“Long-term, sustained success is directly proportional to your ability – as a company or an individual – to make Waves throughout evanescing networks of association, to reach out to others and enlist them in endeavors larger than yourself, and to do so while everyone watches you.”
HOW, page 55
By his own admission, Dov Seidman declares: This is a HOW book, not a how-to volume.
No formulaic answers for life here! Rote steps don’t cut it in our complex world. As Einstein is famously quoted saying, “We cannot solve the problems of tomorrow at the same level of thinking we used to create them in the first place.”
In the 21st century, what any of us does or what we know no longer matters most. Instead, everyone will ultimately be evaluated on how we do things.
How we behave, consume, build trust and relate to others counts more than ever and in ways it never has before. Those ahead of the curve understand that the best; most certain and enduring path to success plus significance in these dramatically new conditions now lies in getting our HOWs right over time.
“Reputation is the sum total of your HOWS. In a transparent world, reputation leads. It enters the room before you do, and remains after you go, either enhanced or tarnished.”
HOW, page 186
Have you ever heard the term “out-behave” applied within a daily lexicon typically littered with domineering and military references? “Business is war.” “Information is power.” “To the victor go the spoils.” Via this one eye-opener so many accepted norms are over-turned. Love it!
Whether you’re a business or individual, private behaviour is a thing of the past. Our see-through world of over-abundant information flows too easily to be out-controlled or out-foxed. You can’t game the system and expect no one will find out.
As such, qualities many still think of as “soft” – trust, respect, integrity, fairness, honesty, humility, transparency, purpose – have become the hard currency of achievement in a connected world – the drivers of efficiency, productivity and profitability.
Leaders: Shift from “Command and Control” to Inspiring
“How we do business is at least as important as how much business we do… You need to stop dancing around people and start leading a dance that everyone can follow.”
HOW, pages 55 and 145
In organizational life, this sea change implies we will need to rethink the very nature of leadership itself.
Consider tumbling engagement scores amongst U.S. and many global firms. Seidman attributes this dismal state of affairs to outworn carrot-and-stick approaches – if indeed coercion, bullying, promise of external reward or avoidance of punishment were ever appropriate to ignite people with values plus missions truly worthy of their commitment.
Creative behaviour simply can’t be commanded by a manager or codified by a policy manual – no matter how hard you might try to cajole or manipulate it.
Evidence a Southwest Airlines flight attendant cheerfully announcing to a planeload disembarking in Las Vegas: “It’s a well-known fact that if you fold your seatbelts when you leave, your luck will improve at the casino tables.” Everyone laughs and follows her suggestion. Turns out, there’s an actual FAA regulation requiring folded seatbelts before new passengers can board. The flight attendant could have done all this herself or (as she did) been inspired enough to connect and enlist collaboration. In the process, an operational advantage to turn around the next flight faster was achieved.
How about a common “ouch” example? How often are corporate rules created in reaction to behaviors deemed unacceptable? All the time! When loopholes are revealed, they get revised. The usual email edict is issued: “From now on all expense vouchers must be…”
Someone has been caught cheating. Now everyone must pay through added bureaucratic busywork. We harken back to elementary school discipline: “Because Johnny couldn’t stay in his seat, the entire class will remain behind for five minutes.” As over-reliance becomes part of the problem these regulations were originally designed to fix, trust spirals downward.
By setting floors of behaviour, rules unfortunately force ceilings. Inspirational leaders, on the other hand, realize values-based self-governance is about giving people the freedom to uncork their ability to surprise customers and unleash delight.
Create a Personal WAVE!
“You lead your own journey of significance every day in how you choose to act, treat others and see the world.”
HOW, page 286
You’re likely familiar with the spontaneous “Wave” that stadium crowds perform at big sporting events to spur on their favorite teams. On October 15, 1981, in the stands of the sold-out Oakland Coliseum, professional cheerleader Krazy George Henderson had a vision. He imagined a gesture that would start in his section and sweep successively through the crowd in a giant, continuous motion of enthusiasm – a transformative event that later proved historical. According to our author, the Wave is a great metaphor for the human energy that will thrive in the future.
In citing globally-televised waves like the Arab Spring of 2011 (when popular revolutions confronted despotic governments in several Middle Eastern countries using social media channels, thereby proving no dictator is too big to fail), Seidman lets none of us off the hook. And rightly so.
He claims – and I strongly agree – that leadership is not just for people who have “president” in their title. It’s not about your business card. It’s an attitude and a disposition…Leading yourself by becoming your own legislature, looking inside for answers and being guided by your alignment to the values you find there.
In the realm of organizational leadership, HOW translates to a move from exerting power over people to generating Waves through them – by building strong interpersonal synapses capable of reaching through horizontal networks and bringing people together around ideas and initiatives. In personal life, it’s about each of us remaining rooted in what should never change – our values and principles.
The fact of the matter is that you can’t “do self-improvement”, but if in every email, conversation, meeting and task you’re thinking like a personal leader, you’ll improve. You can’t “do tolerance” but, if in every interaction you strive to fill the spaces between you and others with trust, you will get tolerance and a whole lot more. You can’t “do excellence” or winning but, if you believe in a set of core principles and pursue their expression in everything you do, you will deliver more excellence to others and, in a world of HOW, win.
Do you start to see along with me to what extent HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything illuminates tidal power and possibility for living sustainably?
In the end, as Seidman so eloquently expresses: When we die our headstones seldom read: “SYLVIA JONES, 1960-2042, VP of Strategic Planning & Implementation, made the numbers 16 quarters in a row. Instead, they say: STAN SMITH, Beloved Husband, Father, Brother, Uncle. He made the world warmer with his smile.”