As 2015 ends and a new year begins, I wanted to reflect on the past few years and plan for the coming year. I was helped by the fact that I had written a New Year’s blog at the start of each year:
- 2013 was a year of ‘discovery’ – starting a new chapter in my career, developing new skills, facing fears and being bold (Become the hero of your own story!). My big lesson was focus.
- 2014 was the year of ‘devotion’ (What will you devote yourself to this year?) – My focus was on figuring out what I was going to devote my time, enthusiasm and energy to? I learnt lots of lessons and I found my tribe at Redington.
- 2015 started as a year of ‘sacrifice’, surrender and pilgrimage for my wife and I. Over the year it developed in directions that I could not have even imagined. I learnt more, wrote more and delivered more than I ever thought possible (15 top tips for a successful 2015).
In 2015, I handed on my youth development responsibilities to a new generation of leaders (after nearly a decade), completed the AltMBA, met the Dalai Lama and Seth Godin, launched Hindu Heroes with my children & friends and contributed to some really cool projects at work…(it’s funny how we never remember our failures and mistakes when we look back – more on that later…).
So what’s my resolution for 2016?
It’s not business, it’s personal…
In 2015, the biggest lesson I learnt is that business is about people (sounds obvious but we seem to have lost the ‘personal’ in pursuit of the ‘professional’).
I was reminded that leadership is about people, marketing is about people and in fact everything is about people. Organisations are just communities of people. People with ambitions. People with hangups and insecurities. People with dreams. People with feelings.
Companies don’t have values or ethics, people have values and ethics. As Seth Godin points out “Corporations are collections of people. Business is too powerful for us to leave our humanity at the door of the office. It’s not business, it’s personal.”
Innovation from the heart
Our corporate jargon like strategy, vision and innovation also miss the mark when they omit the critical human element. There’s nothing wrong with these words, but they’re not the ones that inspire human hearts.
In the words of Gary Hamel “Innovation starts with the heart—with a passion for improving the lives of those around you.” Without tapping into individual passions you just have an ideas box. Empathy is the engine of innovation.
That’s why we should worry about just how de-humanized our organisations have become. If you want to innovate, you need to be inspired, your colleagues need to be inspired, and ultimately, your customers need to be inspired.
“The best innovations—both socially and economically—come from the pursuit of ideals that are noble and timeless: joy, wisdom, beauty, truth, equality, community, sustainability and love. These are the things we live for, and the innovations that really make a difference are the ones that are life-enhancing. And that’s why the heart of innovation is a desire to re-enchant the world.” – Gary Hamel
The more we understand people the more likely it is that we will do great work: from the people we are managing, to the people we are serving; from the people who supply us, to the people who we are persuading.
People are not always rational, people are not one-dimensional, people are not just a number and people are certainly not all the same. We need to understand each person, each tribe and each group, in order to engage, influence, change, manage or inspire.
We need to seek to understand peoples’ dreams and goals, their worldviews, their boundaries and constraints, their assets and the voice in their heads. This has to be the starting point if we want to tell stories that will grab attention, resonate and mobilise.
Last year, more than ever before, I learnt how valuable it was to spend time understanding and aligning people’s personal ambitions, needs and agendas.
I learnt that success is not from persuading everyone around the table about your point of view but inviting each person to shape, mould and contribute. After all, regardless of how good your idea is, its only worth anything if implemented or executed. It will only be adopted, if people have had a chance to contribute or if helps them achieve their personal ambitions.
The long and short of it is – the more we are willing to change ourselves, the more we are willing to listen and understand … the more we can build and work in highly effective teams.
Business is personal. Leadership is personal.
“I think that leadership is in deep, serious, and historic trouble today. I think that leadership needs radical reinvention — and further, that reimagining it is going to require coming squarely to terms with its failures and shortcomings.” – Umair Haq
At Sandhurst Military college they teach all the officers that – “We serve to lead.”. Personally, I think we lead to serve… the words of Clay Christensen really resonate with me “management is one of the most noble professions, if it is practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow…”.
I’ve learnt more about ‘selfless service’ from my wife than anyone else. To really lead others we have to start by leading ourselves. We need to cultivate our inner qualities of empathy, forgiveness, compassion, rebellion, perseverance, purpose, imagination and passion .
It seems that the more human we are, the more fallible we are, the more vulnerable we are … the more people can relate to us … the more we can understand and engage the humanity in others.
At the start of 2015 I shared 15 lessons/tips for the year. As I start 2016 I just have one…
In 2016 I want to lead, to serve and, above all, to make it personal.
In order to do that properly, I need to be more vulnerable. I need to share my thinking, my processes and, most importantly, my mistakes.
Our mistakes are far more valuable for helping those around us feel secure, take risks, deal with failure, learn, grow and be inspired.
Vulnerability is a leader’s greatest asset.
Happy New Year everyone!
Please share your lessons and resolutions too…