Compete and Keep Your Soul

values based leadership
This is a guest post by Jeff Thompson, MD. Jeff is the author ofLead True: Live Your Values, Build Your People, Inspire Your Community and he is CEO Emeritus and Executive Advisor at Gundersen Health System.

 

Compete and Keep Your Soul

The bookstores have volumes and the media is full of examples of people who believe the way to success is to crush the competition—out-strategizing people and pressing your advantage till they are crushed by the wayside. Young leaders are told to step on faces to get ahead or aim for short term goals of size and profit.

But there is another way. There is a clear path to have stunning success and still be able to sleep at night and be proud to tell your grandchildren how the world is a better place because you were in it.

Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.  It is not complicated. It is just difficult.

 

“Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.” -Jeff Thompson

 

Let’s take for example the last broad economic downturn.

How are the priorities in your department or company organized to deal with this problem? Who were the first to be affected? The most vulnerable? The last people who were brought in the organization (your future)? The people with the least power and the least influence? Who took the biggest beating? What won the day? The long-term good of the organization or the short-term financial performance report for the board? Shareholders may clamor for short-term wins, but there is no law that says you have to sacrifice the long-term health of the organization or its people to satisfying this immediate clamor. Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.

 

“Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.” -Jeff Thompson

What To Do When Your Team Gets Stuck

Why Teams Get Stuck

Jeff DeGraff is known as the Dean of Innovation. He’s a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and he has worked with some of the biggest global corporations ranging from Apple to GE to Coca-Cola.

I have personally called Jeff to help brainstorm issues and help jumpstart creativity. One of the many things I learned from Jeff was that innovation does not happen in the solitude of a eureka moment. It happens more often in teams.

So, what happens when a team gets stuck? I asked the Dean of Innovation to share his thoughts on why teams get stuck and what to do about it.

 

“Innovation is created as a result of constructive conflict.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

3 Common Reasons Teams Get Stuck

Organizations and teams alike get stuck for a wide variety of reasons, but there are three that are most common: 1). They have chosen the wrong people to lead the way 2). They spend too long in the planning cycle, and 3). They miss the key handoffs and get out of sequence.

Let’s take a look at how to resolve these issues:

 

1.They have chosen the wrong people to lead the way. 

Innovation project teams are like baseball teams. You need lots of different players to play different positions at different times. Start by tinkering with your lineup. Move folks around. Trade for better players and don’t be afraid to cut some players. Innovation teams are often led by command and control project leaders who have spent their careers eliminating variation; not creating it. Make the tough decision to move them along. Watch the movie Moneyball a few times, and you will get the point.

Why We Play the Comparison Game

Will I Ever Catch Up?

He put his head in his hands.  We had only just sat down in a small café. It seemed that this was one time that I should not speak, so I let the silence drift between us mixing with the steam off my coffee mug.  My friend had asked for this meeting, but I didn’t know what he wanted.  The noises all around us dimmed when he finally looked up at me and explained. “Every time I start to feel like I am about to really achieve something, I don’t know what happens. I give up.”

I was surprised. He was successful. I’m not a psychologist, but it didn’t appear he was depressed so much as needing a boost of confidence.  Our conversation continued back and forth until a theme started to emerge.

My friend consistently compared himself to others who were, in his opinion, doing better, achieving more, and advancing faster.  He didn’t feel he could “catch up” to them.  The reality, of course, was that no one expected him to “catch up.”  He was doing well.  What was his real issue?

Comparing.

Recently, I heard that only 12% of women over 50 are satisfied with their bodies.  40% of men are dissatisfied with their appearance.  And the vast majority of us would change something about our physical appearance if we could.  We compare ourselves to airbrushed models and feel less attractive.

Why are we so discontent? Why do we unfairly compare ourselves to others?

There’s always someone richer, stronger, faster, smarter, or more talented, more polite, or more attractive. There are likely also people poorer, weaker, slower, less intelligent, with less talent, manners, and looks. Comparing ourselves to others can be debilitating in more ways than we realize.

 

“Leaders do not define success by the competition.” -Skip Prichard

 

Don’t Compare Up

When we look at someone else who has what we don’t have, we are “comparing up.” What does this do?  It robs us of joy.  It depresses us.  It makes us feel bad about ourselves, lowers our self-esteem. We may give up on our goals, thinking “Well, I could never compare to him” or “If she is that good, why should I even bother?”  We become less productive.  It slows us down.  We spend so much time comparing that we find we aren’t doing.  It invites envy, the insidious emotion, to a prominent place at the table of our mind.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

 

Don’t Compare Down

There are times we “compare down.”  We look at someone and feel sorry for him.  We hear about someone and think she doesn’t have what I have.  Whether it makes us feel better or superior, we have all had moments where we look at someone else as not as good as we are. While we pat ourselves on the back for being so brilliant, we actually are filling our mind with a cancerous attitude.  Arrogance creeps quietly into the room of our mind, an unnoticed intruder taking over.

 

“We’d achieve more if we chased our dreams instead of our competition.” -Simon Sinek

 

Shift the Focus

How to Jumpstart Innovation

 

Is your team stuck and in need of an innovation injection?

Are there ways to structure brainstorming to enhance the creative process?

Is it possible to learn how to innovate and create?

 

Make Stone Soup

If you study innovation, creativity and success, you will likely know my friend Jeff DeGraff.  I first met him when I was running a business in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Someone on my team introduced me to the “Dean of Innovation” when we were struggling with a problem.  Dr. DeGraff is a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  He has worked with some of the biggest global corporations including Apple, Visa, GE, Coca-Cola, and Johnson & Johnson.

His most recent book is Making Stone Soup: How to Jumpstart Innovation Teams.  If you want the recipe for collaborative innovation, this colorful book will deliver while inspiring you with new ideas for your team.

 

“Innovation is created as a result of constructive conflict.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

Misconceptions About Innovation

Most of us think of innovation and think of a brilliant inventor, solitarily working when Eureka!  Bam!  Innovation strikes!  You say most innovation doesn’t happen in that manner but, instead, happens in teams.  Tell us more about that.

Any other common misconceptions about innovation?

Most people have a very limited concept of innovation.  They think it’s a gMaking Stone Soup Book Coveradget or an electric powered vehicle.  But these technological inventions are the very end of the innovation chain. What makes your smart phone light and compact has more do with breakthroughs in material science than it does creative design thinking.  More so, innovations are often services or integrated solutions such as Google’s business model. Innovation is by definition a type of deviance from the norm, and therefore what makes an innovation is constantly morphing and progressing.

 

“Innovation is a type of deviance from the norm.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

Conversely, the biggest truth that people miss is that innovation is the only value proposition that happens in the future for which we have no data now.  You must feel your way through the ambiguity and accelerate the unavoidable failure cycle.  That’s how successful inventors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists do it.  Excessive planning is the number one form of resistance when trying to make innovation happen. You have to take multiple shots on goal.

Most importantly, innovation is not produced through alignment.  It is created as a result of constructive conflict.  Enroll some deep and diverse domain experts and encourage some polite pushing and shoving, and you will be astounded by the hybrid solutions they create.

 

CREATE, COMPETE, CONTROL, COLLABORATE