Lipstick on a Pig

Lipstick on a Pig

Business is good – right? I mean, it may not be booming… but booming is an overrated idea… isn’t it? Aren’t “mostly hitting our targets” and “our customers don’t complain a lot” the real indicators that we’re doing just fine? But still… wouldn’t “booming” be a nice change of pace?

When “booming” – however your organization may define it (i.e., profits up; new industry chartered; successful expansion into digital) – becomes the aspiration, a company must choose its path to getting there. Perhaps it sets out to enhance its leadership capability, or assess the efficacy of its organization’s design [this author’s areas of specialty]. Other possibilities might be a cost-cutting initiative, or the acquisition of a company with a portfolio-expanding capability. There are many routes from which to choose.

But whatever the approach, the company’s assumption is so often this: we’ll identify our opportunity, establish a plan of attack, execute on that plan… and voila: we’ll boom! And yet… the reality so many times is that where we’re anticipating the boom, we simply see a blip. And that blip may be positive… but still… why just a blip? What did we miss?  Why isn’t work… just working better?

Enter: Super-Candor.

Frankly, my (professional) heart breaks when I see any organization embark on a quest for greatness — complete with analytical rigor and plenty of resourcing –without beginning said quest with a call for – no: an INSISTENCE on – Super-Candor from within.

So what do I mean by Super-Candor? It’s the gritty uncensored truths about (1) how an organization actually operates today, (2) where gaps in the system cause it to breakdown, (3) how well or not well that system is supported by its leadership, and perhaps most importantly (4) what would need to change in order for success (or boom) to transpire.

Without Super-Candor – that gritty assessment of the real state of things — embarking on any quest toward boom would be like… in the now infamous words uttered by the now infamous Sarah Palin (while watching Russia from her window)… putting lipstick on a pig.

OK – enough preaching. What does Super-Candor actually look like? What questions are imperative for every leader to ask of their organization before quest-embarkation? The list may come in many shapes and sizes. But here are some of my favorites:

  1. Where are you seeing ideas being stifled or shut down, AND what can we do to change that?
  2. Where are you / your team being held accountable to something that you’re not empowered to deliver on?
  3. Where do you see a disconnect between the promises and commitments we’ve made to you, and our actions and behaviors? May I have an example?
  4. Where are you seeing clients or customers being frustrated or disappointed, and you’re feeling helpless to improve their experience?
  5. Where are we failing to capture a real diversity of perspective?
  6. What are you spending time on that simply isn’t adding real value to our business?

Just imagine if your leadership had the real answers to the above (“real” as compared with the “good soldier” answers so many of us feel compelled to give, for fear of being labeled “a complainer” or heaven forbid “not a team player”). Imagine how much more impactful our boom-quest could be… if we could actually tailor it to addressing the real issues in our system – and not just putting together some strategy on a page that fails to resonate… that fails to drive a boom?

Now the next logical question may be… this sounds great, but how can we actually make this happen in our organization? How can we successfully open the floodgates to get this Super-Candor bubbling to the top? I’ll start with one hint: the answer is NOT a once-a-year anonymous survey.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this piece on Super-Candor – about actually making it happen. And if you simply can’t wait… shoot me a note and I’ll offer up a preview!