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Adopt and Drop - CEO Edition

Adopt and Drop - CEO Edition

Sarah Lehman
Sep 9, 2021 10:55:36 AM

Words to Adopt and Drop - CEO Edition

Adopt: Stockdale Principle  Drop: Normal


With the Delta variant, the armageddon-like weather, and all the political unrest we’ve been experiencing, the world continues to prove its ability to be uncertain. Just when I thought things were going back to “normal,” the shockwaves reverberated. How do leaders continue to adopt, change and even embrace such an uncertain world? I find inspiration in what Admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war in Vietnam for seven and a half years said:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” — Admiral James Stockdale

The Stockdale Principle, made famous in Jim Collins’ bestselling book From Good to Great, got me through my first CEO gig when I was at the helm of a business on the brink of bankruptcy. There were days I wasn’t sure we would make payroll or be around for another month; the fear of complete financial ruin can be crippling. People often ask what kept me going and I tell them that while I had an unwavering belief we would make it, at the same time, never avoided confronting our harshest realities. Like Ted Lasso, I believe in hope, but like Admiral Stockdale stated, it’s doused in hard core, hard-to-hear, downright depressing reality sometimes.

Adopt: Confident Vulnerability Drop: Perfection


As leaders, it is often easy to hide behind the pretense of perfection or certainty. The acclaimed researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown has spent the past two decades working to convince humans the benefits of being vulnerable.  

I have to admit, I’ve struggled with this for much of my career. How could I possibly admit my mistakes to those who were trusting me to lead? How could I share my failures openly without being judged? This changed when Jason Van Camp, Green Beret, West Point graduate, Bronze Star recipient and CEO of Mission6Zero told me that he expected his leaders to model confident vulnerability. Jason defines confident vulnerability as a leader’s ability to “Share your mistakes, acknowledge your weaknesses, and bring your full self to the table. It is the scars that make a leader, not the medals or pedigree…through your weaknesses you create trust.” 

When I joined Zartico, I committed to myself that I would lead with confident vulnerability. My first step was to share my story during a “This is Me” presentation during our monthly Leadership Forum. I shared things about my journey that I would never have considered sharing -- the highs, the mistakes, the losses, the scars. It was scary and hard. Since then, other team members have taken the leap and I’ve seen that being vulnerable is building connections within our team I never thought possible.

Adopt: Decisive Drop: Decided


As CEOs, we have to be willing to make the hard decisions and our organizations depend on our ability to do hard things. However, that does not mean we show up knowing the answer or having decided the right course of action. I appreciated reading this story from Worth— How Do Cities Bring Back Tourism about the President of Visit Savannah, the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, Joe Marinelli:

“I remember sitting down with my team and saying, ‘Gang, I don’t know how to lead in this situation,’ Marinelli recalls now. ’None of us ever have been through anything like this.’ We had no idea what we were heading into, and I had to show my vulnerability a little bit and say, ‘Look, I’m not sure how to do this, but we’re going to have to figure it out together.’”

Joe showed up undecided, assessed the situation, developed a plan with his team and was decisive in his action. Leaders do not need to have all the right answers. We need to show up curious and ask the right questions to drive towards action. 

Adopt: Why Drop: What


It is no longer about the what, it is about the why. Data can often tell us what is happening but uncovering the why is far more important. Through my manufacturing experience, the method I have used the most is the Five Whys method from the Toyota Production System. Developed by Sakichi Toyoda, the technique became an integral part of Lean philosophy and is a process used to ask the question “why” to find the root problem. By repeating "why?" five times, the root cause of a problem, as well as a solution, becomes clear.

Children have been leaning into this concept forever. The curiosity we see in children is an appetite for knowledge. It is not led nor taught, it is an internal search for the “why” things work in our world. Leaders need to channel our inner child and ask more “whys”.

Adopt: Experiment  Drop: Failure


"Experimenting is a window into the future." I LOVE this statement from Bill Burnett, Co-Author of Designing Your Life. Bill describes how prototypes or experiments help us gain a glimpse into the future. What I like about experimenting or prototyping is that it is proactive and deliberate; you are intentionally designing something that may or may not succeed. The goal is to learn as fast as possible to determine the right path. In this context, failure is actually the elimination of noise! 

More: DEI Plans Less: DEI Pledges


I know it begins with a pledge, but we need pledges backed with plans. What are we actually doing to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within our organizations? Are our words backed by action? I am challenging myself and our organization with this very question because while we’ve made some strides, when I look at myself in the mirror, I realize that there is so much more to do.

Adopt: Mission Driven Impact Drop: Short-term Anything


Around the globe, more and more companies are joining the movement to use business as a means for good. The number of global B-Corp has grown from 82 in 2007 up to 3500 in 2020. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine in business a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Whether or not a company chooses to pursue the designation, Assessment B Impact Assessment is an objective measurement of a company’s transparency, social and environmental performance, and accountability to balance profit and purpose. 

In tourism, this is synonymous with evolving from Destination Marketing to Destination Management. No longer can we afford to focus just on heads in beds, rather we need to focus on building a long-term, self-sustaining visitor economy that produces year round jobs, creates resident quality of life and improves community well-being. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a similar Assessment tool to help us measure our progress in tourism?

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