When I first became a CEO, I noticed something strange.
In a meeting, I was suddenly funnier. The slightest hint at humor could erupt the room into laughter. I was also smarter. And my arguments were more persuasive. Heads would bob up and down as I made a point.
Obviously my new title didn’t bestow some magical gift of brilliance. What it provided was positional power, and people were reacting to the position.
Immediately, I knew what happened. It took me longer to figure out what to do about it.
I’d seen this much earlier in my career when people would “parrot” the CEO. I call it the Parrot Principle. To get along and be accepted, some find it’s just easier to parrot the CEO than to think critically, to argue, or to be independent. Why rock the boat when you can just agree and repeat what you’re told?
The cause is usually fear. Fear of losing a job or of not being in the inner circle. It’s also a symptom of a culture needing change.
Because of a lack of self-confidence, a fear of job loss, or an extreme need for acceptance, it is easier to agree with the boss than to advance a different point of view.
The result is usually what I call a “pocket veto” where people nod in a meeting, then go outside and talk about what they really believe. It’s bad for everyone. The company is not served well. The CEO may not even realize what’s happening. And the parrot is building distrust throughout the organization.
It’s not just the new CEO who faces this problem. It’s almost any new position of power. If others are dependent on you, you can be vulnerable to the Parrot Principle.
So what can you do about it?
Image courtesy of istockphoto/burwellphotgraphy
Have you ever heard of a pocket veto?
It’s when Congress passes a bill, but the president does not sign it within ten days after Congress adjourns. Effectively, it means that the bill is dead. After all the committee meetings, the bill is passed in the House of Representatives and then the Senate, but the bill does not become law.
The president can sign bills into law or he can veto them. He can also use the political maneuver of a pocket veto and do nothing.
My version of a pocket veto is different. It happens in organizations.
Image courtesty of istockphoto/ZargonDesign
One of the biggest problems in business isn’t failure. It’s failing too slowly.
The biggest failure of all is never failing at all. If you never fail, you are playing it too safe. You are taking zero risk. A culture with a fear of failure is a culture doomed tofailure. Others in the marketplace will pass you by, and it may be too late by the time you realize it.
Failing quickly is much better than failing slowly. Have you ever been in a business and known something was going to fail? For whatever reason, the project marches onward. Meanwhile, everyone who touches it knows the project is doomed. Yet on it goes, sometimes for years. I’ve seen some huge, expensive projects continue when, if someone would just do a reality check, the decision to kill it would be obvious.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/E_Y_E
If you study financial success books on investments, you will likely come across the terminology “OPM.” It stands for other people’s money. The idea is to start with nothing, but use other people’s money to become fabulously wealthy. Widely used in the real estate world, this concept of financial leverage and OPM is often hyped on infomercials.
How does it work?
You want to buy a rental property, but you don’t have the money. You put down a small amount and finance the rest from the bank. Let’s say you buy a house for $100,000, but you only put down $5,000. When the price goes up to $150,000 and you sell the house, in addition to the rental income you earned, you pocket $50,000. In simple terms, the magic of OPM is that you made $50,000, but you only used $5,000 of your own money (if anything at all!). That’s an extraordinary return on your investment. Obviously, given the housing downturn, many people are realizing that the $100,000 home doesn’t necessarily become $150,000 and could end up at $50,000. That has been a painful lesson to many, but the OPM concept is still a valid approach.
My entire life has been spent studying a different type of leverage—one leveraging not other people’s money, but something much more valuable. And its value is always there and cannot go down. In fact, the more it is used, the more it goes up in value.
What is it?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/diego_cervo
“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” –Thomas Sewell
How many meetings do you find yourself in without a clear objective? Does the meeting organizer fool anyone when he is unprepared?
Years ago, I was introduced to the concept of the “three P’s” at a Wilson Learning sales training seminar. It was introduced as an effective sales tool. Throughout the years, I have used the three P’s as a way to conduct effective meetings of any kind. It isn’t just a sales technique. It can be a way to save a lot of time and energy and focus the meeting on the objective.
What are the three P’s? Purpose. Process. Payoff.