Heads up CEOs… Success and Leadership Have Gears!

By Susan Ford Collins

Are you and your organization using the right one at the right time?

As we drive, we use gears to move us ahead, slowly then more rapidly and easily. As we succeed, we use gears too.

Success has three gears

1st Gear is for starting and restarting, for becoming effective at new skills and technologies. Keywords: always/never, can/can’t, safe/dangerous, possible/impossible, right/wrong, good/bad, should/shouldn’t, have to and must.

2nd Gear is for accelerating productivity and honing your competitive edge, for deleting startup rules and devising shortcuts. Keywords: more-better-faster-cheaper, quantity/quality, win/lose, produce/compete, longer hours/higher stress, burnout and injury.

3rd Gear is for moving beyond the previously productive; for creating and innovating, inventing new products and services. Keywords: aha, discover, create, invent, innovate and start up.

Each success gear has a corresponding leadership gear

When you’re leading in 1st Gear, you are responsible for supervising, or having others supervise, new learners, for developing new skills, building self-confidence and enthusiasm. We need to supervise closely and intervene quickly to turn around setbacks and rebuild self-confidence. To assess and certify their readiness for 2nd Gear.

When we’re leading in 2nd Gear, we need to manage from more distance, describing specifically what we want them to accomplish and providing regular and accurate appraisals. Even though we’re not always with them, we are still in charge, managing by numbers, charts and graphs.

When we’re leading in 3rd Gear, we need to support their creative ideas, help them find expertise and resources to build a powerful start up team. When setbacks wipe out their dreams temporarily, we need to hold their dreams with them, and even for them, until they get regain their vision and enthusiasm.

How are “your gear-habits” impacting your organization?

Which people on your team prefer to operate in 1st Gear? Which ones prefer doing more-better-faster, working long and hard to earn promotions and bonuses? Which ones are generating new ideas and a? Who is ready to gear up, and who needs to gear down to relearn, or start elsewhere?

When financial “push comes to shove”, instead of leading individuals to creativity and innovation, do you sometimes incent employees to stay in one gear or another? Do you over-reward or disproportionately bonus more-better-faster 2nd gear behaviors? And under-reward the 1st gear learning and relearning your company needs to keep up? What incentives and support systems does your organization have in place for nourishing the new ideas and approaches you need for success in the future?