Sticky Leaders: The Secret to Lasting Change and Innovation (Leadership Network Innovation Series)
PART 1: START WITH AN EXIT STRATEGY
- PREPARE FOR FAILURE: THE ONE THING LEADERSHIP GURUS WILL NEVER TELL YOU > Page 17
Change alters what we’ve always done. Innovation produces something that has never been done. But both have one thing in common: the more that they’re needed, the more likely they are to be fiercely resisted. That’s why two of the most challenging tasks of leadership are successfully navigating the change process and introducing innovation. It’s why I wrote this book. In the following pages we’ll explore what it takes to introduce lasting change and innovation. I’ll expose the dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about, and we’ll examine the counterintuitive practices that successful change agents and serial innovators use to greatly increase their odds of their success.
So what is this dirty little secret that haunts our best efforts at bringing change and innovation? It’s simply this: most innovations fail. They always have.
- UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENTS: WHY YOU SHOULDN’T TRUST EVERYTHING INNOVATORS TELL YOU ABOUT INNOVATION > Page 25
When you ask an unconscious competent for the secret to his success, he’ll tell you what he thinks he does, not what he actually does. It’s similar to what a natural athlete does when he picks up a ball and instinctively makes the right move or throws the right pass.
Frankly, it took me by surprise. I have theology degrees, not an MBA. But I quickly learned that when it comes to growth, change, and innovation, there’s not much difference between a church, a community organization, and a car dealership. The landmines, roadblocks, and paths to success are remarkably similar. When it comes to change and innovation, failure is still the norm. And the path through it is still the same.
- IT’S ALL BETWEEN THE EARS: HOW TO RECOGNIZE A SERIAL INNOVATOR > Page 29
It’s not difficult to recognize a seasoned serial innovator or change agent. Just look for a track record of successful changes and innovations.
- EXIT STRATEGIES: WHY YOUR EXIT STRATEGY IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR GAME PLAN > Page 35
I’ve found that many people who would fiercely object to anything that smells like change will passively step aside and let me try an experiment or engage in a trial run. Admittedly, they fully expect to see my attempts fail. But I don’t care . All I need is the chance to see if it works. The language of experimentation turns these potential opponents and saboteurs into bemused bystanders.
PART 2: IGNITING INNOVATION
- BEYOND AVANT-GARDE: IF IT DOESN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE, IT’S NOT AN INNOVATION > Page 43
If It Doesn’t Make a Difference, It’s Not an Innovation Ultimately, it’s not just the quality of an idea or the persistence of the leader that determines whether an idea succeeds or fails. It’s also the environment.
An idea, to qualify as a genuine innovation or successful change, must (1) work in the real world, and (2) be widely adopted within a particular organization or industry. Both are equally important.
Making lots of changes won’t make our church, nonprofit, or business more innovative. It will make it sick, giving it a bad case of organizational whiplash, which is not something to be proud of as a leader. The secret to becoming a creative and innovative organization is not found in having lots of ideas, trying lots of things, or making lots of changes. It’s found in having the right kinds of ideas, trying the right kinds of things, and launching the right kinds of products, programs, and initiatives.
- INNOVATION’S MOST POWERFUL IGNITERS: WHY YOUR BIGGEST PROBLEMS MAY BE YOUR GREATEST BLESSINGS > Page 50
WHAT FRUSTRATES YOU MOST? The first question you want to ask yourself is, “What frustrates me most?” Why? Because organizational innovation is often ignited by our deepest personal frustrations. The second powerful question you can ask is, “What’s broken most?”
It doesn’t matter whether you are leading a church, a nonprofit, or a business. To identify the programs, processes, and policies that are most ripe for innovation and change, step back and ask yourself, “What frustrates me most?” And then ask, “What’s broken
PART 3: ACCELERATING INNOVATION
- WHY MISSION STATEMENTS MATTER: HOW CLARITY ACCELERATES INNOVATION > Page 57
Almost every organization has a mission statement of some sort. Sadly, many of these statements have little to do with what is actually measured, rewarded, or valued. They don’t describe reality. They spout clichés and marketing slogans. That’s a shame, because an honest, clear, and concise mission statement can be one of innovation’s most potent accelerators.
To make a difference, a mission statement must have three essential traits. It must be ruthlessly honest, widely known , and broadly accepted.
Too long to remember is too long to be useful.
- A BIAS FOR ACTION: WHY DATA AND PROOF ARE OVERRATED > Page 70
The Church Has Left the Building We took a much bigger risk on the weekend we decided to close down all of our worship services. We wanted to cancel church for the weekend and send our entire congregation out to serve in a massive community-service project. We called it the Weekend of Service. We had no idea whether it would work. Our goal was to mobilize thousands of our congregation to fix up and repair schools, community centers, and dilapidated buildings in the community. We’re not talking small projects here; these were extreme makeovers, all to be completed within forty-eight hours.
- A RESPECTED CHAMPION: THE DIFFERENCE A JOHN THE BAPTIST MAKES > Page 73
Because no innovation or significant change ever succeeds without a respected champion. It doesn’t matter if I have the best idea since flushed toilets; without a respected champion supporting it, I won’t move forward.
What we mean to say , what we actually say, and what people hear can be three different things.
Studies show that when major changes or innovations are introduced, only a small percentage of people become early adopters. Most people wait and take their cues from others. They hold back and want to know who else is supporting it before they jump aboard.
Even Jesus used a respected champion to kick-start his ministry. His name was John the Baptist. Jesus recruited his first disciples from the ranks of John’s followers. When John told them that Jesus was the one they were looking for, they immediately left John and followed Jesus . No questions asked. No miracles needed.
- PLANNING IN PENCIL: LETTING AN INNOVATION BE WHAT IT WANTS TO BE > Page 81
And never forget that successful and serial innovators deal with what is. They don’t worry much about what should be. They don’t worry much about what they thought would be. They just worry about what is. And when things change, they change.
PART 4: SABOTAGING INNOVATION
- THE HIGH PRICE OF FAILURE: WHY TRUST AND CREDIBILITY ARE TOO IMPORTANT TO LOSE > Page 90
The first and worst leadership felony is any kind of moral failure. We expect smart people to do dumb things occasionally. But we expect that honest people will always be
Unfortunately, most leaders seem to be drawn to overselling. They want things to start off with a bang. They want results. Right now. So they fall into the hype trap. But big crowds and enthusiasm aren’t worth celebrating if the crowds and enthusiasm quickly wane.
They will judge it by how you do over the long haul. That’s one reason why I always use as little hype as possible. It occasionally frustrates staff and people who wish I would push a new program, change, or innovation harder. But I won’t do it. I want the word on the street to be that everything I push is better than advertised.
- GROUPTHINK: WHY YOU SHOULDN’T CARE WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THINKS > Page 98
Inviting too many people into the innovation or decision-making process waters down the contribution of serial innovators. Their voices become just one of many (and often misunderstood at that). Groups have a hard time escaping the gravitational pull of conventional wisdom. They tend to reject outright anything that doesn’t fit their standard paradigm or hasn’t been done before.
- SURVEYS: WHY THEY’RE A WASTE OF TIME > Page 105
Another great saboteur of innovation is the overuse of surveys and focus groups.
Unofficial surveys. These take place when members of a board or leadership team query their friends and acquaintances and then bring the results to a meeting. They often present them this way: “I’ve talked to a lot of people and they think . . .” Interestingly enough, if the input from their friends and acquaintances is positive, they’ll gladly reveal the names. But if it is critical or negative, they’ll hesitate to reveal any names.
That’s why at North Coast we have a strict and simple rule: no name, no input. If someone says, “I’ve talked to a lot of people and they think . . ., ” I always ask, “Who are they?”
Serial innovators and successful change agents don’t seek buy-in. They seek permission.
- PAST SUCCESSES: HOW YESTERDAY’S SUCCESS SABOTAGES TOMORROW’S INNOVATION > Page 112
THE “NOT INVENTED HERE” SYNDROME One of the most common forms of organizational arrogance is found in the rejection of anything “not invented here.” It shows up as a lack of interest in fledgling technologies, methods, or programs that work elsewhere. It discounts and rejects the ideas, innovations, and successes of others.
One of the most important things a leader and leadership team must do is to look out the window. They need to see what’s happening “out there,” because out there is where the future lies, both in terms of unforeseen dangers and amazing opportunities.
PART 5: BREAKOUT DECISIONS
- WHEN YOU’VE HIT THE WALL: BREAKING THROUGH BARRIERS OF COMPETENCY AND COMPLEXITY > Page 124
The fact is, nothing grows and multiplies forever. The idea that healthy things do is a silly myth.
“Are we supposed to grow more or is this our built-in limit and DNA?” is a difficult question to answer. It demands serious deliberation.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES A second reason why organizations hit the wall is because they’ve outgrown their structures.
Organizational structures are like gravity. They can be temporarily overcome with lots of ingenuity. But eventually they will win. They always do. That’s why organizations always settle in at a size that perfectly matches their policies, procedures, and structures.
The current culture that drives success are no longer excellence and the trappings of success. That day has passed. There are two new keys: authenticity and compassion. It doesn’t matter whether you are a church or a business; everyone wants to know whether you’re the real deal and whether your organization is doing something for others.
- BREAKING THROUGH: THE NEED FOR NEW ADVISORS > Page 129
Assuming you’ve not reached your God-ordained ceiling and there are still heights to scale, one of three things must change — and in some cases, all three. You’ll need (1) new advisors, (2) new expectations, and/ or (3) new structures.
Many leaders never venture outside their tribe. Sometimes it’s because of arrogance. They think they and their tribe have all the answers. Sometimes it’s because of insecurity; they fear leaving their comfort zones. Sometimes it’s because their tribe won’t let them.
If given a choice, most people in an organization will choose to maintain comfortable patterns of relationship over fulfilling the mission.
The evolution of a deeply held tradition went something like this. Year one: Why are we doing that? Year two: Okay. Whatever. Year three: But we’ve always done it this way. That’s what makes changing dysfunctional structures so difficult. After year three, they tend to have the power of tradition. But it matters not. They can’t be left to run their course. Dysfunctional structures will run any organization into the proverbial wall. And if something isn’t done to change them, the organization will inevitably shrink to a size that perfectly fits its policies, procedures, and structure.
I’ve learned that the important question is not, “Does this fail to help us fulfill our mission?” The important question is, “Does this keep us from fulfilling our mission?”
Large groups seldom make quick and good decisions.
PART 6: WHY VISION MATTERS
- THE POLAROID PRINCIPLE: HOW VISION WORKS > Page 151
Lots of people confuse mission with vision . Both are incredibly important. But while mission and vision are close cousins, they play different roles when it comes to innovation and leadership.
Vision is much more detailed. It’s the narrative that describes what success is supposed to look like in detailed and real-life terms. It puts flesh on your missional bones.
- CREATING AND SUSTAINING VISION: THE LEADER’S ROLE > Page 159
A leader has to make sure that methods used to achieve the vision remain appropriate.
If you use any jargon, those who are new to your organization won’t have a clue what you’re talking about .
I remember asking a church-planter what his vision was for his new ministry. He told me that his dream was to become a church with “gospel-centered preaching that produces missional communities carrying out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.” Ironically, his goal was to reach lots of non-Christians. Unfortunately, those non-Christians had no idea what he was talking about. The only people who understood what he meant where those who were already firmly entrenched within his tribe . Everyone else was left to feel stupid. His jargon turned an otherwise precise vision into something murky and obtuse.
The final step in communicating your vision is to repeat it ad nauseam.
PART 7: LEAVING A LEADERSHIP LEGACY
- IT’S NOT ABOUT US: LEAVING A LEGACY OF CHANGE AND INNOVATION > Page 167
My greatest legacy will not be found in the changes and innovations that bear my name. It will be found in the corporate culture I leave behind.
Leave a legacy that encourages continual change and innovation, future leaders will rise up and call me blessed. If I don’t, they will call me something else. I can’t put it in print. But you can guess.
Three things will need to be in place before the next group of leaders takes the helm.
- THE FREEDOM TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS To lead wisely, leaders need to continually ask and answer the following questions: What is our unique mission? What are our unique strengths and weaknesses? What is current reality? What do we need to do to better fulfill our mission?
What Would Walt Do? It’s reported that after Walt Disney’s death, one of the most common questions asked among the new leadership team was, “What would Walt do?” The result of asking that question was nearly two decades of slow decline. Even into the late 1970s, management was still asking what Walt would do, and then answering based on what he did in the 1950s and early ’60s.
Unfortunately, lots of leaders and leadership teams consider the “What would Walt do?” question to be a compliment. They’re so sure that they’ve got it right that they can’t imagine tomorrow’s leaders needing to change anything. So they entrench today’s policies, procedures, and programs deeply into the fabric of the organization. And in so doing, they make it nearly impossible for future leaders to innovate or lead.
Leaders Who Won’t Trust But there is something far worse than naively assuming that today’s answers will solve all of tomorrow’s questions. It’s assuming that tomorrow’s leaders can’t be trusted. Unfortunately, it’s a mindset that is far more common than most people realize.
Years down the road, if future leaders ever choose to revisit the church-school question, they’ll be able to ask, “What does God want us to do?” It’s a much better question than, “What did Larry want us to do?”
All we can do is make sure that we’ve done our best to create a climate of innovation and to foster an openness to change. We can light fires and pour gasoline on the ones who are already burning.
But at the end of the day, from a legacy standpoint, the most important thing we will ever do won’t be found in the changes and innovations that bear our name. It will be found in the change agents and innovative leaders who stand on our shoulders.
Sticky Leaders: The Secret to Lasting Change and Innovation (Leadership Network Innovation Series)