia Tech’s director of athletics in January 2014 following two years as the director of athletics at the University of Cincinnati. Babcock’s 20-year career path included stops at Missouri, West Virginia, Auburn and JMU.
and don’t get down into the minutiae or something really controversial that you don’t have to address early on. You need to be very delicate with tradition and pick your spots for change. Tradition in Organizations If you are going to make a change, you always want to over-communicate the “why” behind it. Too often, we as leaders think that sharing once is enough, but you need to keep coming back to “why” change is needed. There is a great book by Simon Sinek, Start With Why, that points out it isn’t enough for us to say that a change is happening because “we said so.” You really need to circle back and make sure that you are communicating the why behind it. If the reasoning is sound, then most likely people will accept it. If you are going to pick your spots for change, go after low hanging fruit first.That way, you