Why Can’t Most Leaders Admit They Have Much To Learn As Tom Brady STILL Does?
If you made it to the top by being strong, decisive and to have never shown weakness how can you now admit that you have much to learn? That you need help finding the right answers? Folks – the system and your current and past companies likely failed you and your organization. Why are CMOs leaving companies so quickly with little to show for their efforts? It’s often the inability to communicate with sincerity in thoughts, words and actions that they have much to learn AND be prepared to learn it.
You got to the top using an approach that likely won’t WORK at the top. The decisions get bigger and its less about “powering” your way to a result and more about learning, asking questions and encouraging the organization to test and learn. You must adjust your approach and show the vulnerability, curiosity and genuinely learn to role model to the organization.
We can learn much on this topic from Dr. Edward Deming, the U.S. engineer and statistician is best known for his work in Japan after WWII, particularly his work with the leaders of Japanese industry. Many in Japan credit Deming as one of the inspirations for what has become known as the Japanese post-war economic miracle of 1950 to 1960, when Japan rose from the ashes of war on the road to becoming the second largest economy in the world through processes partially influenced by the ideas Deming taught. His work were the principles for the Total Quality movement across the globe. One of Deming’s 14 points of Total Quality Management was: “Without full top management belief, understanding and commitment, progress (if any) will be sporadic and temporary at best. Top management must lead the whole organization in the drive for ever-improving quality of every activity in the company by providing proper encouragement, training, facilities, and by practicing what they preach. In particular, they must accept that they also have much to learn, and be prepared to learn it.”
At Eureka! Inventing we teach CMO’s, heads of R&D and other C-suite executives how to accept that they have much to learn and how to learn faster and more efficiently. We teach, coach and help them do the heavy lifting to dramatically improve their innovation success rate, ROI on advertising and marketing, and overall workload. We leverage the system thinking of Dr. Deming in a system called Innovation Engineering. World-class companies across the U.S. are using this system on the “front-end” to add more discipline, speed and results to their work. The Innovation Engineering mindset, tools and system make the productivity and application of learning easier than ever before. This is NOT another Stage-Gate system for project management. This is a process prior to your project management system where there is little to no discipline today. Bottom-line, it dramatically increases the pace of learning and improvement of ideas so when they are put into your traditional project management system you have FAR more confidence you have a winner.
Everywhere you turn you read about the need to learn and faster. Yes this is true but only part of the answer. It must be focused on a mission with a plan for your test and learn. At Eureka! Inventing we call this “Fail-Fast, Fail-Cheap” which is a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle of learning on a weekly basis to evolve and strengthen the innovation. In projects we do these on a half-day basis and our clients love it. They feel more empowered and in control than ever in the past. But management must embrace the mind-set shift and participate. If you want your organization to admit they have much to learn and that will lead them to success it MUST start with you. They will role model your behavior as you made it to the top.
Recently a General Manager of a very large CPG food company stated “The team at Eureka! Inventing showed our team how to accelerate learning, ideation and development of concepts and prototypes leading to high quality ideas in a fraction of the time I had become accustomed to throughout my career. “Fail fast and fail cheap”…delivered!”. The decision to change is up to you and there are proven methods out there to get very different ongoing results for your company.
Of course, as one of Dr. Deming’s most famous quotes states…“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory”. And most don’t sadly. It’s very challenging to change your approach with a track record of success and promotion. It takes courage, education and tools to have the confidence to step-out and show this vulnerability.
I was fortunate to have attended the media evening for the Super Bowl last night in Houston and could hear the interviews through a nifty headphone radio they provided. An international reporter asked Tom Brady if he was better than Matt Ryan, the QB of the opposing Atlanta Falcons. Tom chuckled and stated, “I don’t think that way”. He went on to say, “I just focus on what I need to learn to get better and to achieve our goals”. He went on to explain how he always has more to learn. If Tom Brady can admit this why can’t we? Sure you could say he has nothing to prove but maybe just maybe that’s how he got there? It is easier to feel the need to continuely prove yourself when you were a relatively low draft pick like Brady.
Can we justify the egos we have and not state to our organizations we have much to learn? I suggest that it takes a new mindset, training, coaching and the tools to provide the confidence to start the process. Far greater success and satisfaction are on the other side for those that learn and develop a learning mindset and skill.
The good news is that Tom Brady had one of the “worst combine (tryout) scores in the history of the NFL” as he stated in his interview and he is now considered to be one of the greatest of all time. The ability to continue to learn will beat raw talent and potential most of the time. Now is the time to act!
Bruce Hall is the President of Eureka! Inventing and with his team coaches and consults with Fortune 500 companies to drive greater ROI from innovation and marketing through systems thinking (Innovation Engineering). He is a lifelong New England Patriots fan that resides outside of Houston, Texas.