Last week I was in a golf tournament for my college fraternity Beta Theta Pi and had the pleasure of being grouped with several current students. After a few stories of debauchery and crazy antics from over twenty years ago we got on to the subject of careers. One of the students mentioned that he was majoring in Information Systems which also was my undergraduate degree. The discussion triggered a flashback of the amazing amount of discovery that seemed to be bombarding me at that time in my life. Looking back over my “career path” I now realize how I have continually struggled to maintain that extraordinary sense of discovery I felt then.
So today is the 1st anniversary of launching my blog on leadership, innovation, and failure. I cannot even start to explain how much I have learned along the way. My goal was to mix my ideas and my research trying to post at least one article per week. Over the last year I have written 68 posts which have been read by over 5000 unique visitors to the blog. I would like to offer a huge “thank you” to everyone who took the time to comment, provide feedback, or help share my articles with your networks!
So I thought I would take a break on this post from my usual topics of failure or innovation and instead focus on a lesson in leadership and philosophy. Last week Alan Wurtzel wrote an insightful post titled “What Circuit City Learned about Valuing Employees” for the HBR Blog. The article describes how important it is to respect your employees and give them the opportunity to grow. For the first 50 years this was a core value at Circuit City but by 2000 the company’s executives had all but eviscerated that belief and by the end of 2009 Circuit City was gone. As I read this article I kept thinking that these were some very important lessons to be learned for every retailer, especially Circuit City’s last remaining true competitor, Best Buy.
Today Peter Sims wrote about my favorite topic Failure in an article for the HBR Blog titled “The No. 1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure.” Sims comments on how parents, teachers, and bosses all push us to prevent errors and mitigate risks. He points out how entrepreneurs and designers have a different frame of mind toward failure seeing “mistakes” as part of the trial-and-error processes of driving innovation. Sims calls for each of us to revolt against this thinking and to no longer be “shackled by these norms.”
Where have all of the General Managers gone? HBR has recently run a couple of articles on this topic (Bring Back the General Manager – 7/10) and I couldn’t agree more with the findings. With the constant pressure to demonstrate quarterly profits and to find dollars to invest in growth opportunities, organizations have been trying to be as lean as possible. They are seeking to garner every efficiency that they can out of the system. One way corporations have done this is by merging smaller businesses into larger business groups and cutting out any redundancies with the new organization. The elimination of the general manager position in particular is not just due to the recent economic downturn but has been going on the better part of the last decade. After a few iterations of narrowing the food chain, an organization can be quickly left with too few good leaders who are equipped and able to lead a team of cross-functional business directors. These “Leaders” might have functional expertise in their discipline but they are lost when it comes to setting a vision and strategy their broader business.
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