I’ve recently prepared a speech to present to all Kyocera International’s executives in Europe. I was asked to talk about KDZA’s philosophy and how we weave in principles, values and a ‘way of life’ into our business affairs. The Japanese in particular have a remarkable culture in that they don’t believe in separating work and love. One is dependent on the other. The way we do work at KDZA is intrinsically linked to Dr Inamori’s philosophy handbook.
In my speech, I decided to focus on the similarities between golf and business, with the emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning and being flexible in the face of constant change. I picked up an article by Keith Coats of Tomorrow Today, who confirms my beliefs about learning, and adds excellent insights into how to be “future fit”. Leaders in our KDZA channel may find Coats’ advice on point. Here’s a summary:
The importance of unlearning
Smart leaders understand the need to be “learner leaders” because many have stopped learning. This is symbolised by not wanting to change or fearing it. The need to learn sits at the heart of adaptability. To be a learner is to build the capacity of adaptability. Inherent in learning is the need to unlearn. This is to recognise that not everything one has learnt is useful for meeting current and future challenges. It is the ability to let go of past formulas that may have been successful once, but are now a liability. Peter Drucker said it’s not turbulence that’s the problem, but rather the use of yesterday’s logic in the face of turbulence.
The importance of culture
Being ready for the future is not a strategic matter. Being future fit is in fact a cultural issue. The need to be agile, adaptive, nimble and responsive to a changing context, with both the opportunities and threats that come with change is a cultural, rather than a strategic need.
Smart leaders understand that the organisational culture starts (but doesn’t end) with them and they go about intentionally building a cultural readiness for adaptability. Research shows (especially when it comes to mergers and acquisitions) that when organisations fail, the biggest cause is culture and not strategy.
Leaders should focus on organisational culture and the importance to understand their role and responsibility in the development of a suitable and appropriate culture within the business. At the heart of any successful business story you will find a leader who has understood the importance of this link.
The importance of the balcony
The distinction between the ‘dance floor’ and the ‘balcony’ is a powerful analogy embedded within Ronald Heifetz’s adaptive leadership model. The thought is that when ‘on the dance floor’ leaders have a limited vision or big picture but from the balcony, the entire dance floor can be surveyed. Too many leaders are spending too much time on the dance floor rather than on the balcony.
An easy way to gauge this would be to look at your most recent leadership agendas: how many of the agenda items were focused on operational aspects of your business and how many had to do with ‘looking out the window’; exploring the bigger picture both within and outside of your particular industry and sector? Of course, paying attention to operational concerns is imperative but not at the expense of developing the capacity and habit of seeing the bigger picture – of getting on the balcony.
The importance of questions
For many leaders, asking questions is seen as a sign of uncertainty or weakness. But smart leaders know that questions are the answers. Smart leaders ask a lot of questions and I would go as far to say that the quality of the questions you (as a leader) are asking will determine the quality of the solutions and strategy going forward.
Questions serve to open the conversation and thinking. They invite others into the conversation and as we get more used to asking them – and more comfortable, so too will we get better at ‘holding’ them, engaging with them and strengthening the process towards new learning and solutions. At your next leadership meeting, pay attention to the number (and quality) of questions being asked. What does this reveal about your team and company’s readiness to be ‘future-fit’?
Being a broker of hope
Leaders are ‘brokers of hope’. In a world and context where it is all too easy to be gripped by fear and despair, the notion of the leader as a broker of hope is important. Vaclav Havel, the Czech poet, philosopher and President gave a helpful insight to hope when he wrote, ‘Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out’. In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama suggests that hope is something within (despite all evidence to the contrary) that can be realised through courage, hard work and the willingness to reach for it and fight for it.
Be a leader who is a broker of hope. Be a leader who intentionally and continually works at being future fit.