“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
The Idea: The only thing I hate more than addressing a painful problem is ignoring it. Interpersonal conflicts, unprofitable customer demands, and highly political unproductive projects are painful and affect us all, especially in this moment. But avoidance or lack of courage is always much more dangerous than a nerve-racking, candid conversation. Problems expand and intensify when we ignore, delay, or shun responsibilities. It is better to confront a painful discussion early on than hope it will magically disappear. Monsters always get bigger when not confronted. Are there cracks in your armor?
Author, researcher, and writer Shane Parrish of Farnam Street reminds us the “biggest problem isn’t that our maps are inaccurate but rather that we fail, especially as we age, to revise them. The world is always changing……” Parrish continues: “When we’ve worked so hard over so many years to create a map that we believe represents the world, we tend to ignore information that would suggest we need to redraw our map.” We oftentimes let allow our biases to blind us and we become defensive when friends and associates share the truth of what we are failing to see. Are there decisions that you are avoiding because the truth is too difficult to confront?
Parrish reminds me that “The only way we can ensure our map is accurate is to expose it to the criticism of others.” There are three cracks in our leadership armor that we all must confront.
WHAT ARE THE PEOPLE DECISIONS YOU ARE AVOIDING?
Are members of your team in the right positions or are you delaying difficult inevitable conversations? Are you overinvesting in “high touch” customers but failing to have difficult discussions with your sales or account lead? Bain & Company found that less than 20 percent of organizations have a data-driven, quantified understanding of the total market opportunity, leading to untapped customer potential. Less than one-quarter have an account management process in place, identifying how customers make decisions. Most companies are not having crucial conversations with their sales organizations on how they manage, invest in, and engage with their top customers. There is an enormous amount of wasted resources deployed within the sales or customer process. Which of your top customers deserve a deep-dive assessment?
WHAT ARE THE CUSTOMER DISCUSSIONS YOU FAIL TO TAKE SERIOUSLY?
Research shows that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to twenty-five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. And just because a customer is growing does not mean they are profitable or should be a long-term investment. The most respected leaders dare to elevate difficult topics with their most important customers, which models a culture of bravery and strengthens team trust. If you are not strong enough to embrace dicey conversations with customers, why would your team ever confront you? Not addressing an unprofitable or dysfunctional customer relationship is more than a bad business decision; it weakens your culture.
WHAT PROJECTS, ONGOING MEETINGS OR STRATEGIES NEED TO BE ELIMINATED OR REINVENTED?
Most organizations spend too much time presenting to each other and not enough time pausing, experimenting, or discussing new ideas. Do your team meetings include assessing your customer’s changing needs or future threats that must be neutralized?
We struggle with too many meetings that are too long, with inappropriate agenda topics and the wrong people in attendance. The results? Punch-drunk employees who work into the night, never getting to the most important priorities. I observe this in my own research and coaching practice. Gartner recently conducted research that showed 56 percent of time spent on strategic planning is wasted by most organizations. We never get to the “critical few” topics that truly matter.
The only way to cut the fat is to look in the mirror and critically assess what gets in the way of your personal, professional, and organizational progress.
Is there a crack in your armor?
“You will never do anything in this world without courage.
It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” – Aristotle