*This article was also published in my weekly column in the Trinidad and Tobago Business Newsday Jan 9 2014
A couple weeks ago I wrote a column titled *Why Outside the Box Thinking has Led to Inside the Box Stagnation.* Here’s an excerpt that will lay the foundation for today’s column:
Over the past decade, Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg who wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal called ‘Think Inside the Box’ have asked senior executives, on every continent and in every major industry, two key questions about innovation. The first: “On a scale of one to 10, how important is innovation to the success of your firm?” The second: “On a scale of one to 10, how satisfied are you with the level of innovation in your firm?”
Not surprisingly, they rate the importance of innovation very high: usually a 9 or 10. None disputes that innovation is the No. 1 source of growth. Without fail, however, most senior executives give a low rating—below 5 —to their level of satisfaction with innovation. How could business leaders rate innovation as so important yet feel so dissatisfied with their own organizations’ performance?
What these leaders really want to know is: How do you actually generate novel ideas and do so consistently, on demand?
The answer to this question lies in your ability to lead and to do so effectively.
Stop for a minute and rate yourself as a leader on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst in leadership and 10 being the best in leadership. Don’t rate your leadership POTENTIAL, but how you’re performing currently as a leader. Go ahead, choose a rating. No one is going to see this score but you.
In his book * Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly*, author Mike Myatt shares what he knows to be true based on empirical evidence gleaned from conducting thousands of interviews with senior executives “Regardless of your position or title you most likely rated yourself between a 6 and an 8. The reality is regardless of how transparent you tried to be 90+ percent of all people in leadership positions won’t rate themselves below a 6. Similarly 90+ percent of people in leadership positions won’t rate themselves higher than an 8. ”
In self-evaluations we all have a tendency to overrate ourselves. So Mike’s team also surveyed thousands of subordinates and peers as well as those whom the leaders report to. Using the same scale this group rated the leaders a full 2 percentage points lower. So if you rated yourself an 8, your co-workers rated you a 6. If you rated yourself a 6, then they most likely rated you a 4.
This illustrates the leadership gap and whether this is THEIR perception and not YOUR reality – the fact is that it exists and you need to do something about it.
One of my readers, Brandon Mascall, shared his thoughts on the article I referred to at the beginning of this column, and with his permission, I’m sharing them here.
“Ms. Hudson, while I agree with everything you said I would like to share a few of my observations about executives with regard to how many of them score the importance of innovative thinking – high.
- From what I have observed many of the persons in authority: managers, supervisors, executives etc, often place a high emphasis on wanting their employees to think outside the box, but many of them fail to recognise when this method of thinking is required of them. They often fail to grow their thinking box and because of this limit the persons who possess the ability to produce innovation.
- Another point is that many executives today fail to listen or consider advice from the people under their authority. How can thinking outside the box be productive if the ideas are not considered by the persons with the authority to turn these ideas into change? How can individuals that have the ability to produce thinking outside the box be motivated to “think” when the persons in authority fail to recognize innovative ideas?
- If executives really value this type of thinking they must create the environment that fosters such thinking. They must be willing to trust the persons they employ, they must become opened minded through the growing of their own thinking box, and they must understand individual behaviour with regards to motivation. I often hear how disappointed executives are with innovation within their firms, and most of the time they attribute this disappointment on the persons under them not being able to produce. If executives are really interested in being satisfied with innovation they must be willing to remove the boundaries that they set on employees and be also able to recognize and reward innovative thinkers.
Brandon ended with his own conclusion: “In my own personal experience these executives are their own biggest barriers to innovation within the workplace.”
In the prologue of Mike Myatt’s book he says “the rigidity of a closed mind is the first step in limiting opportunity.” You have people like Brandon working for you with innovative ideas to share. But it’s frustrating to work with you if you continue to be unaware or CHOOSE to remain unaware because you’re too afraid to cede control. Control is not helping you. It’s limiting your ability to lead. You think that he/she who has the most control has the most power but this is far from the truth. You may use COERCIVE power because of your position and authority, but trust me – no one is WILLINGLY doing anything. They’re either acting out of fear or you get just enough compliance so that the employee doesn’t get fired. Is this what you want? If you really dig deep into your heart – it isn’t.
If you want to change the game, turn things around and become more effective then you need to become more self aware. Listen to the feedback others are giving you. Don’t trivialize it and chalk it up to bitterness on your employee’s part. If everyone is telling you that you’re too controlling and need to lighten up, perhaps you do. We ALL have blind spots. Don’t be naive and don’t be arrogant. Some 2600 years ago the ancient Greek poet Pindar wrote, “Become who you are by learning who you are.” When you gain a better understanding of yourself, you will begin to reduce the number of blind spots; the better you know yourself, the more effective you will be and the better you’ll relate to others. I’ll end today with a sobering thought from Mike
“Where leadership always runs amok is when hubris overshadows humility, and self-serving motives take the place of service beyond self.”
If you would like to start the process to rediscovering yourself – becoming more self aware than click here.