Bud Boughton: For creative organizations, "it's an all-hands-on-deck mentality"

Two weeks ago we posted the first part of a conversation with Bud Boughton in which we explored why so many leaders fail to take action. In Bud's mind, this is most often attributable to a fear of failure.

This week, we share excerpts in which Bud offers his opinion on what leaders can do to ensure that they cultivate an environment that embraces taking measured risks.

How can leaders get over their fear of failing and take action?

Maybe everybody doesn't have it, but I think it comes down to finding the entrepreneurial spirit deep inside of you that says, "We need to believe in what we're doing." Think of Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks. If he walked into his parents' living room and said, "I'm going to start a coffee shop chain that sells drinks for $4.25", his parents would have thought he was crazy! The same is true of Frederick Smith, the founder of FedEx. Who would have ever thought that you could put together an overnight package delivery service that would literally have 747s flying all over the world, pulling into depots where packages would be unloaded and rerouted onto other planes... and it would only cost customers $23? In both cases, and in the case of the most successful business models, the founders were not only willing to think outside of the box, but they so firmly believed in their vision that they could set any fear aside and take action.

It's probably easier for a fledgling company to embrace this spirit. But what about mature companies – you can even point to the modern-day versions of Starbucks and FedEx. How can leaders in these businesses engender a culture that isn't imprisoned by 'the box'?

That's a great point. Interestingly, in the case of Starbucks, they realized in the last few years that they had grown too fast and made some bad decisions. So they adjusted back and closed a number of Starbucks worldwide. About a year ago, they even went so far as to close every US location for one day to regroup with all employees and discuss how they would move forward. Think about that – that's unheard of! But you know what? Someone saw the need to do something very, very different, so they did it, and now Starbucks has turned their situation around.

Where does the creativity required to make these changes come from within an organization?

I think it comes from anyone. There's tremendous value in getting cross pollination between the different generational groups, such as matures, baby boomers, Gen X's and Gen Y's. There are big cultural differences between each, but in the workplace, we have to get them working together. The young people need to sit down with the older people, and those older people need to let themselves be educated about the Gen Y's. Ask the Gen Y's, "If we were to come up with a new service, what would you suggest and how would we do it?" For example, I can tell you that many of the innovations in Internet banking weren't thought of by 60 year-olds. They were probably younger people who said, "Why should I have to go to the bank? I should be able to do any of this from my computer or cellphone!"

It's an all-hands-on-deck mentality. And what better way for people in leadership roles to rally their troops than to invite their ideas and their participation?

I believe that every day is filled with opportunities to learn new things. People should always look to be students, to adopt an attitude in which they're willing to change and learn new things: it keeps you fresh, thinking younger, more productive and more successful. But some people aren't comfortable with doing that. They're either intimidated by it or they're fearful that they'll be judged if they fail. It's very real. I think you need to take advantage of all of the brain cells that are out there. Put everyone in the same room and say, "We all live in the same world, how do we do things better?"

I'm not the first person to say this, but senior managers have to get out of their office and walk the floor more. At one of my prior jobs, our chairman had practically isolated himself with a corner office and a private parking spot; he had no exposure to people. So I suggested to him that he should personally distribute pay checks once a month throughout the whole building so he could thank people, shake their hands, ask how they were doing and get their opinion on what the company could be doing better. Those are the people who understand the situation the best because they're closest to the customer, they're closest to product development issues, they're closest to everything. So many senior managers fail because they're so busy with their discussions about strategy and numbers that they forget that the nature of the business is how to deliver the product or service better and produce more satisfied customers. And sometimes to get inspiration to achieve these ends, it means you have to walk the floor and talk to people.

A huge thank you to Bud for taking some time to offer his thoughts on these topics – we hope you found it as interesting as we did! If you have any thoughts to add, feel free to share in the comments below.


Author of two books and numerous articles, Bud Boughton is a former senior executive and thought leader who as a sales coach and leadership development consultant is wired to do one thing – improve performance. A former college football coach who has sold for three Fortune 500 companies and was an officer of a publicly traded company, he brings a wide range of experience to his clients. An outstanding professional speaker, go to www.budboughton.com for more information.

Posted: 8/16/2011 2:19:57 PM by Andy Klein | with 1 comments
Filed under: conversation, creativity, fear, leadership
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in a successful business no director is above the mail boy - and no mail boy is lower than a director.
8/17/2011 11:36:10 PM