People who explore implications show patience in evaluating ideas to determine potential benefits and drawbacks.
I stayed in a brand-new hotel recently, and noticed something odd; the bathroom door was spring loaded to swing shut. Furthermore, when I checked in, the bathroom light and fan were on and running. This meant that when I entered the room for the first time, the bathroom seemed occupied, with the door only open a crack.
I mentioned this to the general manager, who told me, “Yeah, that’s the new protocol for this chain; those doors swing shut, and housekeeping is supposed to leave the light on in there. The biggest complaints have been coming from single female travelers.”
Wow – instead of exploring implications, this hotel chain impatiently pushed forward for quick progress without a careful evaluation. This will likely hurt repeat business.
This is the sixth and final post about leadership behaviors when developing Vision. Starting next week, we move past Vision to Alignment- preparation for the work.
And this idea of exploring implications sets us up for getting the right people in the right place to do the right work. When it comes to the Small Business Saturday cast of characters, let’s look next at Mark Schroeder, the Executive VP of the M Booth corporate team that AmEx trusted for strategic direction in communication.
The team was ready to push content and message, always guided by that question – “Will this keep or incentivize people shopping locally during this time of year?” Think back to 2010 – digital was beginning to take hold as a legitimate way to get messages out, and Facebook was, believe it or not, the shiny new thing.
Schroeder was leading a group of people, with digital content expert Matt Hantz (more on Matt next week) as his number two, who were quite excited to use digital to make “Small Business Saturday” a part of the holiday shopping season lexicon.
Instead of allowing an over-emphasis on digital, Mark encouraged patience over rushing, and forced the team to assess traditional message vehicles as well. Schroeder is careful, analytical, and strategic.*
Digital was, and is, a big part of SBS, but so are traditional message channels like press releases, pitched features in printed media, talk show appearances, and strategic brand partnerships. And this paid off.
The Facebook efforts resulted in great success metrics, but it was the traditional vehicle of news programs that took them by surprise and put Small Business Saturday in front of millions of people.
On the first Small Business Saturday, M Booth placed an expert on the economic impact of shopping locally on “Fox and Friends”. Other outlets wanted to feature this angle later that same day. The call went out to the team – “cancel your brunch plans” – and by nightfall, the SBS story had been on several shows, including every New York City network affiliate, and “NBC Nightly News”. The patience to explore implications made that happen.
The best leaders don’t rush to push forward without evaluating possibilities.
True, it’s important to remain open, prioritize the big picture, be adventurous, and speak out; it’s also important to test assumptions by seeking counsel and exploring implications.
Once leaders act as stewards for the Vision process of their work, it’s important to start on Alignment. That will be the focus of the next six posts.
Thanks for reading,
*A personal note: I played many strategy games against Mark when we were in our 20s, including Risk and the more complex WWII simulation game Axis and Allies. He nearly always won. One time, I was incredulous as his Axis troops rolled right through Canada into the Eastern United States. “How did you pull this off?” I asked him. “Alan, never talk about the game during the game” he replied, expressionless. Hours later, after he rewrote history with a victory that put us in the world of “The Man in the High Castle,” he animatedly took me through his whole thought process and strategy, which was based on actual history, my personal playing style that he had keenly observed over the years, and some idiosyncrasies of the game rules. That was in 1994. Survey the landscape, strategize, and execute with discipline. That’s Mark. I can always picture him both maddening and dazzling the folks he works with.
Exploring Implications is a leadership behavior that helps drive the Testing of Assumptions during the Vision process of the Work of Leaders.
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This is the sixth post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.
For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.