10 Reasons Drawing Improves Your Leadership

Draw to Win

Want to make your idea clearer to others?

Looking for a way to have your message stand out?

 

“Open your eyes and look within.” -Bob Marley

 

Dan Roam just wrote a new book, Draw to Win: A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual Mind, and it challenged me to communicate in new ways. I’ve always been visually oriented, but drawing is not always on my top “go to” list of tools.

I’ve learned that it should be.

Drawing is not something only for kids. It’s a powerful communication tool if used properly. I recently asked Dan about his life’s work.

 

“Business without pictures is boring.” -Dan Roam

 

Don’t Resist the Visual

In business, some would reject images and drawings as childish. You say that it’s the most natural thing in the world and dismiss this. Why do some people feel that way and resist the visual?

If you’ve ever witnessed a board meeting, suffered through a bullet-point presentation, or tried to read a business-school article, you know first-hand that “serious” businesspeople hate pictures. Pictures are childish, simplistic, and patronizing.

But if you consider that most meetings are torture, that most people sleep through PowerPoints, and secretly admit you’d rather watch Game of Thrones than read “The Harvard Business Review,” you also know this hatred of pictures is insane. The sad fact is that business without pictures is boring – and boring doesn’t get the job done.

There are many reasons this anti-picture mentality persists: In school drawing is considered just a stepping-stone to reading. Most of us had a parent or teacher who told us sometime that our drawings were terrible, and there are few resources for creating or critiquing business-oriented pictures, etc. But I think the most profound reason pictures are poo-pooed in business is historical.

Think about it like this: A century and a half ago, we inherited our educational system from the British – and most of it was developed during the industrial revolution. England (and America, who still looked across the Atlantic for guidance on most social issues) suddenly found itself needing to shift its workforce from fields into factories. Faced with millions of former farmers who had to learn overnight how to pull the right levers in the right order, our modern educational system was born, and the essence was this: If you could talk well, you went to university, banking, and law. If you couldn’t talk well, you went to the factory. The die was cast, and to this day the greatest definer of “intelligence” – despite increasing data and cognitive studies pointing out the power of pictures – remains your ability to talk. That’s great if you’re a natural Shakespeare, but miserable if you’re more Michelangelo.

 

“The best CEOs I know are teachers, and at the core of what they teach is strategy.” -Michael Porter

 

How to Start Drawing

In your work, many will tell you what I’m thinking right now, “But, Dan….I can’t draw!” What do you say to the many who resist?

It’s important to realize that drawing isn’t an artistic process; drawing is a thinking process. By virtue of being human, you are from birth an extraordinary visual-thinker. More of your brain is dedicated to processing vision that to any other thing that you do, with nearly half your neurons keeping you alive by seeing the world around you.

Kids love to draw. Drawing is the first way that all of us model and record our thoughts, and as kids we’re really good at it – until the “That’s a terrible dog; dogs don’t look like that!” judgement sets in, and drawing is beaten out of us.

Don’t get me wrong: I love words; words and spoken language are a miracle – but words work best when supported by pictures. Words and pictures amplify and complement each other – in exactly the same way our brains work when making sense of the world.

Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission

Once you realize that, drawing becomes easy to reintroduce: You start by drawing a few simple shapes – a circle, a square, and a line to connect them – and before long your visual mind wakes back up and you’re on a roll.

(In fact, when I do training at major organizations and corporations, it takes most people about three minutes to start drawing again.)

 

“Business has only two functions-marketing and innovation.” -Milan Kundera

 

Transform Your Leadership By Drawing

What are some of the benefits you’ve seen when someone learns to make drawing part of their regular practice? Any stories of how this transformed someone’s leadership you can share?

 

Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission

The first discovery of someone who starts drawing again is clarity. We think that the verbal voices in our head make beautiful sense – right up to the moment we try to describe our ideas to someone else and we find ourselves spinning and our audience drifting away. Pictures fix that, in a couple ways.

First, when you draw out your idea, you don’t have to remember anything: the full logic of your idea is there before you, all in one place, all immediately scannable, and none of it hidden. (And if you can’t draw out at least a few pieces of your idea, I think it’s important to ask yourself how well you really know it.)

Second, drawing exposes holes in your thinking that you typically don’t notice when just talking. It’s really easy to lie to yourself with words but a lot harder with a picture.

I’ve seen this sudden discovery of clarity hundreds of times in consulting and training sessions. My favorite example was when Ted, the Director of Strategy at one of the world’s largest professional services companies, had an epiphany during a visual-thinking class. I was taking the group through my “Six-by-six” visual storytelling exercise when Ted suddenly jumped up, and waving one of his pictures, ran out of the room.

He returned thirty minutes later, saying, “I just sold the job! I took a photo of my sketch and emailed it to my client, then called and walked them through it. I finally saw the way through – and they finally saw it, too.”

 

“In sales, it’s not what you say; it’s how they perceive what you say.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

 

As a student of innovation, I was fascinated by your five essential visual innovation prompts. Would you share one of those with us and how this has had an impact on organizational thinking?

What Do You See in the Clouds?

Leadership Perceptions

 

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” –Edgar Degas

 

An artist I know loves to show me a blank canvas and describe, in detail, the painting. To her, it’s so clear. Where I see only a blank canvas, she sees an entire landscape full of vibrant colors.

An entrepreneur I know once took his family on a tour of a remote piece of property. He shared his vision for where buildings would go and all the customers who would be mingling in various parts of the land. The family couldn’t imagine it, but he saw it all vividly. And, today, it looks exactly like that. It’s a thriving business.

An author friend of mine creates characters in her mind. Month after month, she dreams about them, talks with them, listens to them. They become so real to her that, when she finally starts writing, it’s as if she is merely recording what happens instead of inventing it.

 

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” –Vincent van Gogh

 

That’s the power of imagination. It’s the power of creativity.

  • Seeing something magical where others see mundane.
  • Seeing something beautiful where others see garbage.
  • Seeing potential in someone they don’t see in themselves.
  • Leaders inspire us by seeing a positive vision for organizations.
  • Successful people see opportunities when others see problems.

If there’s one skill you want to cultivate, it’s seeing the positive, the beautiful, the magical in others, in yourself, in challenging times, in dark places.

Because that change of perspective can make the difference in your outlook.

 

“To change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.” –Stephen R. Covey

 

On a recent vacation, my wife was relaxing on a deck with a view of a mountain. As she often does, she was bringing people into her mind and praying for them one by one. Mesmerized by the beautiful scene in front of her, she decided to take a quick picture with her phone.

When we returned home, she was looking at her pictures and shared this one with a few close friends. Immediately, the responses started coming back. There’s something in the clouds!

 

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” –Chuck Palahniuk

What Leaders and the Declaration Signers Have in Common

July 4, 1776

If you’ve ever been to Philadelphia in the summer, you know how hot it is.

Imagine yourself there in 1776. You’re a representative of one of the colonies, wearing a dress coat, a shirt with sleeves tightly cuffed at your wrist and, of course, your silk stockings.

It’s now July 4th and the document is ready for signature. With its final approval, the colonies will declare independence from Great Britain, ending a long debate and all revisions of the document. The United States, a new nation, will be born.

You approach the table and see John Hancock’s signature in massive letters, which he says is so that “King George can see it without spectacles.”

Your turn to sign. The other delegates look at you expectantly.

You realize the weight of the moment, but you also realize that, by signing, your own life will be in danger. To many, you will be a traitor. If the revolution fails, you will hang for just a few letters on a piece of paper.

You push those thoughts aside and sign.

Your signature, along with the others, just changed the world.

A new beginning. The United States of America is now born.

The new country was far from perfect. The horrific practice of slavery wouldn’t end until the Civil War nearly ripped the country apart. Women and minorities had no vote.

Still, the United States of America would become a country that most of us are proud to call home. We value family, freedom, God and country.

Back to July 4th, 1776.

 

Your Leadership Moment

It was an incredible leadership moment.

As I reflect this week on the July 4th holiday, I think about the leadership lessons from that day:

“Leaders take risks to assure a better future.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders know growth often comes from the uncomfortable.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders inspire others to a better vision of themselves.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders don’t wait for perfection.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders know that imperfect progress is better than stagnation.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders believe more in tomorrow’s promise than today’s problems.” -Skip Prichard

 

Decision Time

Create a Better Vision to Engage Your Employees

This is a guest post by Mitzi Perdue. Mitzi Perdue is a speaker, author, and businesswoman. She is the widow of Frank Perdue and daughter of Ernest Henderson, founder of the Sheraton Hotel Chain.

 

WHAT MADE THE SHERATON HOTELS GROW

My father, Ernest Henderson, built the Sheraton hotels from one hotel to more than 400 during his lifetime. As a child, I’d often ask him the secrets of how he did it, and one of his answers was, “It’s the employees at every level who make a hotel a success.”

So what did he do to create engaged, committed employees?

 

Success Tip: Employees at every level create success.

 

Create a Better Vision

The answer is he created for people a better vision of themselves.

When he’d take over a hotel, often one that had gone into bankruptcy, he’d typically make it wildly popular and profitable, usually within a couple of years. Here’s how it was done. On day one, he’d start by calling a meeting of all the hotel’s employees. They’d often be a very demoralized group, each one of them worrying that the new management would want to do some “house cleaning.” After all, if a hotel was in severe financial straights, wouldn’t it be reasonable to believe that the employees were at least partly responsible? And needed to go?

Father’s reaction was the opposite. He believed in the employees and told them at this first meeting that he wasn’t going to fire any of them. Instead, the new management style was based on making it possible for them to show just how good they were. He’d also tell them that he knew the future success of the hotel depended on them and they were now on a winning team with a bright future.

Then, beginning that day, he’d start backing up his words with actions. Part of a hotel turnaround would be refurbishing the guest rooms and public rooms, but that was never where he first invested money when taking over a hotel.

 

Success Tip: Give people a bigger vision for themselves.

 

No, it was in refurbishing areas that the public would never see, such as the employee locker rooms or dining rooms or showers or modernizing the kitchens or laundry rooms. He even had his top decorator, Mary Kennedy, pay attention to the décor of the employee areas before she went about renovating the guest rooms.

 

Define a New Reality

7 Disciplines of A Leader

How to Help Your People, Team, and Organization Achieve

In the Seven Disciplines of a Leader, Jeff Wolf explores what leadership looks like when done right. Jeff has coached hundreds of leaders and offers his disciplines in order to benefit leaders at all levels of the organization.  I recently talked with Jeff about the leadership disciplines discussed in his book.

 

“Companies place the wrong leadership in the job 82 percent of the time.” –Forbes

 

How to Get Noticed

What advice do you give to someone who wants to stand out and get noticed as a leader in a large organization?

Learn what your company looks for in its leaders. See if there’s a competency model that identifies successful leaders’ strengths and characteristics. Study this model and be sure to practice the competencies. If no such model exists, seek out successful company leaders and talk with them to gain a better understanding of how they became successful.

You should also volunteer to lead small projects, which will provide useful leadership experiences and exposure. You’ll gain confidence and enhance the skill sets that are weak.

Always be curious. Seek new opportunities and experiences, and always be open to trying something out of your normal comfort zone.

I would encourage budding and aspiring leaders to create a plan, put it in writing, and then “work it.” Research proves that people who put their goals in writing are usually more successful.

Read as many books and attend as many training courses as possible, both within and outside of the company. Vary courses so you can experience a broad spectrum of leadership skills.

 

“A leader’s upbeat attitude is contagious and lifts morale.” -Jeff Wolf

 

There’s another important challenge to overcome: Learn the areas in which you must improve because we all have blind spots. We see some of our weaknesses, but it’s truly impossible to identify all of them.

It’s important for leaders to be positive and have a great attitude because they can either impart or sap energy. A leader’s upbeat attitude becomes contagious, lifting the morale of those around them. You can always teach skills, but you cannot always teach people how to be positive; they either have a great attitude or they don’t.

Be sure you are striving to work well with others and be aware how other people view you. When you stand up to speak in front of a group, do you exude confidence, present articulate, clear messages, and carry yourself well?

 

Coaching for Success

What is the most common reason someone calls you for coaching?

Coaching used to be thought of as a tool to help correct underperformance or, as I often call it, the “broken wing theory.” Today, coaching is used to support leaders, employees with high potential, and top producers in an effort to enhance individual capabilities.

We work in such a high-speed environment! Organizations are finally beginning to recognize the importance of helping leaders achieve critical business objectives in the shortest possible time, so they’re hiring me to speed personnel development.

I’m often brought into organizations to deal with a number of leadership issues. Providing feedback is one key area. As leaders move into greater levels of responsibility, they receive less—perhaps even no—feedback from others on their performance. The unfortunate consequence is stagnation. Critical leadership and interpersonal skills often reach certain levels, and the leader is given no opportunity to become an even better leader. Working one-on-one with an objective third-party coach offers these leaders a trusted advisor who can focus on behavioral changes that organizations are ill equipped to handle. Coaching develops extraordinary leaders. Extraordinary leaders produce extraordinary business results.

 

Have a Quick Impact as a New Leader

If you are a new manager, what are a few ways to have a quick impact?

Leadership is not rocket science. It comes down to living and leading by the golden rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.1119003954

People make companies. As leaders, we often spend most of our time on strategy and improving bottom-line results, but what about our people? It’s our job, as leaders, to guide them, help them develop more skills, and increase productivity.

I think Walt Disney put it perfectly: “You can dream, create and design the most wonderful place in the world….but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

For a quick impact, work to understand what your people want, not just what you want, and act accordingly. Ask your staff for their feedback with questions such as:

  • What can I do to make you happier here?
  • What do you find challenging about your work?
  • What’s energizing about your work?
  • How can I be a better leader for you to be successful?
  • What resources do you need that you currently don’t have?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • Do you feel appreciated and receive the praise and recognition you feel you deserve?

Often times a new leader’s first inclination is to become too friendly with people. After all, everyone wants to be liked. But by trying to become everyone’s friend, leaders run the risk of losing respect and influence. If your staff considers you to be one of the group, they may not respect your judgment on important issues.

Additionally, they may lose their motivation to achieve goals, fail to work hard, and assume deadlines are soft when they believe their “friend” will never reprimand them. That’s why leaders must avoid falling into the trap of becoming too friendly with their staff. The bottom line? You’re the boss—not a best friend! You cannot be objective and unbiased when staff members view you as a work pal.

 

“It takes people to make the dream a reality.” –Walt Disney

 

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