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Big Changes Need Wave Makers portant piece of knowledge or opportunity. Even though Jobs’ waves were much grander and more transformational than ours, we can learn from how they started. Jobs’ questions and observation skills caused his perspective to change, as well as those around him. This natural curiosity and openness to new information began the formation of new ideas. I found that most Wave Makers I studied relied on this curiosity in exploring opportunities and problems. And, they were able to connect what even seemed like an unrelated concept from another situation or industry to their world. Charley Johnson, president of the Pay it Forward Foundation, shared his view on the importance of curiosity and learning: “To just be unbelievably curious, to read so many different books, and listen to so many different opinions. To want to be taught something. To want to sit down with people smarter than you and that think differently than you and truly listen. I didn’t do that in my last business. Things were going too well.” 1. Give White Space Assignments White space is my way of describing work that isn’t fully defined or where more clarity is needed. There is no precedent or clear road map. A new design is needed. The objective or value is defined, but that is all. And the exact outcome may not even be known yet—just the problem. It’s up to the individuals involved to create what doesn’t exist today using research, insights, and instinct. Of course, waves meet that criteria, but so does a new role that didn’t exist before, a position in a newly formed company or environment, or a dramatic change that renders the old rules obsolete. One of my “go-to” questions when I want to understand the ability of an individual to design and create is, “How effective is he with a blank piece of paper?” It’s another way of asking if that person can thrive in the “white space”—the undefined and the unseen with no obvious path forward. At Accenture, I had the opportunity to work on acquisitions or consolidations in new markets and businesses. Even though I was in a well-established consulting firm, some of my projects had a start-up feel, because we created completely new strategies, culture, plans, and processes for these emerging businesses. These experiences are what we joked at the time were “career dog years”—when you gain seven years of experience all rolled into one because everything was new and hard. Even so, these experiences were a true difference maker for me. This experience in the white space helps everyone who can handle it and it can help the business. 1. Put People out of Their Zone We all have these zones that fit our expertise, where we are most comfortable and confident. Have you ever noticed that when an outsider comes in he will have an observation or insight that those working there for months missed? A fresh perspective can see what others can’t. It’s not that he is wiser; he just doesn’t have the blinders that come after looking at something too long. You can develop future Wave Makers by proactively looking for stretch roles and assignments. It’s not setting up someone up to fail, but asking her to take on a new role, opportunity, or project that is a big step beyond her comfort zone. This experience helps expand horizons and see the world in a new way. And, it develops a confidence and comfort in stretching, learning and taking on something very new. While there was no one telling me to start my business, I decided to jump in. It was out of my zone at first and I felt some anxiety as a result. While the work content was familiar, the way in which it was delivered and the responsibilities that come with starting a new business were completely new. I had spent my career at Accenture, a large, global organization with tools, support, and access to almost anything. I laugh now as I look back on some of my naïve beliefs and assumptions at the beginning. The experience of starting my business was a process of learning both my strengths and my weaknesses, and it changed my perspective on more issues than I can count. 1. Develop Panoramic Thinking In bigger organizations, it’s easy to slip into roles and teams that are isolated from the others and to define success very narrowly. Silos are one of the most common business problems today, and they serve as invisible roadblocks to innovation and collaboration. Leaders need organizational groups to deliver on their promises and commitments, but not when the group becomes more important than the larger goal. They need to think in panorama for the enterprise - much wider than one role or one group. Ask individuals to lead a project that is broader than their role and function. It will naturally expand their thinking. It also develops an understanding of needs in outside of their own area through firsthand exposure and experience. As a result, they learn to see the business and market more holistically. Melisa Miller, EVP and president of Alliance Data Retail Services, shared the importance of learning to appreciate the roles of others and expect the best of other groups and functions rather than assume that ‘Marketing didn’t do their job’. This trust starts by having an understanding and appreciation of the entire enterprise, not just your role or function. To develop more Wave Makers, first, the environment has to be ready for experimentation and new ideas. Knock down reward and recognition obstacles that not only don’t reward waves, but penalize creativity, change and developing a new way. Then, start developing the Wave Makers you’ll need as it will take the ideas from many to make your own waves a reality. You can’t do it alone. LE This article includes excerpts from Patti Johnson’s upcoming book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life (Bibliomotion, May 6, 2014). Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human capital consulting firm she founded in 2004. She and her team advise clients such as PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, Frito-Lay, Cognizant, BNSF, McKesson and many others on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations. Previously, Johnson was a Senior Executive at Accenture and held numerous global leadership positions. LinkedIn Patti Johnson Book Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life 73 leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014


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