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Growth is something we must nurture and generate, not just passively wait for it to show up (though sometimes it does). We must make it happen, and be in a position to capitalize on it when our entry point comes.
Are you a Dreamer or a Deliverer of Growth?
Using the word “growth” in conversations and understanding that growth is important are where most executives limit themselves. They dream about how they might grow in the future and all the possibilities that exist. Yet they do not demonstrate the discipline to “get in position” to act on growth opportunities either formally or informally.
Regardless of the specific plan you have to strategically drive the growth of your business, consider taking these actions to prepare for the opportunities that may come:
- Realistically assess your current talent bench in terms of skills & capabilities
- Invest in the accelerated development of talent skill “gaps” now, not next year
- Realistically assess your competitive environment: who & what they are doing
- Seek input, perspective and advice from trusted advisors on emerging trends
- Eliminate low-value work that you know is wasting high value time now
There is a “time value” to opportunity and growth. You need to seize your entry points or miss out. The world works at the speed of business, not your preferred speed. If you are the leader of a team or organization, stop dreaming of when you can play at the right altitude and work on being prepared to deliver growth now. When you are playing at the altitude of leadership, you are allocating resources, prioritizing initiatives and making appropriate operational trade-offs (i.e. what we will and will not do, when, how and why) so you can deliver on your growth targets. Don’t make the mistake of not having the organizational or personal “bandwidth” or “capacity” for growth when the opportunity knocks. Start creating it now by being prepared!
The Growth Equation (Growth= Risk x Change)
If you have made a conscious choice to deliver accelerated growth to your organization, you need to embrace what I call “the growth equation.” Growth is a function of our ability to take risks and make changes. It is about action – often different actions from what you have done before. Therefore, you have a pretty good chance to fail as well as succeed. Sound uncomfortable? You are in the growth arena if you have generated anxiety or slight discomfort.
Growth requires two things that make you and everyone else uncomfortable–risk and change. Your job as a leader is to get yourself, your leadership team and your organization aligned with and embracing the fact that making changes and taking risks is what is required to achieve growth.
Taking risks and making changes in organizations requires a high degree of trust. Fear of losing your job when you make mistakes can paralyze people. Playing it safe or playing not to lose is the way most employees move through their day-to-day challenges. If you want growth, you have to play to win! So what’s a leader to do? Start building trust!
The Trust Equation (Trust = Truth x Transparency)
We will only take risks and make changes if we believe we have a supportive and safe environment to do so. This is why trust is critical to the process of growth.
When we talk about trust, we can view it from a few angles. The first one is loyalty-based trust. I know you will cover and protect me at all costs. This is “old-school” trust. It fails to embrace circumstances or context that require judgment and will be viewed as unfair, with clear winners who are protected and losers who are not. This is not a risk tolerant environment!
Conversely, “new-school” trust is based on the ability to personally admit, show and be with your own vulnerability. This means being accountable when you don’t know the answer, or make mistakes. Vulnerability used to be a taboo word and has finally reached a tipping point in terms of being understood as a leadership strength. We want our leaders to be authentic and real. This requires being human. Human beings are emotional beings and they make mistakes. This creates a safe space and a risk tolerant environment.
Let’s go one step further. In addition to being about vulnerability vs. loyalty, Trust is also a function of a leader’s ability to speak the truth with transparency. Your organization wants to know the truth about what is happening as well as why it is happening. Leaders need to share the truth through transparent communication as soon as possible in order to fully build trust with our teams.
For example, the leader who speaks with truth and transparency about an organizational restructure requiring a reduction in force, and who openly demonstrates empathy through his or her personal pain and disappointment of having to lose colleagues who have served to build the company to where it today, is a leader who will build trust among those employees who remain behind. The path forward in a restructure requires both risk and change. Building trust through the equation of “truth & transparency” is the only way a leader will empower a paralyzed, skeptical workforce and get it to invest its heart and talent in driving the business forward again.
The growth equation and the trust equation are critical for leaders today. If you don’t understand what you are asking people for and what it takes to deliver, growth will remain only a dream. Choose to be a deliverer
Erica Peitler is a leadership performance coach to C-Suite executives and their teams. She is also a keynote speaker on leadership issues. For more information, visit: ericapeitler.com.