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Parable of the CEOwer

The parables of Jesus are rich with instruction and applicable to our work and lives in so many ways. Envision for a moment a slightly altered pronunciation of the word “Sower” to see how a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) learned the lessons of the farmer.

Letting Ego Rule the Day
He was moving fast up in his career path. He had just landed the top spot at an organization twice the size of his last. Intent on building a world-class organization, he hit the ground running and pulled his team together to talk about “the amazing things we did at my last organization.” He urged them to try some of these great programs that had worked there. There was a weak attempt, but not much happened. His last-place-ideas dried up like seeds on hard-packed ground and were carried away on wings of resentment.

Looking for Your Vision Out There
So the next year he went to the national conference. There he heard about best practices, benchmarking and metrics. “Wow!” he thought, “I now see the error of my ways. I just need to do three things: 1) get my team rallied around (OPI’s) other people’s ideas, 2) show them programs that have worked ‘everywhere’ and 3) convince them to spend half of their time tracking numbers so we can compare ourselves to others and win.” Initially his team seemed enthused, but still nothing much happened. So he had his team read a new management book every month to get even more ideas. As you would expect, these “worked everywhere” ideas did not take root in their culture. It was getting rocky.

Forgetting that Relationships Matter
This CEOwer was bruised, but not beaten. He had learned a great lesson. He took his team on an offsite retreat – listened to their ideas and let them create their plans. He supported and encouraged them. He even set up an incentive plan. He was pumped! The team was pumped! However, because he had spent much time and effort looking for outside answers, he had ignored his relationship with the Board. So when he presented the new team projects, they died a slow death, tangled up in the thorns of the Board’s bureaucracy and choked by a budget cut.

Finding Your Leadership Vision
The next year he took a different path. He took a few days off and wrote his leadership vision for the organization. Then he shared it with his staff and asked for their ideas and got their buy-in. This step of courage cured himself of his addictive FOMO (the fear of missing out). Because actually having a vision to work toward made it easy to just say “No” to time wasted in benchmarking and comparing. The organization set all kinds of records and created innovative processes that were so effective organizations near and far lined up to learn from his team. Those who have ears let them hear.

Journal Entry: You may not be a CEO, but you are influencer somewhere, be it at work, with your family and friends or in your community. Consider the principles scatter through out this little parable and think about how you might apply them in your leadership and life.

Book Suggestion: If you find you have tendencies to behave in ways similar to the CEO in his early times, I recommend you take a look at the book Margin by Mike Swenson.

He told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ The Bible New Testament Matthew 13:3-9

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. ~ Dr. Peter Drucker

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