September - October 2008
Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence
Wisdom to lead minds:
"Your ability to negotiate, communicate, influence, and persuade others to do things is absolutely indispensable to everything you accomplish in life."
Brian Tracy, expert in entrepreneurship
Is your value at risk?
The recent dramatic collapse of financial markets and its implications for the global economy will play out for some time. And experts and historians will give us much juicy analysis on why it happened, how it happened, and the consequences it will have in the short and long term.
However, already there are some fascinating lessons we can apply more broadly. One is the almost religious devotion to flawed financial models in evaluating the risk of the sub-prime mortgage products that were at the eye of this financial storm.
It turns out that almost everyone in financial institutions, ratings agencies and even regulators used "value at risk" (VaR) models to rate the risk of the collaterised debt obligations (CDOs) that packaged various classes of sub-prime mortgages into investment grade products. The problem was that these models assumed that a major drop in US house prices was unlikely because it hadn't happened in many years, and therefore severely discounted that risk.
These models produced repeatable ratings, were widely used and accepted, and the few people who challenged them were largely ignored. They became a substitute for thought and common sense.
As fascinating as that is, how is this connected to thought leadership and leadership communication?
Just this. The smartest people in the room in the richest game in town got it so wrong on the tool they used to make their most crucial investment decisions. In the same way many of our brightest leaders are similarly using faulty tools to create support for their ideas. And they are failing.
One such tool is the ubiquitous core message. The process works like this:
First, they book a meeting room at a convention centre in a nice location like the Blue Mountains. They then take a team of the usual suspects to spend a few days with white boards and white wine. The collective wisdom comes up with some suitable corporate poetry about their organisation, processes, products and services, or some response to an issue. Then like Moses returning with the stone tablets from the mountain, they descend to their lowland headquarters and with great pride share their treasured words with their troops. Then they all develop a matrix of communication channels and blast their messages out to the digital and offline world.
Usually these messages are all about themselves, and their intended targets either fail to notice them or are greatly underwhelmed. In the worst case, intended targets do notice and are confused or amused by the self-centred words and collateral streaming from these Emperors without clothes.
If this sounds a bit silly, imagine going to a barbecue or cocktail party with friends and associates and acting just as these organisations do. Tell people all about yourself, your philosophies, how you work describing in some detail the processes you use), great things people have said about you - okay, I'm sure you get the picture. Everyone has seen that kind of behaviour somewhere, sometime. And they have seen the space widen around that person until they owned a solitary corner of an otherwise crowded area.
The reason this kind of self-centred drivel passes muster in a business or government context is because it gets dressed up in rituals and processes; meetings, strategy documents, action plan matrices, research studies and such make it look so serious. Yet it is essentially the same self-worship as that displayed at the cocktail party, and it gets much the same result.
So let's pause and draw a lesson from the smart guys and girls who dumbed down in their devotion to the Value at Risk models, with such shocking consequences. Are we making the same mistake with accepted but deeply flawed models of leadership communication? We may not have trillions of dollars at stake; just our most important ideas and strategies that will surely wither and die if we fail to win the support we need.
More next month...
Geoff Kelly works with leaders who are frustrated that others don't fully support their ideas and strategies. He mainly works with corporate leaders around the world, but also leaders in Government and Not for Profit. He is also a popular speaker on this and related subjects. See www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au, email [email protected] or call +613 9678 9218 for more information
© 2006-2008 Geoff Kelly All rights reserved.
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