“A stale agenda is guaranteed to lead to stale results!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
To be a leadership speaker is to be someone who gets to witness the dysfunction that often holds back an organization from pursuing the future. And in fact, it is often a valuable window into the very organizational sclerosis within the organization that leads to a lack of success going forward. The very process through which an organization inquires and talks with you about the possibility of having you speak at a leadership event or meeting is a pretty interesting one – because it gives you a window into their corporate soul.
And that corporate soul is often a very dark, very complex, and extremely dysfunctional place!
The introductory dance when they first call to reach out to you or have a few exploratory calls, is a window into leadership and organizational dysfunction. You get to witness committees and groupthink in action, and how a drive for diverse thinking actually leads to narrow thought. You discover the leadership hubris and arrogance at the top which has led to an overall corporate culture that refuses to recognize reality. You discover an executive at the margins who refuses to accept the disruptive, transformative forces that will dramatically alter their future. You see someone who has been charged with the responsibility of determining a path for a critical organizational event, only to have that responsibility stripped away by someone else who sees the proposed agenda and topic focus as a threat.
In other cases, you will be contacted by someone who tells you they’ve been empowered to set the agenda and tone for an upcoming leadership meeting, only to see that power ripped away by someone further up the leadership ladder. You get to witness, in real-time, and often in a phone call or Zoom meeting, the turf wars and territorial battles within the organization that doesn’t allow for a path forward. You witness a team that at first is running with the enthusiasm of knowing they will be able to build an agenda that will truly do something different – only to discover the dark forces of the status quo destroy that enthusiasm through the powerful ubiquity of marginal thought.
You get to see corporate dysfunction in all its naked glory!
Wow, I’ve had some fascinating situations over the years! It’s pretty ugly at times – and actually, very useful in providing me with some of the key barometers that separate successful organizations from those that are not.
What do you see as a result? By and large, you see them end up with an agenda, with agenda items, that looks very much like the small print in today’s image above.
You get to see them deciding to do the same old things they’ve always done.
You get to watch them pursuing the same old ideas they’ve always pursued.
You observe them going down a content path that lets them focus on the same old strategies they’ve always focused on.
You see them chasing the same old topic ideas they’ve always chased.
You see them decide to not take on the very complex disruptive topic that at its heart, will cause them a very complex disruptive future if they don’t accept it and adapt to it – because they don’t want to focus on the truth.
You get to observe them arranging for the same expert to tell them the same thing they told them last year – because it’s comfortable, heartwarming, chicken soup for the organizational soul.
I’ve been at this long enough that my mindset has shifted from being perplexed and mystified by this process, to viewing this as an opportunity that feeds my innovation and leadership insight factory. I have come to the point where I can quickly identify the dysfunction that exists within an organization that has reached out to me with an inquiry – and I can tell which ones are really ready to confront their future, compared to those who are just window-shopping for insight, but who are not really ready or able to.
It’s an odd job, this.
And I absolutely love it!