2012: The Year of the Disruptive Heretic. “You bring the popcorn, I’ll bring The Ruckus.”

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Just came across a few quotes worth sharing after I was lucky enough to spend time with some of the inspiring exceptions to my Gen Y rant from Monday. They/We DO exist, thank God. 

And as a holiday gift, a colleague & I gave them “survival kit” of sorts for the corporate world: Wine + Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin.

And after skimming through before I dive in for my 4th go-round, I discovered 

three quotes that have just now caught my eye for whatever reason at this point in my career, and I wanted to share them with each of you.

 

#1: “WHEN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH ‘THE SYSTEM’, YOU LOSE THE ABILITY TO GROW.”

Often I find myself managing a delicate balance between my reverence for the rich tradition & wisdom that are ever-present at a 50 year-old company…and my irreverence for the bureacracy & sometimes crippling addiction to comfort & stability.

And the knowledge that a lack of disruption could birth the demise of any established company in a dynamic vertical such as travel keeps me up at night, even though I see myself subconsciously easing up in challenging our methods, our models and our vision by the end of each exhausting year. That leaves me needing to throw myself into a concrete wall of competitive reality punches-to-the-face to snap out of it every December.

I’ve yet to fall in love with the system, but I do find myself making people less uncomfortable than I used to. That means I’m not pushing our thinking to as uncomfortable of a place as I should be.

And to be clear, it’s not that the system hasn’t worked. It has, quite well in fact.

It’s instead that the reason I’m here today is to ensure the system evolves enough to work in the future… and the easiest way to fail at just that is to fall in love with the rehab patient I’m trying to help shake an addiction to a life of risk-averse comfort, stability & respectable success.

To those familiar with my hot-opinion-prone mouth:

If I start to show signs that I’ve tragically fallen in love with my cozy system, the one it’s my job to shake-up for the good of its future, I beg you to slap me. Hard. And Twice, if needed, please.

Because if I do, I’ll be doing no one any favors including my colleagues, myself and my company that only gets stronger when challenged.

There’s a looming battle in our industry that will require every ounce of sheer strength, bravery and perseverence from energy-filled heretics to lead the way. But inside of any company’s walls, so many of us all are just trying to get by, to hope someone else is battered & bruised while taking on the beast we’d prefer to avoid in favor of working our way up to popular & promoted.

But here’s the problem with popular:

Popular is often mistaken for leadership. It’s not. Popular our companies don’t need their leaders to always be. Passionate, disruptive visionaries speaking truth they critically do.

It’s time to get uncomfortable… to get information to those who need it most, to take one for the team, to risk your reptuation as someone who “gets how big companies work” (yes, that’s a good thing around here)… it’s time for it all, even if you get screwed putting your organization’s best interests first. That’s the point.

And you don’t deserve to run that same company in the future if you don’t have the balls to cause a risky ruckus today.

This may challenge conventional logic, survival & standard corporate politics… but if you’re as good as we know you are, then why the hell would you want to politick your way into a top-level career at a company that sucks? 

People love companies. Companies love money. And the end result sucks for us all. Get over it.While I know you always have to look out for yourself and be smart, my point is this:

Who wants to be CEO of a lemon? I don’t. If you do, raise your hand & I’ll be right over with your cardboard box.

Those content with lemons are rarely capable of anything more. We must sniff them out, just as we must with those capable of much, much more.

#2: “GREAT LEADERS EMBRACE DEVIANTS BY SEARCHING FOR THEM, AND THEN CATCHING THEM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.”

I feel like we need so much more of this in every organization. But the challenge is finding the time to differentiate between pointless distractions disguised as deviants and the value-rich, inspiring deviators from the norm we are so lucky to have retained, many times unknowingly… and then reinforcing their behavior.

We never have enough time to do these extra things… to seek out these individuals and foster their growth as much as we should. I’m equally guilty, as I struggle to find the right amount of time to mentor & develop younger talent.

The most depressing part is I know I should do it even more, but I’m already doing more than 90%. Yep – depressing. Why don’t we throw ourselves into retention like we do into our boring-ass PowerPoint presentations? Because we’re too damn comfortable, lazy and flat out stupid to not continue taking our people for granted every day.

NO more. It’s unacceptable.

Othewise, we simply MUST take intentional time to mine these hidden nuggets of genius in our organizations… We must do better to find & retain those gems that are truly what differentiate us more than any business model ever could.

And holy hell, we even more critically have no choice but to open our eyes to the fact that you need a strong bench, and yet you have done nothing to ensure that bench is the right fit for the people you need to put on it. Today, the bench literally is repelling my generation. Literally.

Instead, trying to retain the top new wave of young leaders the same way you have the mediocre middle-60% masses for decades exhibits unprecedented levels of recklessness with your future.

 As a recent article in HBR stated profiling the new Gilt Groupe CEO’s philosophy on hiring & retaining top talent stated:

A people hire As. Bs hire Cs. Why? As don’t take jobs under Bs & Cs. As seek out As, & retaining mediocre B/C managers poisons your talent pool leading to a slow, painful death.

At a minimum, I am personally eager to be watchful for this type of “deviant” and to constantly be an A on the lookout for other As so that I am equipped to reach out to them one day, encourage them, do what it takes to retain them… and pray they have a few peers equally “devious” looking for a place to cause a ruckus.

#3: “AS SOCIETY GETS MORE COMPLEX & OUR PEOPLE GET MORE COMPLACENT, THE ROLE OF THE JESTER IS MORE VITALTHAN EVER BEFORE.
PLEASE STOP SITTING AROUND.
WE NEED YOU TO MAKE A RUCKUS.”

I could personally die a happy woman if the legacy I leave at any company is that I ignited a meaningful ruckus on our tiny ship of order… That I was a disruptive heretic of the highest order.


We need more heretics. We need more people stirring up a ruckus.

Yet, heretics are rarely welcomed because they bring with them the discomfort that begets more work.

At any large company where stability & comfort are obvious, yet unspoken perks…

…more work – no matter how important or interesting – is the last thing the middle 60% of your squishy bell curve wants.

They’re just simply trying to find an ergonomic chair in which they can comfortably coast down the smooth road to retirement… but for the love of all that is good, profitable & EBITDA-holy… take your choke hold off of our 2020 revenue potential, our emerging talent and in the most respectful way possible, get the HECK OUT.

If there’s anything I’d relish accomplishing for my own company over the next few years, it’s inspiring a significantly important ruckus, or encouraging another talented individual to do so themselves… that would mean more to me than anything I’ve achieved career-wise to-date.

And even more importantly, I’d use that opportunity to shift our recruiting strategy to focus on hand-selecting & going hard after a few ideal young heretically-inclined leaders across the travel industry with the passion, intellect, healthy understanding of our history and fundamental courage to challenge just that.

I think we often, at every company, underestimate how healthy it is to seek out powerful new perspectives, dissenters of sorts, to help companies evolve into their next five decades of unexplored opportunity & potential success.

I personally can only imagine the resulting quotable moments if this dream were reality, as these new hires began to challenge the unchallenged, while the newly challenged have to defend the never before defended. 

Don’t you just love awkward moments? I do. And we need more of them.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review agrees. It’s time to get all kinds of risky & accountable in each of the formerly ruckus-free companies we call home.

So, starting tomorrow, I plan to rest up, read a Godin classic over the holiday, & prepare for the year ahead.

You bring the popcorn. I’ll bring the ruckus.

Happy New Year to All!

Oh, and don’t forget the butter.

-SKE  

2 thoughts on “2012: The Year of the Disruptive Heretic. “You bring the popcorn, I’ll bring The Ruckus.”

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