For the past few years we’ve heard a lot about what businesses need to do to survive through the recession and survive in the new economic environment we’ve entered.
No question, these strategies have been helpful and important. But it’s equally important to remember that, although operating in survival mode can keep heads above water, it’s only a short-term solution. And this short-term mentality impacts companies even when it’s not related to tough economic conditions.
Businesses focused on making the leap to the next stage of growth often find themselves in a similar situation. The very mentality that helped them get where they are may be keeping them from getting where they want to go.
Brain research has shown that the kind of thinking that’s essential for short-term survival actually hinders long-term growth and development. In an unpublished chapter originally written for The Whole Brain® Business Book, Ned Herrmann, founder of Herrmann International, addressed this topic as it relates specifically to the dilemma that many businesses face as they attempt to move from infancy to maturity.
In “Short-Term/Long-Term Leadership: Survival of the Fittest,” he notes that, in terms of the Whole Brain® Model, companies often start with an emphasis on D-quadrant thinking about the future and possibilities. But pressing business realities quickly intervene, and cash flow becomes the immediate concern. Leaders discover they must shift to left-mode, A- and B-quadrant thinking to deliver products and services and generate cash quickly.
In short, they suppress entrepreneurial thinking in favor of operational action.
While this approach makes sense for a business in its infancy, it often perpetuates itself long after because left-mode thinking becomes part of the management culture.
The same thinking that kept the business alive up to this point now threatens to kill it.
For the business to thrive, Ned explains, leaders have to become more agile in their thinking and to be able to apply situational Whole Brain® leadership thinking.
You can download the full chapter here: Short-Term/Long-Term Leadership: Survival of the Fittest
How do you win senior management’s confidence and commitment when your initiatives are competing for time, attention and budget?
Learn how you can better harness your own thinking preferences and the brainpower of those around you to make your case. Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shows you how in the free HR.com webinar, Getting Buy-in for Your HR Initiatives: Applying C-Level Thinking for Faster and Better Results.
In her signature high-energy, interactive presentation style, Ann demonstrates ways you can adapt your thinking to the circumstances to quickly get the buy-in you need, exploring the distinct thinking styles of C-level leaders and the specific questions they focus on when making key business decisions. Ann will show you how to align your own thinking with theirs to increase your strategic outlook, build your influence and present a compelling business case.
If you’re in Human Resources, Training, Learning & Development, or any role that needs to present a compelling case to senior management, this technique- and tip-filled webinar is a don’t miss, as several participant evaluation comments from the live session attest:
It was very good the first time around and I am going to watch it again because there was so much good information I may have missed something and want to absorb as much as possible. Thanks!
This speaker and her slides were awesome!!!! I want to review the information again and again. This is a tool that will help me develop a roadmap to getting better buy-in with the changes that need to occur in the world of benefits.
Excellent research and timely topic as we are doing more with a whole lot less! I definitely gained more insight for effective communications with senior leaders.
WWSD? (What would Steve do?)
He would change!
Since the passing two weeks ago of one of the world’s greatest thinkers, we have had a media deluge of information about Steve Jobs, his life, his words and his brilliance. As a student of great thinkers and a lover of quotes, I have compiled in this post many of my favorites and some food for thought as you contemplate what we can learn from Steve.
Most of all, it is not about trying to imitate his thinking! The irony, I believe, is that what is happening—in a way, making him a thinking “God,” as we strive to push our own innovation and thinking by studying him to replicate what he did— is the last thing Steve would have wanted. As he said in the Stanford commencement address:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
As a thinker, Jobs was a leader who could “see around corners”—a trait I hear many are working to develop in this increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” (Inc. Magazine)
His thinking epitomized the future-oriented, conceptual, design-focused thinking preference (Yellow D-quadrant thinking in our Whole Brain® parlance.) Yet his ability to serve all needs of the business while still honoring his core tenants, great design, usability and user friendly technical innovation showed how his thinking actually served a Whole Brain® outcome.
I believe this contributed to what made him the truly remarkable business person he was: his ability to drive the top and bottom line, create a culture of extreme change and project the needs of the customer before the customer knows what they are. In addition, his obsession with quality and execution rounded out his thinking approach:
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
Most of all, like most great leaders I have observed, Steve understood what he was good at and where he struggled:
“My model for business is the Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They believed in each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts.” (60 Minutes interview, 2008)
One of the most important lessons we can learn from Steve is this: The secret is leveraging the thinking of others who complement your thinking. Steve’s “islands of brilliance” were more oriented to those traits we often associate with the right brain. COO Tim Cook complemented him as more of the traditional left. The 2009 Harvard Business Review article Innovation in Turbulent Times noted:
Apple may have the best-known both-brain partnership. CEO Steve Jobs has always acted as the creative director and has helped to shape everything from product design and user interfaces to the customer experience at Apple’s stores. COO Tim Cook has long handled the day-to-day running of the business.
Ironically, I understand that much of Steve’s net worth was actually in Disney assets. Steve was acutely aware of what happened after Walt Disney passed. If people would ask, “What would Walt have done?” Steve knew the answer: Walt would have changed! The last thing Steve would have wanted is for people try to think like he did to solve problems we will face in the future.
Those who knew him personally as a friend are grieving a great father and family man. May he rest in peace.
And for us, instead of trying to figure out what Steve would have done, we should follow one of his key messages: Celebrate your own thinking. Be inspired. Take action. Live!
What can you learn from Steve Jobs that will help you celebrate your thinking? Which of his quotes that follow are your favorites, or are there others that inspire your thinking? Share them with us in the comments.
Orin Salas, VP of Sales for Herrmann International, checked in from The Leadership Challenge (TLC) Forum in Chicago.
175 people attended The Leadership Challenge (TLC) Forum Conference this year, with participants from across the US, Canada, the UK and Asia. It was a good, enthusiastic group of people who are certified in the TLC methodology or are users of the materials.
On Thursday morning, Ann Herrrmann-Nehdi and I attended several sessions including the kick-off by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, the leaders of TLC. There were several breakout sessions featuring companies using TLC methodology.
The afternoon started with the Chicago Comedy Company leading us through a number of improvisational activities in a session entitled, “The Improvisational Leader.” They did a good job of connecting the activities back to the business challenges leaders face.
And with that as an introduction, Ann took the stage for the final presentation of the day, her keynote, “It’s Not Left Brain or Right Brain, It’s Whole Brain®.”
The group took a few minutes to warm up, but less than 10 minutes into her presentation, Ann had full participation. She led them through some background information about the brain, connected thinking preferences to leadership competencies, and reviewed the Whole Brain® Model, exploring how Whole Brain® Thinking is becoming even more critical for leadership success in today’s business environment. As always, the participants were wowed by the handouts and the tools they received.
Friday began with focus groups discussing the future of leadership and development. The groups touched on topics such as virtual leadership, technology, technology etiquette, generational challenges and the “size” of learning. This was followed by an interesting presentation on emotional quotient (EQ) and emotional intelligence.
All in all, it was a learning-filled two days in Chicago with plenty of opportunity for best practice sharing and knowledge exchange about how to develop leaders in an increasingly complex world.
With the world around us continuing to change ever more rapidly in the wake of the current global economic crisis, what will the impact be on today’s – and tomorrow’s – leaders?
This is a topic I discussed in a recent article, “Building Leaders in the 21st Century: Brains 3.0” and will be exploring further in a forthcoming book on leadership.
In the article, I assert that the demand for Whole Brain® Thinking is no longer limited to the CEO ranks of leadership. I believe our world now requires leaders at every level to possess the adaptive and integrative thinking that spans all four quadrants of the brain, as represented in the Whole Brain® Model. We simply don’t have the luxury to relegate ourselves to “limited brain bandwidth” in this environment.
The article is intended to provoke thinking, and I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and observations on the subject. Add your voice to the discussion by posting a comment.
- Some questions to think about:
- How do you define the “new normal” we will see post recession, and what will be the impact on the leadership requirements?
- How will younger generations emerge as leaders? Do you think their very different life experiences influence their level of interest and capacity for this breadth of thinking?
- How will social learning and networks impact how we look at developing leaders and the leadership function?
- What are the most radical “pictures” you have of the new organizational models, which will, of course, require different leadership?
- Should we look for ways to devise a “leadership chip” to insert into peoples brains once we can do that safely? If so, what would be the characteristics? What we would want to keep? Let go of?
Download the full article here:
Building Leaders in the 21st Century: Brains 3.0
Read more and view a video “Learning Byte” on this topic in the March 2010 issue of the BrainBytes™ newsletter.