“In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.”
I’ve noticed something over the years, both as a corporate executive and as a consultant: if you’re the guy in the room with a point of view – someone who has a vision of where the ship needs to go and how it ought to get there – you’re probably alone. It’s a rare gift. It’s also a dangerous one.
Tamsin Smith, the former president of Product (RED), gave me a wonderful interview setting up a chapter in Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry. In it, she explained the power of (RED)’s point of view and its catalyzing effect on partners.
“(RED)’s impact was that there was an idea that gave brands a point of view and an energy and excitement above and beyond what they’d normally encounter in their scope of business… it lit a fire because people want to believe in something.”
To be clear, GAP had a point of view – it just hadn’t found its voice. (RED) gave them an amplifier that helped them form the message. The result was, in Tamsin’s words, some of the best work to come out of GAP in ages.
An interesting thing happens when you present your vision of the future: people discover they have an image to live up to – your customers, your partners and even your own employees. Once we’ve given them anchor point, they’ve got a target to hit. Interestingly, it seems that they don’t even have to believe in it. Much as we see in negotiating theory, merely stating a position immediately changes the other potential unspoken outcomes. They’re either with you or their trying hard to escape your gravitational force.
Understand the dark side, too. Your having an opinion makes you a marked man. (Or woman). Those who control the destiny of your company, if it’s not you, may have their own point of view. Your having one, too, makes you competition. And corporations, for all their break room poster exhortations, usually don’t want “leaders” – they want followers. Having a point of view makes you dangerous. How you express your point of view and how it neatly dovetails in with those in positions of power will determine whether you move up or out.
Regardless of the risk, do it. Create it. If for no other reason than your sanity, create that point of view and find the right way, within your cultural framing, to express it. Why, given the risks, is this smart? Because your customers and partners are looking for a reason to believe. It’s your job to create that vision of the future, that potential outcome that everyone can see themselves in because they can’t. It’s a rare gift. You’re supposed to use it.
They’re waiting for someone to show them the way.
Stephen you said; “And corporations, for all their break room poster exhortations, usually don’t want “leaders” – they want followers. Having a point of view makes you dangerous. How you express your point of view and how it neatly dovetails in with those in positions of power will determine whether you move up or out.” The first comment is spot on, especially in larger corporations which want employees to swim in their lanes. And second, “how you express it” is also an art form when you realize the first point is true.
Are the alternatives to remain silent (hard to do) or get really good at planting your ideas so that others can take credit for them?
Paul: I think the most pragmatic scenario – the one where the reader has the best chance of winning today’s particular battle – is when they can dovetail their POV into the stated goals of the management team. “You said in your letter to shareholders that getting closer to our customers was our top priority and I’m here to support you here 100% – the way I think *we* can do this best is by adopting a more customer-focused, customer-centric, real-time approach that allows us to listen, defuse bad situations and promote good ones. Here’s what I think we need to do.” Bomb throwers so seldom make it in organizations of any size. Find a way to make your POV fit within the greater stated goal. That’s what I think. Remaining silent just doesn’t work for some of us.
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