“What should you forget?”
– Mack Elevation
A few years back I partnered with a client who had previously enjoyed an entrepreneurial success. She had made a lot of money selling her business and, after sitting on the sidelines for a few years, jumped back into the game with the dream of doing it all over again. After a few years of flirting with her new venture, she quietly exited to the sidelines. It was a jarring failure.
Successful founders often lose their edge. They don’t take the time to assess emerging threats, hidden risks nor their customer’s evolving tastes and preferences. They take short cuts and fail to refresh and revalidate their own perspectives. The problem is that ego and elevated self-image gets the best of them. When have you personally lost your edge, and did you foresee it coming?
Remaining curious, humble, and open to other ideas is an internal battle. Personal achievements often hinder their ability to listen to others who oppose their strategy. It blinds them from taking counsel on innovation, strategy, new approaches, stopping them from asking the important questions. Leaders who have enjoyed previous success often fail to ask the question “what’s different this time around?” Or perhaps the better question: “what should I forget?”
Are You Guilty?
I have experienced this in my own life. After helping launch the PURELL brand, I was asked to help reposition and lead sales at Dentek Oral Care, but I found myself flipping through the same pages of my old playbook. My playbook was out of date. What worked beautifully with the launch of a new experiential product like PURELL was not as important for a specialty oral care product. I should have changed my strategy quicker – but previous success blinded me.
Peter Drucker once stated, “Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.” We all possess a roadmap that we habitually reference when assessing new challenges. Often, our roadmap becomes outdated and doesn’t account for higher levels of volatility, uncertainty and hidden complexity surrounding us. Are you guilty of falling in love with the sound of your own philosophy, or are you open to asking different questions?
It’s vital that personal playbooks do not get in the way of self-assessment, curiosity, and other’s perspectives. When we embrace curiosity, we stop assuming we understand concealed motives or needs. We open ourselves up to critique.
In my leadership forums and coaching practice, we discuss the power of asking uncommon questions. I often observe leaders who veer away from asking difficult questions because they have not built a culture that welcomes honest feedback. These cultures are often emotionally unsafe, inconsistent, and not practiced in courageous discussions. Just like with buyer discussions or any high performing team, leaders must be able to ask (and listen) to difficult questions. This allows you to modify your roadmap as you encounter changing information. Are you brave enough to ask these three difficult questions?
- Why do people really leave this organization and how am I personally a part of the problem?
- Where have I failed to create a culture that honestly questions authority and strategy?
- Is my team having fun and what fears are hindering organizational cohesiveness and impact?
What Have You Forgotten?
The questions we ask ourselves sets the tone for how we enter conversations and how we work through conflict with others. The right question invites us to reassess old scripts and negative experiences that mask our view of the world. We all need to be courageous and ask, “what have I forgotten” and even more importantly, “what should I forget?”
The people I admire, thoughtfully question themselves.
When does your stubbornness show up; what does it cost you, and what one thing can you practice today to reassess your status?
“We run this company on questions, not answers.”
– Eric Schmidt, former CEO and Executive Chairman of Google