Why Leaders Must Fight GravityImagine a tall, rugged mountain. So large in fact that it could be sectioned into four horizontal segments of equal width, as follows:
1. The top section is labeled: RATIONALE
2. The section beneath that one is labeled: DESIRED OUTCOME
3. The next one down is labeled: APPLICATION
4. The bottom section is labeled: STUFF TO BE DONE
Now, picture a leader or leadership team confronting a significant challenge in the business: for example the size and mix of a marketing budget. The mountain represents the issue being discussed, whether it’s a challenge, opportunity, problem, or issue. The sections represent how that issue should be dealt with.
Begin with understanding the RATIONALE for the discussion in the first place. Typically, and often unfortunately, this is done relatively quickly… “So we can get on to the action steps, the stuff that really needs to be done!” I would suggest: don’t be so quick to move down the mountain. Fully and completely exploring and understanding the Rationale can make a very big difference to the actions taken in the other sections of the mountain.
In my example, asking insightful questions will illuminate the Rationale more fully. For example: “Why do we have a marketing budget in the first place? What do we really want it to do? Do we mean, “Marketing” or “PR”? Why are we looking to diversify the mix of our spending? Why do we feel we need to spend this amount money in Marketing? Is that the correct assumption?”
From there, the discussion should naturally, and rightly, move to the next section: “What is our DESIRED OUTCOME?”
Again – don’t rush this discussion. “What’s our desired outcome? Beat the competition? Launch a new product? Grow revenue? Be better known? Survive? Expand?” The Desired Outcome is not always what it appears to be at first glance. Really exploring every aspect, both short and long term, will bring it into much sharper focus.
Then move to the next section: APPROACH. Here most leaders excel. “Approach” is simply another word for “strategy”, i.e. determining how best to deliver the Desired Outcome. However, now having a truly comprehensive understanding of the Desired Outcome will have major ramifications on the approach selected.
Finally, this leads to the STUFF TO BE DONE…the tactics. Actually doing the work that is required to get the result wanted.
Leaders often want to move down the mountain too quickly, to get to “Approach” and “Stuff to be done” as fast as possible. This is understandable, and gravity at work!
In fact, for optimum results, leaders must fight gravity. Stay in the clouds of the mountain’s top two segments longer. Long enough, in fact, that you’re confident there’s nothing more to be gained by exploring those segments. Admittedly the cloudy portion of the mountain can get, well, cloudy, with intense discussion; but, they do ultimately clear, and then, and only then, should we allow gravity to pull us lower.
The challenge is on the one hand to know when to let gravity work, and on the other, how long to fight it to ensure truly world class results.
But one thing is clear, we must fight it long enough to ensure all the efforts we will ultimately exert at the bottom of the mountain are the right efforts, produce the best possible result, and actually deliver what was really wanted at the outset.
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