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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Breathing the Fresh Air

Monday, September 13, 2004

When I have really good experiences in my work, I find that I feel like writing about them. Over the past four days, I’ve had the great fortune of having preliminary meetings with potential clients. Not just any clients, but big, successful, profitable clients who are both at the tops of their respective industries.

What made these meetings so good – aside from the fact that everyone on their own in business wants new clients – was the engagement that both of these companies have with supporting the growth and development of their organizations – and the people who work there. They are both looking to tap into the resources that they currently have on the payroll and figure out what these dedicated, talented people need to excel to higher levels –levels of greater responsibility, greater productivity, and greater success.

On the airplane trip to this meeting, I was sitting next to a regional sales rep with a major specialty clothing company – a company whose name you would recognize right away. After talking about what I did, he started telling me about all that has started going wrong within his company. He told me how managers have made it pretty clear that when the reps are hearing presentations from the product development group, the reps should keep their mouths shut. He went on to explain the ways this has eroded the quality of these meetings, as well as compromised the finished products coming from development because there is no space for debate, dissention, and eventually, better products that will be easier for the reps to sell.

Blending these three experiences together – my two potential client meetings and my airplane conversation with my sales rep friend – I see a picture of stark contrast. I see a picture of organizations moving in two different directions.

It is so much work to confront, to engage, to challenge ourselves and each other to really ask the hard questions of what we can be doing to make our work and our companies better? It is much easier to pretend that nothing is wrong, to stay quiet, and to bottle our opinions and ideas up inside? This is a question that needs be asked of every leader in every organization, big or small.
posted by Michael Berger, 8:10 PM | link | 0 comments |

Right under our noses?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

An intriguing article appeared on Business 2.0’s website today that talked about targeted advertising in video games. The article, “Quick-change ads for the joystick generation,” talked about how in 2007, advertiser are projected to spend $45 million on product placement ads appearing in video games, up from about $10 million in 2002.

Aside from the, “Wow, that seems ridiculous” response that I initially had, it got me to thinking about how this is an example of uncovering opportunities for something new, different, and potentially effective that hadn’t thought about or noticed before. So my disbelief quickly turned into impressed.

What this makes me wonder about is where are the opportunities to ______ that are right in front of us? Given the direction my nose points me, I fill in that blank with “lead.” In organizations and in society, where are we missing the opportunities to provide clear and powerful leadership? What opportunities for this lie right in front of our noses, and probably aren’t that complicated to implement?

A colleague of mine was talking about a client he has that is frustrating him a great deal The situation rings of this same idea. The client recently went through a reorganization that touched many parts of the company and many key leaders. What the CEO did was, for the most part, isolate herself from a lot of people who could have helped her make some tough and important decisions. By providing a kind of stoic, independent leadership, she has missed an opportunity to use some great thinking that was available to her.

What she continues to do, though, is to miss the boat to lead by inclusion and involvement. The decisions will always be ultimately hers to make. How she does it will dictate what the impact of her decisions are and what lasting feelings and impressions will linger long after the decision is made.

According to my colleague, her company is one that struggles with autocratic leadership, where the leaders have, themselves, decided that a more team-based, collaborative process is what is needed and valued. This opportunity to lead (from the top) in a way that supports this fledgling commitment was blown. Plain and simple.

What this example shows is not only a missed opportunity that was right under the CEO’s nose, but the more complicated piece that comes in about how hard it is to break out of our regular way of acting, responding, and behaving.

It isn’t that leaders are deficient in their vision or in leadership. Those qualities are what got them to the top of their food chain in the first place. The challenge is expanding that vision and leadership into new domains, new perspectives, and new paradigms.

When companies were first asked about ad placement in video games, they made the quick assumption that they were going to be marketing to a bunch of pre-adolescent boys who didn’t care much beyond the games and the associated paraphernalia. Once companies saw that the demographics that 60 percent of males aged 18-35 play video games – and watch less television because of their gaming! – companies changed their tune. What they had to do was challenge their assumptions and expand their paradigm. What they thought was true was not and the video game advertisers (much to their own benefit, mind you) provided a kind of leadership that demanded a change. And this was all right under everyone’s nose the whole time.
posted by Michael Berger, 5:18 AM | link | 0 comments |
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