Why Great Leaders Scream About Being Different on Friday

Friday – The Day for Leaders to Change the Conversation.

In 2015 I wrote an ebook titled A Weekly Calendar for Leaders. The idea was to highlight the things an audacious leader must do every day of the week if they are to build an organization that consistently delivers superlative performance.

This post talks about what the great leaders should do on Friday.

This day is all about language.

What is said; talked about in the organization. When people discuss issues, what do they say?
What words come out of their mouths?
Language expresses what people view as ‘what’s important around here.’
Vocabulary paints the picture of the journey that employees see the organization taking.

This day is focused on changing the conversation in the organization.

Moving away from discussing what needs to be done to improve; to incrementally change the organization.

And muting the conversation about the practices of best in class organizations and what is required to copy them.

Rather, introducing the conversation around how to BE DiFFERENT; how to stand-out from others in the market.

  • “What do we have to do to leave the herd; to distance ourselves from the common crowd?”
  • “How can we stand-out not blend in; breakaway from the common direction that everyone else is taking?”

This day involves meeting with team leaders throughout the organization; across all responsibility areas.
BIG NOTE: this applies if you have 1,000 employees, 10 or 3. The point is to engage with people who represent the various functions you have defined for your organization.

This day the leader declares that the BE DiFFERENT conversation will define the new culture of the organization.

And it will drive the new mindset that should pervade every nook and cranny of it.

What ‘the spoken word’ needs to be to drive success.

This day the leader has a simple agenda when meeting with team leaders.
Look introspectively. Dissect the conversations that are common. What topics do they most engage in? What words are used? What questions are asked?
Then disrupt the conversation with questions around divergence not compliance.

  • “What are we doing to create space between our organization and others?”
  • “What breakaway projects with new innovative thinking are we pursuing?”
  • “What NEW boxes are we building to play in?”
  • “What breakaway opportunities have we identified that will take us in a different and new direction than the rest of the market?”

Far too many organizations and people think success is fitting in; conforming; being the same as everyone else; going in the direction of the industry.

This is lazy and deadly thinking.

A recent LinkedIn post captured—under the concept of Strategic Convergence—the downside of doing what every other organization is doing. I liked it!

“Strategic Convergence means that over time most firms end up in the same place. This is what happens if you all read the same books, watch the same Ted talks, hire the same consultants and use the same case studies.  This is accelerated if you use benchmarking which involves watching what your competitors are doing and copying them. Emulation gets you to parity. But when everyone does it it gets you to strategic hell.”— Herman Singh, CEO

Success has been and always will be a function of being different in some way.

”You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to be indispensable is to be different.” — Seth Godin, Linchpin

The next time a proposal is brought to you, ask “How does this make us DiFFERENT?”

Avoid asking what others are doing and how the proposal conforms.

Call your head of marketing and ask what they are doing to move away from flogging products and services to offering packages of value to market segments of one? What are they doing to meet the needs of ’ME’ markets?

Sales: what are you doing to build a unique brand in the market based on building deep and intimate relationships with your clients?

Collections: how do you intend to distance yourself from virtually all other organizations that impose unfriendly and ‘dumb’ credit and collections rules and policies on their customers? The collections experience in most organizations is generally one level above pain and suffering.

Human Resources: How are you trying to attract the skills and competencies needed to drive amazing performance in a way that others don’t? Are new courageous practices that no one else is using being put into place to position your organization as the ONLY place to work?

Internal Audit: What is being done to simplify processes that touch the customer? Yes, control is important but it must be balanced with serving the customer in a hassle-free caring way.

And follow through to ensure that the BE DiFFERENT theme gets driven into the strategic game plan process and becomes a critical beacon to follow.

Related: My Top 5 Tips To Make a Successful Entrepreneur