I have the privilege of teaching at a number of top business schools around the world. Last week I gave classes at Harvard and at MIT. This is a video from IEEM Business School in Montevideo, Uruguay where I spend a week each October teaching on their MBA and Executive Leadership programs.
The video is a good short (90 seconds) description of what I want participants to learn through my Leadership Communications program.
Amazing things happen right in front of us every day, but human beings have lost the capability to become inspired by the little things. Mariano uses magic to show us that everyone has the ability to cultivate awe and wonder from their daily lives.
Mariano was born in Huesca, a small town in the North of Spain, and moved to Madrid when he was 18. He is a professional business person with a twinkle in his eye; his experience is in consulting, and his passion is in magic and the art of Illusion. Mariano’s capability of mixing those two world in his daily life is truly inspiring, and he takes the TEDxIESEBarcelona stage at IESE Business School in Barcelona, to describe the lens through which he views life.
A good gardener creates the conditions for growth of a garden, but cannot force the flowers to grow in an exact way. The good gardener creates the conditions and accepts what arises.
The bad gardener fights what arises. The bad gardener hacks and chops and fights against the natural growth of nature.
The good gardener changes the conditions and different plant shapes and varieties arise.
In each case the attitude of the gardener is “Interesting! I wouldn’t have expected that.” Creative indifference as a gardener is a deep curiosity, and an openness to delight in the million and one ways that nature can arise.
Good Teaching as Good Gardening
I want to teach more as a gardener than as a sculptor.
Up to now I often find that I am trying to remake a participant into my image of what she could be – I am metaphorically hacking off bits of stone and adding bits of paint.
A good gardener allows the plant to grow in its own unique way. Nature is difference. Nature is no straight lines, no leaf exactly like any other leaf, no flower exactly like any other flower.
I want to focus more on creating the conditions for growth in the classroom, during the breaks, during the lunches… that would allow the participants to grow in their own individual way – and have less fixed ideas about how each individual will use those conditions. I want to be willing to allow the person to become who he is to become, rather than my ideal of what he could be.
Good strategy begins with a clear diagnosis (widely accepted) of the real current condition of the business. If there is nothing painful then this is strategy driven by internal politics, not strategy driven by a determination to be the best company, team that we can be.
Good strategy clearly articulates the challenges (big potholes on our path). If there are no scary challenges, then it is not good strategy. There are dangers out there that can kill your business. If you are not vigilant, the bugs and the weeds will take over the garden.
Good strategy covers “Ideology” – There is an answer to “who are we?” As people, as leaders? Michael O’Leary shows that “cheap” can win – but has to be lived by the full organisation. It is not enough to live values – to be a trusted organisation, a trusted leader, values must be both explicitly expressed and lived daily. Are these still lived? Aspirational values not being lived = loss of all trust and company becomes commodity. Image to the right comes from “Walking the Talk”: Under-promising is almost as dangerous as over-promising.
Good strategy articulates the set of coherent daily, weekly, monthly actions that must be inculcated, measured and made habitual? What systems – budget, motivation, talent, metrics?
Good strategy addresses the question: How do we concentrate our resources in areas where our opponents are weak? What are the real sources (that customers really care about) of our advantages? “Don’t attack walled cities”
Good strategy addresses innovation and change: How do we as an organisation cheaply explore ideas? How do we embrace “trying, failing & improving”? Is it career suicide to lead a failed product launch? If so, there will be no innovation.
Good strategy understands sales. Neil Rackham tells us that today’s customers are polarizing around extremes of transaction oriented (“give me your price for this”) and trusted relationship (“help me think and I’ll pay you well”) – you cannot target both groups with the same approach. Transactional – push towards self service. Trusted – over-resource with senior experts; only chase projects with very high win probability (coming second is worse than not bidding).
Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School will be speaking at IESE Business School in Barcelona next Monday 13th.
“It is my desire to inspire people of all ages and social demographics to think about leadership on a broad level, contemplate what it means to them and what individual impact they can have when it comes to leading,” Nitin Nohria.
What does Leadership mean to you?
As a simple reflection, I share 2 short poems:
The Serenity Prayer
(paraphrased by me…)
Give me the strength to change the things I can change;
The patience to accept the things I cannot change
and the wisdom to tell the difference.
Author: Reinhold Niebuhr, 1943
“I Wanted To Change The World”
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
Author: Unknown Monk 1100 A.D.
As the Harvard-IESE Committee celebrates its 50th Anniversary, IESE welcomes Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria, to speak to alumni at an exclusive session on January 13, 2014. Entitled, “Innovative Leadership: Learning from Asian Companies,” the session will be held at IESE’s Barcelona campus and organized by the Alumni Association. Registration is here.
This, or a version of it, arrives a few times a week:
I need to talk to you. Can I have some time?
By the way, its not from my girlfriend, or my daughter. They get a yes. My mum, dad, brothers, sister – they get a yes. However, generally these emails come from people that I am not deeply connected to.
What do I know from this email?
You don’t care about my time enough to set out an agenda, let me know how I can be prepared, help me with something that you know I want (its all on my blog!).
I think I can predict the success or failure of a startup based upon the quality of the “asking for a meeting” emails that the founders tend to write. This is entirely speculative and based upon zero empirical study, but a lot of emotional certainty.
You can’t begin to improve at something until you are “knowingly bad”.
If you are not aware of the lack of something, you haven’t got “taste” yet. If you think you are the best blogger in the world, two things could be true:
You really are the best blogger in the world
You are blind to the real criteria for what makes a great blogger
Taste is the beginning of Knowingly Bad
The development of taste is the beginning of “knowingly bad”.
Taste is the ability to tell what is good. Taste is what you develop as you progress that actually grows your disappointment with your results. As you go through development, your talent grows slowly, but if you are going to be good, your taste grows rapidly.
As taste grows, the disappointment grows.
Ira Glass says “For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.”
Don’t Quit at Disappointment
When you have posted your 8th blog post and you feel it is going downhill, your posts are getting worse, your progress feels like it is backwards… do not be afraid. This is the beginning of “Taste”.
I know 2 types of anxiety-free public speaker. Type 1 has never developed “Taste” and so has no capacity to concern himself that he could do poorly. He is blind. He makes no connection between the audience’s use of email on their phones and the bad-ness of his speech.
Type 2, if you are interested? Type 2 cares so much about the message that the speech is not about him or herself. The message is so important that his own performance doesn’t even enter the equation. The message is so important that he has given the speech 100 times, over coffee, in airport lounges.
If I want taste in writing, I have to read a lot. I have to know why one author is better than another, and specifically what that author does that I am not yet able to do.
If you are writing and and not satisfied with the paragraph you are producing: Great! You have taste.
If you are speaking and are not satisfied with your quality of impact on the audience: Great! You have taste.
If you are leading a team and are not satisfied that you are a good enough leader: Great! You have taste.
If you are a parent, and are not completely satisfied that you are doing it well: Great! You have taste.
The Role of Teachers
Great teachers focus on developing taste as well as developing talent – because with taste, you can grow beyond the teacher. If they don’t help you with taste, you depend on them. I spend more and more time these days helping the participants in my seminars give structured feedback on themselves than I used to. If I tell them what to improve, that’s ok… but if I help them develop that ability in themselves, they are getting “Taste”.