This Is Always The Path To Improvement (Season 2021, Episode 02)

This Is Always The Path To Improvement (Season 2021, Episode 02)

Yesterday’s Know-How May Not Answer Today’s Challenges. That was my original title for today’s show but I changed it.

I have the following quote on my About page…

Do not assume I’m going to take issue with the late, great Peter Drucker because I’m not. I believe he was right.

However, I’m not terribly anxious to speak in absolutes because life has taught me how dangerous it can be to think we know the answer only to realize we don’t fully understand the problem. So I’m careful, but I did use an absolute – ALWAYS – today. See if you agree.

Call it know-how, knowledge, or logic – it may not single-handedly give us the answers for which we’re searching. That doesn’t mean it’s useless. It just means we’re blitzed with new data points every hour (or every minute…maybe every second).

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is, according to Fortune one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders. He’s earned degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering from MIT and a degree in medicine (that’s right, he’s both kinds of doctors) from Harvard. He’s also the author of the book, The Future Is Faster Than You Think. This man has likely forgotten more than I’ve ever learned. When you encounter big-brained folks like him, you take notes. Me? I work hard to try to understand what they’re talking about.

Well, the good doctor has written three books and one of the things I most enjoy about his work is his optimism. He has a viewpoint that the world is largely better than you may think. As he dives into a variety of topics in this latest book, the title reveals the focal point that speed is – well, getting faster! But you knew that already. You feel it every day. Not just in your work, but in your personal life. What once was described as a hamster wheel more closely now resembles a bullet train or a rocket!

When Peter Drucker made that statement yesterday was a different concept. Today, “yesterday” could mean the last hour. Confused yet? Yeah, me, too.

I’m a speed freak meaning I like to figure things out quickly and I like to fix things fast, but…today’s challenges require a bit of time to process. And one of the biggest hurdles facing many of us is the self-imposed pressure we put on ourselves to get it done right now. Or the opposite. The pressure to wait, wait, wait, and wait some more.

Social media reveals how we’re all likely heavily influenced to behave with a knee-jerk reaction – proving that speed isn’t always the most effective component toward growth or improvement. Or wisdom.

Dr. Diamandis’ book reveals a big truth – things are happening so much faster than we even realize. And the shocker is, we all know things are happening blazingly fast. I suspect few of us have considered that we misjudging the speed by thinking it’s slower than reality.

As you know, I do a considerable amount of work in the city government sector. City managers and HR directors have battled keeping updated on this pandemic in order to ideally serve their communities. The vaccine has proven as challenging as any element of this pandemic. How many are we going to get? When will we get them? It’s the daily question vexing those tasked with serving towns and cities throughout America. That unknown contributes to the turbulence of our times. And that’s just one albeit a big component of our world in January 2021.

“Nothing is new,” he says to me.

I’m compelled to respond, “Maybe nothing is new, but the circumstances – the combinations – sure might be.”

Case in point, the extraordinarily low home mortgage rates, the negative impact of government/politics on business and a host of other factors (an unprecedented combination of circumstances) have contributed to driving real estate prices higher and higher making it hard for some to afford to buy a house. Some are predicting a widening of the gap between the have’s and the have not’s sparked by more banks requiring a 20% down payment (so they can protect themselves from foreclosures). The wealthiest people – and companies – are gobbling up real estate in what may be unprecedented fashion.

Speed. The unknown. But another part of turbulence is complexity. Nothing seems simple. I struggle to remember any time when things were even simpler – forget being “simple.” It may be among the reasons why you see more and more younger people embrace minimalism – something that I’ve always found intriguing. I’m a non-practicing minimalist. 😀 I love the idea of it and would happily embrace it. I just don’t want to put in the work required to do it. Yet!

We’ve all long known the fact that what got us here won’t necessarily get us there. So we keep on adding to our arsenal of knowledge, skill, and experience.

Today’s challenges seem to demand a new way of thinking though. A completely different approach.

Or do they?

Could it be that our existing know-how might not have been as ideal as we thought?

Well, of course, that’s possible. Nevermind that it worked for us at some level. Tyranny and foolishness can work. We all know people who have succeeded in spite of themselves. But it’s also possible that yesterday’s know-how worked even though it wasn’t ideal.

Growing up in retailing I quickly realized how lots of retailers in the 1970s practiced bait-and-switch. They’d advertise a low-end product at an attractive price and not have it, or have only one…then shoppers would be shown something at a bit higher price because it had a substantially higher profit margin. And this wasn’t an outlier behavior. It was commonplace. It worked.

But even being taught this in my earliest days of retailing I wondered how much more success might be had if retailers behaved with greater integrity. Would customers appreciate greater honestly? Would they be more drawn to a retailer they trusted more? I thought so.

Is that know-how or something else? Well, for our purposes today I’m rolling everything into know-how. Knowledge. Decision making. Philosophy. Approach. Perspective. Whatever else you’d like to include.

This brings me to the bottom line for today’s show – when it comes to leveraging the power of others, it’s ALWAYS the correct path to improvement. Always!

You cannot have a high-performing career, team, group, or culture alone.

You need the help – the skills, experiences, know-how, perspectives – of other people to fill in those gaps that exist in your life. You’ll find greater understanding, deeper learning, fewer blind spots and so much more when you stop trying to go it alone.

Think about any accomplishment in your life. Got one in mind?

Who helped you? Keep adding names to the list. I’m betting more than one person made a sizeable contribution to your ability to achieve it.

This past weekend I spent some time learning some web design things with the WordPress theme I’m using for this website. Like most website owners I was bored with this site. Rather than just diving in I went out the web and sought out YouTube videos, tutorials, and forums to learn from other people who already know more than me. I’m not a professional web designer, but many of these folks are. It compressed my learning curve substantially. By who knows how much? No, you don’t see a new design here, but I was doing it while watching NFL playoff games so I wasn’t quite as intentional as I might otherwise have been. But I know much more than I did before and it’s not because I’ve got mad dog skills or a big brain. It’s because I’ve got Dirty Harry Syndrome – “a man’s gotta know his limitations” (and I know mine).

Every high-performing career I know personally – including my own – AND every high-performing culture I know personally resulted from listening to frontline people. It included asking questions and listening to the answers. The people closest to the work seem to always have the best answers. Funny how that works. Go figure. You mean somebody who performs a task for 8 hours a day, week after week, year after year – they know more than me?

You mean if the rookie employee seeks out the top performer in that same position she might more quickly learn what it takes to succeed?

I know it’s a novel idea for some, but it’s so obvious it’s often overlooked. It’s certainly underappreciated. And I suspect I know why.

It’s too simple. It seems too easy.

Our world is more complex requiring complex and sophisticated solutions.

Or is it?

Don’t let the American political scene drive you to knee-jerk reactions, stopped up ears, and an open mouth. That’s not the path to improvement or growth. And I don’t care if you’re blue or red. I’m pro-small business and anti-big government. So there’s my bias. I’m happy to confess it. I’ve just seen it play out too many times – and you have, too – where our lives are enhanced, improved, and made better in every way by working together to figure out what ails us and how to fix it.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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Grow Great a public sector leadership podcastAbout the hosts: Randy Cantrell brings over 4 decades of experience as a business leader and organization builder. Lisa Norris brings almost 3 decades of experience in HR and all things "people." Their shared passion for leadership and developing high-performing cultures provoked them to focus the Grow Great podcast on city government leadership.

The work is about achieving unprecedented success through accelerated learning in helping leaders and executives "figure it out." 

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