What got you here won’t get you there. Marshall Goldsmith coined this well-known phrase. It captures an important idea in few words. That’s why it’s brilliant. So good that I hear it repeated often. Yet the percentage of those who say it and then actually do something different is small. This is like staring at your destination on a GPS and expecting to arrive without ever getting in your car.

Awareness is a good first step, but on it’s own, worth very little. It’s easy to get stuck in the land of bromides. I see it over and over and, dare I be redundant, over again. People whose bookshelves are overflowing with volumes on management, leadership, strategy, change, marketing, Six- Sigma, TQM but don’t necessarily have good results to show for it.

A Vice-President of Human Resources I met a few years ago was enamored of Jim Collins. He spouted Level Five leadership bromides and diagnosed everyone in sight. His proclamations were all about inputs, nothing about results. He was, as you might imagine, not a respected member of the senior team. This is not a comment on Jim Collins, rather on the person who took the ideas and used them to change his vocabulary then proceeded to pummel everyone in sight with it.

Creating a common language amongst colleagues can be very helpful. Even better is creating alignment with respect to meaning. This is more difficult but worth a fortune. What does it take to do this? A pause. You can’t go from zero to sixty without changing gears but we try to get people to change through sheer volume of words in the form of emails, posters, newsletters, and the incessantly over-used training.

Some of my clients say that what I do is interrupt the ordinary. Why do I do that? I do it because my clients don’t want ordinary results. Even those, and in fact, especially those who are doing spectacularly well, want to improve. They are willing to push in the clutch, endure a temporary loss of momentum so they can take sharp turns, go down new roads and do things that others are too afraid to do.

As tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States, I am thinking of all the clients I have worked with who have taught me so much about courageous leadership. It is because of them that I am building a place on my website to share ideas, insights and processes to help.

It isn’t always the smartest person who adds the most value. It’s the person who is smart enough and has the guts to do extraordinary things, to take risks and take the heat. These leaders have enough confidence in themselves to push in the clutch to allow adjustments, generate ideas that take intention and time and to leave room for the tension that arises from opposing views whether expressed by others but most especially in their own minds.

Think about the thing you most want to do. What is the thing that will make the most difference to your business, your colleagues, your shareholders, your own life?

What will it take for you to act on it?

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