Copyright © Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL 2021
April 15, 2021
"I want you to want me." Cheap Trick
I was 16 years old, living in Knoxville, TN, when the 1982 Worlds Fair occurred. The theme of the fair was energy. Energy, in all senses of the term. Thermodynamics was only a part of the fair's concept. The idea was to gather as many nations as possible to demonstrate their concepts of how they plan to use all types of energy in the future. The fair was a success by almost all measurements. The fair showed me several options for how I could become more than who I was at the time. It helped to transform me to become a better person.
Knoxville committed to host the fair based on the agreement to develop Knoxville to host guest headcounts greater than anything Knoxville had ever experienced. All city infrastructure had to be upgraded, the roadways had to be redesigned and upgraded, the fair site established, and all other associated planning accomplished and executed in less than a decade. The milestone transformed the city and surrounding area from rural to metropolitan. The people of the region changed mindsets from local to global. There were not enough restaurants or hotels available during the fair to serve the millions of attendees.
A centerpiece of the fair was to be a tower called the Sunsphere. The initial concept for the tower was for it to be taller than the Eiffel Tower. The initial planning revealed there was neither enough time nor money to accomplish the tower at such a height. The ultimate outcome also required lowering the tower height during construction due to cumulative fair site work delays.
We talked about the topic of love last week. If love has any assurance to it, then it is people want to be loved. I remember during the summer of 1982 how much I wanted to be loved, as a part of transiting from boy to man. I wanted to be a meaningful part of the world, to help the world be a better place for everyone. You have heard from me you need to love your followers to succeed in any leadership role. I affirm this statement to you now. You will not, repeat...will not...succeed in your strategic planning efforts without the energy supplied by love.
We are going to cover now a concept for how you would do well to use energy to address the people problems you have with your strategic planning work not being accomplished as you prefer. We will leverage past discussions, learn more about the 1982 fair I attended, and combine things where you can form a plan to evaluate the candidates you have as you consider offering them a role in your organization where they will help complete your strategic planning work.
You have a tangible goal: derive a well-planned strategy. Knoxville had a tangible goal: be ready to go on May 1, 1982. I had a tangible goal: have a fantastic time as a teenager in 1982 while learning how I can be a part of the world that has come to my front door. Fear of failure is often a great motivator for change. We talked about fear during our past discussions. You, Knoxville, and I (the three of us) experienced time running out of our schedules to accomplish our respective goals. It became clear to me in 1981 that I needed help understanding the largeness of what I would experience at the fair. I purchased an unlimited access pass to the fair, and I attended the fair many times. Thankfully, there was a map available to help my young mind navigate the complex fair landscape. I was able to calm my excitement and be more effective during my visits to the pavilions, demonstration events, concerts, and other fair site activities. The key here for the three of us is the need to leverage the energy supplied by those trying to deliver love to us without us becoming overwhelmed in the size of the experience, the wonderfulness of the love, or immersing in a piece of the picture that will slow our forward progress.
You have a budget to accomplish your strategic planning work. You are spending too much on your work because you are not getting the results you either need or want to accomplish the scope of your work. Knoxville had money and workers to develop the city and the fair site, but the complexity of the work often caused the planning of work packages to be less than optimal, pushing expenditures higher than budgeted. No worker can work effectively without specific tasking from specific planning. I was running out of time as a kid for free housing and food. I needed to find a means to get more work graduating high school in 1984 than my existing part-time job at a fast-food restaurant. I wanted to spend much more time at the fair than I had available to me, as I needed to work at my job. The key here for the three of us is having enough money goes with having a clear plan in hand. They both help contribute to having enough time to do what we need to do, to get where we need to go.
You need to place some new faces in some of the roles in your organization to help complete your strategic planning work. OK, maybe it is only one face, but I think it is more than a single face. Either changing roles for existing organization members or removing them from your organization is a huge impact for work that is behind schedule and over budget, as blame often flows easily during work delays. You are, effectively, going into organization design mode with the people changes you must accomplish.
Knoxville had to take their city that was not designed well by layout and derive a new roadway system, upgrade all utilities significantly, and help the lodging and hospitality industries be ready to serve what turned out to be millions of guests. This effort involved reworking the intersection of Interstates 75 and 40, which met in downtown Knoxville. The prior interchange was a horrible roadway design that would never function effectively with the addition of millions expected to attend the fair.
I was becoming more upset the more I attended the fair. I was humbled by the wonderful pavilion hostesses. They were lovely, professional, and quite intelligent. They each were between 24 to 28 years old, each selected by their countries after a rigorous selection progress established by each country. They melted my teenage heart. I was sad that they would leave and I would not see them again. I realized it was best I ask them as many questions as I could to understand not only their concepts of how they plan to use energy in the future are structured, but also about their country's culture. Yes, to answer the question in your mind, I asked a few of them out on a date. They all turned me down. I trust it was due only to the age difference.
David Daniels shared with me his view on inclusion during the team selection step. "The concept of inclusion works best when you have identified your biases and understand how they might manifest themselves with your decisions as a leader. Your diverse team needs to be comprised of employees who share your values and buy into the mission of your organization. Your leaders need to ensure that every employee understands where they and their department fit into the big picture. Then, and only then, will you achieve the levels of engagement by the team that, in turn, optimizes this critical resource set who is unleashed to exceed expectations." Effective team formation is not a bolt-on action. It is an inner-mixing action fed to a combustion chamber of the work the team is to accomplish. The day may come when battery-powered airplanes and cargo ships cross oceans. Until then, it is the combustion engine that moves both people and merchandise between continents. We must deliver our output each day, for yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is where we deliver our work outcomes. The concept of the combustion engine is relevant to the workplace of both today and the foreseeable future.
The key here for the three of us is knowing where we fit into the big picture. We each have a scope, a budget, and a schedule. We are each time-bound to accomplish our work. We cannot spend decades doing work that does not require decades. Now, don't get me wrong. I agree time must be spent as appropriate. It is the appropriateness part that each leader must consider. I remember Dr. Beverly Crusher helped me learn this lesson. She helped me learn to measure with caution each time I must make this appropriateness decision. See if her worlds help you understand the appropriate aspect of how we spend our efforts.
Your investors have charged you with the responsibility to accomplished the planning of the strategy they require you to achieve. Knoxville made a deal by their free choice with the Bureau International des Expositions to host the fair. I had life calling me to grow into adulthood, along with food and housing running out in a few years. The messages were each well-formed and delivered with clarity. Now, it is time for you to take the energy of those circumstances calling you and use it to your benefit.
You must form a message to an intended audience stating you have a work opportunity you want to be filled with a new face from a person either inside or outside of your organization for each role you need to be filled. This action is not merely a job posting from the personnel department, hoping a suitable candidate is supplied to you. The role opportunity is to accomplish specific work in an environment operated by...love. It will operate by love because you are leading the organization. You are convinced you must demonstrate love to your followers, you must serve them through this yet-to-be-defined leadership style called servant leadership, and you are certain the planning of your organization's strategy must be accomplished with excellence. This combination is what Knoxville did, it is what I do now, and what I know you must do to realize success as a leader trying to accomplish your organization's strategic planning. Perhaps you can reassign all of your people assigned to the work to new roles in the work. I doubt this option will work, but it is possible.
Knoxville took on more than they could accomplish with the 1982 fair. They needed help many times from many external organizations to both plan and do the preparation work. It was not clear things would be ready for opening day. I remember the Sunsphere was not finished until two days before opening day. Your strategic planning work not being accomplished as you prefer means you are about to be in the same mess as Knoxville was in the late 1970s. I remember the leaders of Knoxville becoming quite humble to ask for the help they needed. You may need to be more humble than you are now to identify those who you need to be a part of your organization to complete your strategic planning work. I see gaining more humility as a good thing. It is a good aspect of love, as love shares the loving experience and does not dominate those they love.
The Sunsphere still stands today. It is a good memory for those who were in Knoxville before the fair and afterward to see what happened, recall how it happened, and know things changed for the better.
I grew up, though having to walk many bumpy roads to get there. I see my summer of 1982 as a valuable contributor to not perishing along the way to get to our conversation now. I have thought of that summer often over the years.
You are looking to grow as a leader by gaining more effectiveness in your organization by adding some new folks to help with some of your organization's work. I encourage you to take note of the experiences Knoxville and I went through. Finding the people you are hoping will join your organization needs not only help from those outside of your organization, but you also need healthy joy to get them to join your organization. It is not a matter of joining to do the work of an already accomplished plan. It is the condition where an organization cannot work because they do not have a plan that candidates must consider. Who wants to join an organization that has no work plan? Today, people revel in fame from things like social networking, politics, and many communal forms. A dysfunctional organization does not have fame, but perhaps they have shame. Use the energy of positive change potential you have in your hand now to your benefit. It will take more humility on your part to get the energy focused, placed, and communicated.
Now is not the time to assign blame for how things became as they are for your people. Now is the time for taking inventory of where you stand, counting the costs to get to where you want to go, and deciding if you want to pay the price to get there. If so, then it is now time to talk with those you consider offering to join your organization. Talk to them, but do not offer them a position. You are researching as of this point. If you are not ready to take the step to go and speak with those candidates, then we need to come up with another plan for you.
Remember, strategic planning work is perpetual. It never ends. The tangible of a plan to accomplish a strategy is not a piece of paper generated by executive leadership at an annual meeting. It is the collection of plans from the entire organization unified into a single plan. Concisely, one cannot lead if one cannot plan strategy. Execution of a strategy is much easier than deriving a strategy. Ease, in the form of knowing the right things to do. We talked about right and evil during past discussions. I know we need to talk about these terms more than what we have so far. Today, understand that healthy love, love supplied to people that helps builds them to become more humble, helps lead us to what is right, and helps keep us away from evil. I keep coming back to this thing called humble for a reason. It is because pride is a horrible means to lead anyone to do anything. Being proud is not a form of pride, but we can cover these terms another day. If I need to define the term humble, then please tell me.
Summarizing, you want people to be a part of your organization. Those people must want to be a part of your organization. You want them to want you. They want you to want to give them a job. This combination is more than a catchy lyric in a successful rock tune. It is a viable means to find the people you need to help you with your strategic planning work. Yes, I just said want must intersect with need in your staffing choices. You will find this collective wanting is what you need because you are convinced you must demonstrate love to your followers, you must serve them through this yet-to-be-defined leadership style called servant leadership, and you are certain the planning of your organization's strategy must be accomplished with excellence.
So, I ask you: where do you want to go? I hope your answer is to develop the plans necessary to accomplish the strategy you know you need to achieve to arrive at your desired destination. If this is the case, then let's get to work. If not, then I wish you the best of everything.
I hope we will see each other here next week. Email me if you need to talk before then.
Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL
Executive Strategy Consultant
Stephen Dawson is an executive consultant of technology and business strategy, serving significant international organizations by providing leadership consulting, strategic planning, and executive communications. He has more than thirty years of service and consulting experience in delivering successful international business development and program management outcomes in the US and SE Asia. His weekly column, "Where Do You Want To Go?," appears on Thursdays.
Dr. Dawson has served in the technology, banking, and hospitality industries. He is a noted strategic planning visionary. His pursuit of music has been matched with his efforts to lead by service to followers. He holds the clear understanding a leader without followers is a person taking a long walk alone.
Stephen has lived his life in the eastern United States, visiting most of the United States and several countries. He is a graduate of the Regent University School of Business & Leadership. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.