Four Ways “S” Expands Leadership
A word without an “s” imposes a burden.
“What is the solution,” limits options and inflicts unnecessary pressure.
“What solutions can we develop,” expands and releases.
#1. “S” expands leadership by ending the need for perfection.
Expand your world by adding “s” to:
Search for answers, not the answer.
#2. “S” expands leadership by transforming pressure to exploration.
Asking for advice:
“What advice do you have?” is narrow, even oppressive. You end up arguing against the person you approached if you don’t like their advice.
“What options do we have?” invites conversation. You end up exploring ideas rather than defending positions.
Poor decisions are the result of too little exploration and too few options.
Good decisions require at least two or three options.
#3. “S” expands leadership by protecting against failure.
- How many ways can we define this problem?
- How many solutions can we find?
- Can we think of other options?
- What suggestions can you offer?
- Which paths seem most attractive?
Don’t let the first suggestion be the last. Ask, “What other perspectives can you think of?”
#4. “S” expands leadership by expanding thinking.
How might you use “s” to expand your leadership?
love this post!
Thanks JF. Have a great week.
Best to you!
This is the essence of coaching AND one of my core beliefs about leadership.
Why is it soooo difficult?
Thanks dayna… I find it’s easy to forget that dang “s”. I think it’s because I’m always looking for THE answer.
You nailed this. It’s easy to stop to soon. Adding the S provides possibllity. I can’t help envisioning you on a guest spot on Sesame Street 😉 (p.s. that’s on my bucket list.)
Thanks Karin. One of the big challenges in leadership is the need to rush to solutions and our bias for action. We “stop too soon” and settle for the quick answer.
LOL… I want to get in the can with the grouch! 🙂
This is perhaps the best post I’ve read so far…. bravo!!!
Thanks Jeffrey. Have a great week.
I wholeheartedly agree on “s” to solutions. Too many become a myopic for a variety of reasons; easy way out, pressure to act, lack of creativeness.
I work in an industry where I’ve struggled with others to obtain that mind set until I started broaching option solutions with this approach. All our decision are made of four components: Scope, Quality, Time and Budget. You have four choices within that decision and then within each of those four there are a multitude of others. Develop that mindset and solution(s) will abound. Plus you’ve lead others to success
Thanks Don. I’ve seen impatience on the faces of people in meetings when pressing for another option comes up. I understand it but it’s disappointing. “Myopic” is a powerful word in this conversation.
Your four components of decision-making are great. Glad you added them.
Wonderful post. I always try to encourage creative and broad options for solutions and suggestions. The plural of operational vocabulary helps but sometimes it is leading a horse to water in a tsunami! As leaders, we need to think of multiple answers to decisions and conflict. Help is welcome if reasonable guidance leads the group to stay on point and to fine tune ideas to feasible ones.
Thanks for this
It seems to me the list is overly-long and lacks proper order for a logical process
Perhaps I miss something, but usually for reasons of efficiency and resource constraints there is only one solution. Options should be discarded as early as possible.
Thanks denpobedy. You have my respect for your viewpoint. It does help to generate option(s) before choosing an option.
Denpobedy, could it be that this post is about improving effectiveness, rather than efficiency? Or -in other words- about ‘doing the right things’ versus ‘doing things right’? Poor exploration might lead to a very efficient process where we ‘do the wrong things right’.
I agree we are limited in resources to always explore all options, but see an opportunity to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our exploration process -however short it might be- via insights as described in this post.
Do I make any sense?
Yes, of course the goal is to ‘doing the right things’ versus ‘doing things right’; I’m at a tail end of just such a nine-year exercise. In this case a large US Government organisation spent $3.5 billion over a decade (more) to ‘do the wrong things right’.
However, it seems to me that ‘exploring options’ is the designing function, and leaders are not necessarily there to design the product or service, but to set goals and ensure these are reached. The failure to set goals and appropriate constraints will result in ‘do the wrong things right’.
The goal and constraints are the ‘pressures’ required to channel the efforts. This channelling will then seek a balance between affordability, availability, efficiency and effectiveness. Each of these factors comes with a compromise in terms of design, and very rarely will the balance be achieved in any way ‘perfectly’.
Because I ‘live’ in the defence manufacturing industry at the moment I see this failure again and again, yet people in the design function are all skilled, experienced and well-intentioned. What is going on then is a failure of the leadership, and often at very senior echelon of the executive. My current theory is that some of this is explained by organisational inertia when responding to change. Or the failure to arrest the momentum.
I think Dan mentioned this last year – the leader as a catalyst. Not for the faint hearted.
Honest, I haven’t thought this way. I will need some more thinking.
Dan, thanks for sharing this – great advice!
Thanks Eddie. You might want to generate some alternatives to the suggestions I’ve made. 🙂
Yes indeed I will work toward such new ways.
So simple yet it opens up many windows in the process.
Great point of view Dan! Truly, having one option is as good as having none at all. Thanks for sharing it.
What makes this reommandation is it simplicity. Thank you!
To me, deciding to add a “S”, will set up the intention to expand, enlarge, envision bigger, … what is the step one to make alternatives possible.
And how, concretely, multiply solutions, options, …? Will “multiply questions” / “adding also a S to question” be an anwser ?
If so, how could we continue to extend the list how thinks that need a “S”?
I wish you an excellent day.
Sorry, one word missing: “what makes this idea BRILLANT is it simplicity”
Best wishes from France
Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler Albert Einstein
In terms of ‘options’, practically speaking there are always constraints of efficiency and resources, so these should be eliminated early.
I wouldn’t use the 15-points outlines as a logical process. There are simpler processes.
I also disagree about the “transforming pressure to exploration”. Good solutions may come out of such an approach, but greatness is found in dire need. It seems to me that innovation is born of some ‘pressure’
The thing about failure is that one should look for solutions to SOMETHING ELSE in the process of failing. However, without failure one is not likely to ever get better. Any leader who claims to have never failed is either in denial, lying or has never really tried to challenge him or her self.
Ultimately though there must be THE solution, and though few solutions attain perfection, it is “in the ye of the beholder”. Make it affordable, available, efficient and effective, and frankly I don’t care if it only comes in black. 🙂
denpobedy, it seems to me you are a goal-oriented person, and you seek the shortest straight- line to get there. And I would imagine you take into consideration the cost of outcome, the need for staff buy-in, and perhaps even how long it’s going to take for maximum success. Yet, I do not perceive you as a manager or leader who SPENDS months mulling over various options or plans…you want to start to get the job done. You have a vision for how to get the process and outcome achieved, and that’s that.
You like the “go-for-it” version, others like the “expanded” version. Que sera sera! Whatever will be, will be.
Perhaps something needs to be clarified.
Solutions are project-derived and require a different type of leadership to operations processes. Design, where options are evaluated, is a project-based activity.
I have spent not months, but years on the ‘options evaluation’ part, but you are correct in that I would probably make a less-than satisfactory operations leader. This is because operations requires a ‘maintain course and steady speed’ type approach. It is an entirely different personality set.
Others may disagree, but it seems to me there are very few people that can succeed in both project and operations management. Organisations that try to promote from projects into operations and visa versa inevitably loose such people for no fault of their own.
Just my 2c worth
Great post! I really agree with striving for more options before we make a decision, and that a good way to do that is for us to ask more and better quality questions. On the other hand, I also agree with the analysis of other commenters that you can have too many, e.g. if it is too costly (in terms of time or money) to unskilled individuals tend to suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate, while highly skilled individuals tend to rate their ability lower than is accuratefind all the options. I suppose, we should strive for an ‘options optimum’.
I think it would be interesting to view this phemomenon in light of company culture and in relation to the Dunning-Kruger effect*. In many companies (over) confident people will be promoted into ‘decisionmaking’ positions, and decisionmaking is simpler without thorough exploration and questioning. Therefore, there is a risk poor exploration is not seen as a problem but rather as an efficient process. Let’s listen to the experts, believe in proof of concepts and best-practices.
I wrote a series of posts about this some time ago, and tried to visualize what you describe as ‘poor exploration’ versus ‘expanded thinking’. I would be very curious to hear what you think of it, see http://bit.ly/1Ds54zX and related posts if you’re interested.
*Unskilled individuals tend to suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate, while highly skilled individuals tend to rate their ability lower than is accurate http://bit.ly/188ZIy5
Great post Dan.
Both solutions and options begin when people are willing to engage in open minded+hearted conversations that includes fostering environment where it is safe to be honest. Honest with ideas, in conflict resolution. People who don’t feel safe aren’t going to bring all their toys to the playground. : )
@denpobedy. I’ve read your various posts, and virtually what I’ve seen are pontificated complaints.Complainers without solutions are just that complainers; complainers offer little in the way of productive outcome unless others take the ball. Since you arrived at flaws what does your critical thinking process say to resolve.
As a couple of examples, If you think the list is too long or has unimportant aspects, what, now here is the kicker, “what” are your solutions?; the operative word is plural, “solution(s)”. In virtually most situations, if not all, if you want to be concise, where is there a situation where multiple options are not available. Even in environments where the choices/options are negative in appearance,you might not like the choices, but as a minimum one choice has less pain to it than another.
I encounter these type of comments regularly. If the complaint has merit the thinking process has deductively determined alternatives. Therefore I’d suggest you revisit the top 15 for a critical thinking exercise that will determine corrective actions to these flaws you identified.
When pressured by management and leaders to “Get ‘er done” ASAP … then this affects one’s ability to think of options and the quality of the options one can come up with. Long term goals and timelines help develop your ability to think of many interesting options of higher quality.