Onlookers

I’m loving the new job. As Charlie Sheen would have said two months ago when he was relevant in social media terms – I’m #Winning.  Our new CEO and senior leadership are gelling well. I really am enjoying the chance to work with colleagues who are bright, purposeful and inspiring.We have our challenges no question but we will get through them together.

I struggle to imagine why people suffer conditions that are intolerable however. People subject themselves to unimaginable environments, in some cases for all of the wrong reasons. For others, I think its stubbornness, idealism, or the worst case scenario – worshiping false idols. I reflect back on the piece I wrote recently that looked at the poker metaphor for psychological implications of an unhealthy investment in strategies that don’t work.

I have some very strong positions about the success triangle (vision + leadership + management) and what it takes to deliver meaningful outcomes. Through around words like determination, focus, and other qualifiers for success all you want in business, but there is no getting around the fact that organizations require these three significant elements to be innovative and productive.  While often confused for a single character, they are not the same thing and rarely do they ever all come from a single source (nor should they). Vision’s are a dime a dozen and anyone with a glancing knowledge of an organization can easily concoct a vision for what could be done. These people are as I like to call them – Onlookers,  are dangerous because their investment in success is quite limited and all too often their influence is significant.

From my experience (and everywhere I have ever worked has had some form of board or committee structure in place) I have come to learn and understand that casual observers of objects, organizations, associations, firms, entities of various shapes and sizes can be  dangerous and should be managed with the utmost determination. Boards, committees and ‘friends’ of a firm who fail to understand the nuances and implications of the operational side of management are potentially more detrimental to an organization than any financial issues, lack of business strategy or market positioning.

No doubt, in some instances, these individuals can be saviours, white knights in the darkness of your deepest despair. Allowing the hero to emerge from the boardroom can be satisfying and immeasurably useful if there is focus and parameters set around the engagement. All too often however, they are not managed,  finding themselves into the cracks of an organization and exposing issues that distract from the business at hand.  The challenge is getting productivity out of Boards and committees and channeling their individual and collective energy. As I’ve discovered, especially in marketing and communications, in absence of insight, expertise or any real knowledge, the Onlookers often jump right into tactics.

Good tactics wont solve bad strategy, bad operation, bad finance or more importantly, bad leadership. The reality that I’ve seen is that Onlookers cause more problems than they solve.  In an attempt to revitalize or re-imagine poorly performing products, services or programs, the answer far too often is ‘better PR, media and communications’ or ‘we need to market it’ better.  In absence of vision, Onlookers jump to executional conversations ignoring the obvious questions because their ‘insight’ (or self-interest) is more likely to benefit from a high-profile marketing campaign of a bad product than to spend the time necessary to build a better program, product or service. There is simply no glory in that.

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