Private equity wants to know how to get a business bringing in revenues.
The first place I look is to see if the business leader wants control. The Mission statement can give the rough map of the path forward, but it also relinquishes control to the managers, something that often grates with baby boomer leaders who are used to commanding all. It is confusing, infuriating, and to some leaders weak, to reduce control, and just like the interpretation of motherhood, leaders may not want to accept alternative interpretations of what the Mission means.
I have observed, though, that most women leaders are able to accept that they cannot control their people. Women leaders are exciting when they roll out strategy with their teams because they tend to nurture an openness, leading to that first spark: Permission to have intellectual and emotional curiosity about how to enhance the business. Canada’s school system can struggle to develop this curiosity – my grandfather said members of one union teaching all of our children could perhaps be a little one-sided in their views – and I fear for our future work force if universities think that preventing raging debate in public means that the ideas also stop. That is one of the ways leaders have the illusion they are in control, as we witnessed recently with University of Ottawa’s debacle over Ann Coulter, an American Conservative pundit. The result is I am now curious about her books.
As leaders of businesses or universities, I think once we own up that we cannot control every action, and that luck and timing play a large role, we can improve our odds of success.
Here’s the catch: We desperately need to believe that we are in control of events. Only high self-esteem and a sense of responsibility for results boosts us from bed on cold mornings. With a detailed, language-rich Mission Statement, a leader can improve this sense of control for her team so that they feel personal accountability. They can get that spidey-tingle that there is work to be done, let’s do it.
If a leader’s attitude is that the Mission is to help guide those people brimming with enthusiasm to get out into the real world and take a few punches, fantastic. Without those experiences, management stagnates. Your hotshot people want to take on more in their interpretation of essential work, to try their ideas and leadership style to make it happen or not. Managers can get moving on their own initiative, fit into the company’s deep marketing “groove,” while developing the gumption to be able to change drastically when that groove proves to be a rut.
We are all very aware that today’s star product is quickly tomorrow’s Tiger Woods.
Having colleagues who are running counter to your views and not under your exact control is the only thing that ensures organizational adaptation and survival. Most long-term companies look quite different over decades and there is usually a leader who encouraged their people to take risks while following that North star and dumping the boat every now and then.