Leadership Edge: a Guest Blog by Edward Boudrot, Vice President of Product Strategy at Optum, the fastest growing part of UnitedHealth Group.
A business plan created in six weeks resulting in funding for 10 million dollars. A product created in a large enterprise in 3 months from concept. These are some of the things my team and I have delivered using the three critical elements of the leadership edge:
- Deep applied learning
- Shifting people’s mindset
- Going super-fast
1) Think differently, Do Deep Work, & Experiment
My goal is to read 100 books a year. It’s a combination of business books, personal development, and leadership books. It
creates an edge: a personal edge and a business edge. I leverage the deep work that someone has invested years of his or her life creating, proving, and applying. This knowledge then enables me to connect the dots, apply frameworks to situations, or put solutions on the table. It gives me access to perspectives and ideas I may not have arrived at by myself. Or recombine for a unique process driving outcome. A great book on this topic is Stealing Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon.
I’m typically the go-to person when someone needs something solved – and it’s usually something hard. I am able to flip big challenges into opportunities and solutions. I drive my team the same way by challenging them to go learn, go explore, and go discover new things and new ways of knowing and doing. By applying this mentality, they’ve become recognized leaders in the organization as “the experts” at solving hard problems.
We are able to think differently, run experiments, and do deep work that yields fast, effective results. Here are a few resources that have changed the way we think and do and have inspired my team to shift their work style:
- Re-imagine, by Tom Peters
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport
- Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs, by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel and Brian Quinn
2) Fixation, Mind-shifting, & Jedi Mind Tricks
I have found Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s definition of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset most compelling in explaining how having a growth mindset leads to a higher level of achievement. We interact with people that have a fixed mindset every day; the question is how do you create that 1-degree shift that leads them to a new way of thinking?
In the projects and engagements that I’ve worked through, a few simple practices have consistently created this shift in thinking. One, get people together out of their day-to-day environment. Two, break down the normal pattern of meetings and create the teachable point of view where you are the recognized coach & leader in the room. Three, leverage frameworks to lead discussion and drive outcomes.
I leverage things like Clayton Christensen’s Jobs your product is hired to do, and 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization, by Vijay Kumar and Moonshot!: Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion-Dollar Businesses, by John Scully. These all provide great examples of leading teams with new ways and thinking. The key is converting these into a methodology & structure that you can leverage.
All of these factors combine leading to what I call a “Jedi mind trick” because, without knowing it, people have learned something new and achieved their desired results and outcomes creating a multi-dimensional win.
3) Drive Speed & Set Deadlines
My diverse experiences in founding start-ups and working as part of large enterprises have led me to a resounding conclusion: speed coupled with a deadline forces critical decisions and actions. The faster you go the faster you can learn and adapt. The last start-up I helped found was brought from idea to market in four months. This accelerated pace forced early critical decisions based on market learning. In my mind, the perfectionist mentality limits speed of execution and speed of learning. Having that mentality of speed coupled with deadlines in large enterprises is critical as well. We must force ourselves to say, “yes and”, instead of "no, but". Just say yes, and figure out the minutiae as you go.
One framework I love, called The First Mile, enables you to define where you are, but more importantly how do you get to the next stage of learning. For more information see Scott D Anthony’s book also titled The First Mile.
Applying the First Mile with deadlines is a great way to limit the perfectionist’s mentality and go super-fast with experiments. Going fast and learning faster enables you as a leader to execute with speed but make critical decisions as well.
The best leaders I have seen constantly learn, have an insatiable growth mindset, and deliver with incredible speed. I believe if you apply these three factors you will gain the leadership edge.
Growth mindset teaches us that we don’t have all the answers and that’s okay. Learning at any level helps your leadership brain grow and ultimately make you better at what you do. Have you tried out any of the strategies in the leadership edge before? What works for you?