April 19, 2019

Seven Dumb Statements That Block Innovation

There are seven dumb statements that I hear thrown around as I interact with people and do the work of helping leaders lead better. I want to draw your attention to these statements because I don't want you to make them and hurt your ability to lead in the most impactful way.  I want to get underneath them so that we can understand what makes them a stupid thing to say.

Some of these are going to be statements that you may have said at some point. And that's okay, because we're all growing. We're developing. I, for sure, have said a number of the items on this list. And by growing our awareness, we get better. We're moving forward as leaders. So let's not beat ourselves up or shame ourselves. Let's get awareness on what doesn't need to be said.

We fall back on these phrases and sayings of cliché, vacuous statements because we are not prepared. We're winging it. And we want to be the kind of leaders who are prepared and not winging it.

Statement 1: “We need trust falls.”

I know that probably, nobody has ever said that statement exactly that way, but it happens. Here's what I mean.

Four years ago when I launched out into SightShift full time and I got the first big corporate program put together, I remember telling my wife, “It's happening.” They said, “Well, we've had some stuff going on and a couple of initiatives that aren't going like we thought, and some people were upset and we need somebody to come in and do some trust falls with us.” And I said, “I'm not your person for that, because that won't do anything.”

If my daughter and I are having a conversation and she gets mad at me and I've screwed up in some way as a dad, I don't put my hand on her shoulder and go, “Let's just do a trust fall.” That is ridiculous. It's hype. It's a joke. It's what makes the office so funny in different ways. It gives me great stories, but I will tell you this: when you face a moment and you're looking at the team and you know the energy is off - “We're not connected, we're not synced up, we're not aligned” - you feel it in your guts, in your bones. Don't go, “We need to get some trust falls up in here,” because you definitely don't. There's  deeper work to be done.

Statement 2: “It's not about you.”

Now, I've said that in speaking. But let me tell you what people hear when you say it and why you want to stop.

Somebody has an issue, and they’re possibly being insecure and seeking validation or there's a real protest that you need to hear so something can be improved. Rather than hearing the protests, you shut it down. “It's not about you.” Rather than helping them see how they're leading insecurely by seeking validation, you just shame them. “It's not about you.”

Here's the thing: it is about the individual. The individual has to learn who they are so they can show up and bring their best leadership, not seek validation, and give the issue that needs to be protested (in a healthy way) so it can be improved. So be careful of falling back on that phrase, because you're just shutting somebody down.

Statement 3: “WE over ME.”

This will get some likes on Twitter. I can just type those three words: “We over me.” I'm going to get some retweets. People are going to think, Yeah, that's the way it is.

No, that is not the way it is. That is crazy. It's not “we over me.” You're going to exhaust yourself for the needs of others so that you have no wholeness from which to draw from and give to others? No. It is a healthy ME that leads to a healthy WE. That's how it works.

I get the “we over me” sentiment. What they're trying to say is, “Hey, person that's trying to sabotage and direct all the attention and energy to your validation, to your insecurity, stop doing that.” But just know that in language, there's context and  nuance. We want to be more precise and accurate in our wording and what we're saying. And so it's ME, then a healthy WE. This is the way we do it.

Statement 4: “What do studies show?”

If this question is being asked in a truly inquisitive way, awesome. But any time you see new leadership insights breaking forth and things that are advancing - whether it's corporate culture or academics or athletics - there are people in the room that will say, “What's the science say? What's the data?”

Now, I'm all about the data. But the data has to be applied in big ways, because when it comes to a lot of leadership stuff, we're dealing with things at an intuitive level. And at an intuitive level, what we want to do is transcend just any current psychological study. Science is awesome. It helps us know so much, but it doesn't help us know everything, and it can't move fast enough to help us know what's breaking forth, what's getting better, what's improving.

Psychological studies are not all they're cracked up to be. You see top psychological studies being debunked right now. This is why I like to look at evolutionary biology. I like to look at anthropological studies and religious studies because I want to look at what's held for thousands of years. And so when somebody says, “What's the study say?” I would ask, “What's been practiced already for thousands of years?” because that's probably going to help us get where we need to go as far as improving human performance.

One of the pieces that we do with SightShift is harnessing the ability to visualize. Not just visualize in a way that you're attached to the results, but in a way that's deeper and bigger than that. It's your identity.

I listened to a podcast with somebody with the Seattle Seahawks about their mindset training. He was talking about how they want to train athletes to be able to meditate and visualize who they are as more than just a football player. He talked about how they do this and how it's really hard to do, and I'm about to come out of my skin listening to the podcast because I'm thinking, “No, you can teach people fast. There's a way to do it.”

If you don't have openness to many approaches and methodologies, then you get such a narrow viewpoint based on just what works for you, and that makes you dangerous. And you want to be the kind of leader who isn't just saying, “Well, what do the studies say?” The studies can't know it all, do it all, or be it all. Let's have a wider, longer viewpoint than that.

Statement 5: “Try harder.”

Your leaders are getting their current results because of the current activity that they're doing. And more hustle, harder effort applied is not going to change things. They actually need to pause, to use our language of the Seasons from The Stuck Book. There's a winter they need to enter into. They need to explore, they need to study, figure out why they're getting that result, and then engage it. When you tell them try harder, you're going to get more of what you're already getting. And that's no good.

Statement 6: “I'm successful because of ______.”

Now fill in the blank. What is it?

“Hard work, because I did this in the market and I did this.”

No, you're successful because of four or five factors; you might know two or three of them, and you're possibly blind to the fourth or the fifth one.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how most people don't know the reasons that contributed to their success. And so replicating it actually is impossible, because they're not aware of some things that happened with relationships and timing. So you want to be very clear as a leader, very simple in the values you're asking people to live up to and the stories you're telling that exhibit those values and inspire people. Never try to make it sound like it's a one and done simplicity of, “Just do this.”

Statement 7: “It's not going to be okay.”

Okay, so nobody's actively saying that. But again, it's caught more than taught. How are they modeling?

It's not going to be okay because they use fear. Replace this phrase with whatever statement they use to get people afraid. If I'm talking to a group of people and I want them motivated to learn skills, and I say, “Hey, the robots are coming. Learn these skills,” I'm getting them to take action out of fear. Now I might say that and provoke a response, but I'm trying to take it back to a place of desire of abundance - not scarcity, not fear. So with this seventh one, watch for the statements that you say that try to stir people up based on fear more than desire.

When you stir them up based on desire, you're unleashing them at their best. There's a point we need to be afraid of. But we don't stop there. We can start with some sobriety, but let's end with desire.

What would you add to this list? Think through it. Make sure that you are being very aware as a communicator, being at your best, choosing your words intentionally, and impacting people to the utmost.