In many ways we have created a world of instant delivery and gratification. We’re accustomed to the eight-second sound bite and our attention span has been reduced to nanoseconds. Fed Ex has ramped up our expectations for quick delivery without much regard for the process indigenous to a particular vendor. My clients would like garments made and delivered the next day. Sound familiar? But if we can take some lessons from classic and successful leaders, we may learn, as with good coffee, that instant isn’t always the best.
I was told that the great golfer, Ben Hogan, regarded as one of the elite masters of the game, used to spend the first forty-five minutes of his practice sessions just working on his grip. For those of us who like to play golf, we could be finished four holes in that time. But you don’t see my name on the Augusta trophy. Abraham Lincoln was known to say that if he was given six hours to chop down a tree he would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. And that’s from a guy who made a living as a rail splitter.
I have been fascinated by and recommend the Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “A Team of Rivals,” about Lincoln and the politics of his day. Lincoln was known to prepare assiduously for his speeches. Sometimes he spoke for two or three hours without notes. He read continuously to prepare himself to make a contribution to humanity. On her deathbed, his mother said to him, “be somebody, Abel.” To make a difference in the history of mankind was his major goal. Not too shabby. He was known to be reading a book while plowing the field. With only one year of formal schooling, Lincoln became a respected lawyer and great debater on the issue of limiting the expansion of slavery, long before he ran for president. His speeches captivated a national audience.
The point is that in Lincoln’s era of no telephones, email, Blackberry’s, television or even radio, he was able to learn and communicate his powerful ideas successfully. The key was study, preparation, patience and of course a firm belief in himself and his ideals. He inspired others by his talent for story-telling, his kindness and compassion. His great accomplishments came despite the tragic and impoverished circumstances of his upbringing. But his achievements did not come quickly and without hard work.
I have suggested brain-storming to develop creative ideas in our challenging times. Working the process with your associates, vendors and clients can yield profitable opportunities. But patience is required to get the most from your efforts. James Lucas of Luman International, a leadership development firm, says that it’s a bad sign if participants reach instant consensus in staff meetings. Ideally they should consider all sides of an issue and even argue a bit before arriving at a conclusion. A leader must face reality and recognize that they tend to have the most emotional investment in their own ideas.
Don’t get delayed by the inertia of your own history. Just because ideas worked years ago doesn’t mean they are still valid. Things change rapidly. Be confident to recognize that one’s old methods may not meet the current challenges. For many years, I was only a contract manufacturer and resisted purchasing fabric to offer a full package product. But I needed to broaden my services if I wanted growth and expansion. Fortunately, changes occurred when I realized a key associate had the required competency to source fabric and we worked to develop financing methods to support the endeavor. By having the patience to make changes, we entered into new markets. If I were left to only my own thoughts and experience, my growth would have been severely limited.
Be sure to develop a framework that allows the process of creativity to blossom. The best ideas from brainstorming are not always the first offered. Valuable ideas may not be apparent even during the session. Often I have found myself to think of ideas after the meeting. Let people know they can email and revisit with each other to share ideas that manifested with time and patience after the thinking process was initiated. People think at different speeds. The goal is to get the most productive input from your available and collective intellectual capital. You are already compensating associates for their time. Enhance their value by designing and promoting a system to get the greater mental contribution of their creative thoughts.
What could be slowing your growth of profitable opportunity? As the leader, be sure that you’re not your own worst enemy, to paraphrase Pogo. Re-test your assumptions and be patient with the process of eliciting creative ideas from your stakeholders. Take time to prepare for the greater benefits to follow. Remember, those who have patience, as history teaches, will be rewarded.