Our business focuses on helping organizations and the people and teams that drive them bridge the gap between current and full potential performance. Generally speaking, our clients fall into one of two categories—dynamic, fast growth companies challenged by the pressing need to scale talent, skill sets, business processes and practices to stay ahead of growth, or, on the other hand, established businesses threatened by the clash between legacy cultures, the current competitive landscape and related quantum shifts in the way business is done.
In both cases, we’ve noticed a tendency for people, feeling overwhelmed by the challenges at hand, to fall into to what we call victim mindsets. In the victim mindset, something or someone is doing this to us, and we are largely powerless in the face of the onslaught.
There is no greater place of frustration. Simply put, being a victim is no fun.
When people experience overwhelm on an extended basis, mood, creativity, efficiency and effectiveness decline rapidly. Left untended, resentment builds and eventually morphs into resignation. Read resignation as helplessness, and helplessness as victimization. As you might imagine, this is not the most effective place to be when you are trying to stay ahead of growth or overcome economic challenges.
Now, switch gears with me, for a moment, if you will.
I once had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Boorstin, like me a native Atlantan and long time resident of Washington, DC, historian, professor, attorney, writer and, now deceased Librarian of Congress. We met at a TED event in Monterey, California. Among many others, Mr. Boorstin had written a trilogy of books, The Discoverers, The Creators, and The Seekers, surveying the scientific, artistic and philosophic histories of humanity. He spoke with elegant insight into the human condition.
According to Mr. Boorstin, human beings, are, at essence, explorers and creators. In my experience, this is certainly true. Given genuine opportunity and free reign to explore new opportunities and generate innovative strategies and solutions, human beings throw off the bindings that shackle them. Thus, there is no greater force that leaders can unleash than creating space and openings for giving expression to human spirit and creativity.
Time and time again, we have seen overburdened individuals and teams illuminate the path forward against overwhelming odds to turn the tide demonstrably in a positive direction. Want to do be more innovative? Do more with less? Increase revenues, profits and value accretion? Look first the front line people who manage and operate your organization.
Year in and year out, we see value generative ideas with transformative effect generated by people that conventional wisdom would say are the least likely to have impact on the competitive enterprise they serve.
Now, mind you, there are those in leadership positions who, myopically, refuse to consider this possibility. In their minds, people below the leadership tier are but cogs in the wheel to be directed and manipulated by the superior minds and privileged wisdom of leadership and its’ network of acceptable cohorts.
To these stalwarts of legacy command and control organizations, only those with certain backgrounds and pedigree may be given permission to explore alternative options and innovations. Leading from the “if she looks and acts like me, I trust her, if she doesn’t, I don’t” school of leadership and management, these dinosaurs of an era now past, spend freely on established sources of authority but resist investment in the creativity of the core value of their organization—its’ front line talent.
In case you haven’t noticed, the world has changed. It will not go back to traditional paradigms of competition and business process. Now is the time to release the pent up creativity that stands before you each day. Human beings are, at essence, explorers and creators. Give your talent a chance. Who knows, the source of the transformation you seek may lie just outside your door.