The fork-in-the-road moment has long fascinated me. In that moment, as leaders, we find ourselves at the fork in the road needing to choose between options on behalf of our teams, our organizations, and the leadership we’re driving towards.
The moment that happens over and over in our careers as we face decisions such as…
Do I hire this candidate or that?
Do I have my team continue to focus on “lights on” activities or shift to “value add?”
Do I fight for the extra budget to push forward this modernization initiative, or do I stay the course?
Do I have the team needed to drive to next or is it time to think about skills acquisition differently?
When we think about it, the fork-in-the-road moment often manifests because of one of two conditions:
- We’re trying to move our teams/companies away from Pain
- We’re trying to move our teams/companies towards Gain
Moving away from Pain might look like making decisions such as:
- Remedying data quality issues that have caused decision making to come to a screeching halt
- Migrating from legacy tech stacks that no longer meet the business needs of today
- Tackling software bugs/defects that were spotted among customers
- Creating employee stay initiatives to combat never-ending attrition cycles
- Integrating disparate systems to drive efficiency and productivity
Moving towards Gain looks a little different, with you being the Champion for things like…
- Measuring the immeasurable before the org asks you to measure it — things like psychological safety, employee belonging, trust
- Stewarding and driving AI/ML adoption and advanced analytics acceleration
- Unearthing dark data insights to shape customer experience strategies for tomorrow
- Introducing automation to help the org move faster
- Increasing speed to market to get superior products in the hands of your customers expediently
Fork-in-the-road moments occur over and over again, fueled in large part by macro conditions such as the race to digitize, automate, innovate, incubate, and accelerate. As leaders who are not just trying to exist but thrive in this Future of Work era, we need to help our organizations do both at the same time.
So how can you start driving towards both? Let’s look at a few quick tips:
- Follow the Stats: Your executives have their eyes on the trends — of what’s coming and needed to not just compete but emerge as a market leader and pace setter. As such, it’s imperative to become a regular student of market research, prediction pieces, and annual surveys so you can get ahead of requests that will inevitably come your way. Let’s look at the AI/advanced analytics category as a quick example. A summer 2023 survey shows that 79% of CEOs believe generative AI will increase efficiencies and 52% believe it will increase growth opportunities (Deloitte). Examining stats like this underscore the fact that if AI is not part of your roadmap — regardless of the function you lead — it’s time to add this to your Gain list of focuses.
- Hero Moments: We’re more than halfway through 2023 which means now is a great time to check in on your professionally defining moments. Take out a piece of paper — let’s do this the old school way! — and create one column for Pain and one for Gain. Jot down everything you’ve tackled that’s moved your org away from Pain and everything that’s moved your org towards Gain. Then create a separate list of everything you’ve been dreaming of doing that has not yet made the complete list. Finished? Take a look and assess your performance. How are you faring in terms of leading your team towards the future? How have you been brave on behalf of your org? Perhaps harder to admit, where are you falling behind? There’s a little over five months left of 2023. Can you ensure you have one Gain hero moment for yourself before EOY?
- Be Early: Timing is everything, particularly as you look to build upon your career impact and influence. And by timing, I mean being the one who brings innovation to the business before the business does it around you. Being early means things like… being the leader of People who can identify at-risk employees well before they quit (more on that here). Being the Data leader who spins up AI proofs of concepts and models before your biz peers (I’m looking at you Marketing & Sales!) do it behind your back. Being the SDLC leader who builds quality in, versus bolting it on, to ensure superior products hit the market. If your boss is starting to ask you questions about things for which you are supposed to be the domain expert, it’s often a sign you’re already too late.
So…. What’s coming up for you? Are you the leader who tends to spend more time tackling Pain? Or moving towards Gain? Perhaps most importantly, what’s the next WIN you need to have for yourself and our leadership before the year comes to a close?
Originally posted here
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