In Change, Leaders

“One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us.” – Black Elk

Last week in this space I wrote about the importance of making sure we learn whatever lessons 2021 can teach us before we turn our focus to the new year.  We have a tendency to always be looking to the next thing without gaining whatever knowledge we can from what’s already happened.  That tendency to miss lessons leads to a tendency to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Make sure when you’re looking for lessons, though, that you look in all the relevant places.  Sometimes, leaders have a tendency to look at pictures taken from a 50,000-foot view and then try & extrapolate what caused the things they see.  They’re the leaders, of course, so they’re supposed to come up with some big picture reason why things are the way they are.

One of the problems with that kind of thinking is that the leaders sometimes know less about what’s actually going on than just about anybody else.  They can make guesses, and certainly they can use what they hope is helpful data, but they need to remember to take things one step further.  Talk to somebody who might know something.

Your organization is full of people who work there every day.  They interact with vendors, customers, other employees, etc.  They have conversations and experiences you don’t know about.  They know things that can be very educational.

And what about those vendors?  What about those customers?  Isn’t it possible that they have some insight into the past and what might be coming in the future?  Of course it is.  Make a point to build some of those relationships.  They can be extremely valuable.

I’m not suggesting that you have a formal sit-down interview with every employee, vendor, and customer you have.  What I’m suggesting is that as you try to learn from the past – and plan for the future – don’t just shut yourself in your office and meditate.  There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.  If somebody else has an answer, go ask a question.

Have the common sense and humility to get help from others.  As the leader, you may be responsible for putting the puzzle together.  If that’s true, then at least make sure you have all the pieces.

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