Tag Archives: future

Right Answers to the Wrong Questions?

A few weeks ago, I spoke to about 20 professionals attending a program about their future and the future of their organizations.

I talked about tomorrow. They were more worried about today.

I wanted to venture into tomorrow and look back to today. They just wanted to get through today.

I discussed purpose: Why? They were more concerned about strategies and tactics: How?

My metaphor was a blueprint. They wanted a to-do list.

I was thinking effective (doing the right things). Their concern was efficient (doing things right).

Leadership was my target. Management was their aim.

I quoted Stephen Covey on leadership, “Begin with the end in mind,” because leaders focus on the horizon, a vision for the future. They were thinking management (“Begin with the beginning in mind”), because managers stare down at their desk, facing their challenges du jour and being constantly interrupted with issues about operations and people.


Not theirs.

I misread my audience.

I was there to discuss change management, to talk about solving problem and capitalizing on opportunities as we move from today through tomorrows. (Note the “s” on “tomorrows.” You face a tomorrow every day – one at a time.)

See also: The Entrepreneur as Leader and Manager  

I should have realized that, as John Kotter put it, “management is still not leadership.”

He said: “In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.”

He added: “Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes; it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.”

Don’t repeat the mistakes I made with my audience. Be sure you know and understand the questions (both those being asked and those folks are afraid to ask) before you provide answers. Then make sure the answers you provide are correct and understood by the audience you serve. Communication is the negotiating of meaning. If the audience is not “catching” what you are “pitching” it might be well intended and thought provoking or ego or noise or a hope and a prayer but it is NOT COMMUNICATION!

See also: The Need for Agile, Collaborative Leaders  

As George Bernard Shaw stated so correctly, “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.”

Are you providing the right answer to the right questions? If not, start again!

A Primer on Leadership: the 26 Most Important Quotes

The starting point

 “The absolute of leadership is followers.” — Peter Drucker, management guru and author of dozens of influential books

Defining reality

“The first role of the leader is to define reality.” — Max DePree, former CEO of Herman Miller and author of Leadership Is an Art

Verifying reality

“All the well-meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if you’re not addressing the real problem. And we’ll never get to the problem if we’re so caught up in our own autobiography, our own paradigm, that we don’t take off our glasses long enough to see the world from another point of view.”  — Stephen Covey, author, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

A shared characteristic

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: It was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time.” —  John Kenneth Galbraith, economist and author of dozens of books

The objective

“The task of a leader is to get people from where they are to where they have not been.” — Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford

The functions

“Change is the transition from today through tomorrows.” — Mike Manes, founder, Square One Consulting

“Change management is solving problems and capitalizing on opportunities during the transition.” – Manes

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Drucker

The challenge

“There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful to success, than to step up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.”  —Niccolo Machiavelli, author, The Prince

The risk in failing to lead

“Take change by the hand before change takes you by the throat.” – Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England

The importance of vision

“Where there is no vision the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:16

“People change what they do less because they are given an analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”– John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen in The Heart of Change

The best example of vision

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”  — President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961

The importance of leadership

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke, Irish statesman, author and philosopher

What leadership is not

“Consensus is the absence of leadership.” — Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England

A bias for action

“If you start to take Vienna – Take Vienna.” — Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France from 1804 to 1814

“I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” — Michael Jordan, former NBA star

“Don’t find fault – Find a remedy.” — Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor

“There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” — John Wooden, UCLA coach who won 10 NCAA basketball championships in a 12-year stretch

“A man could do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he had done.” – Anonymous

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” — Kennedy

“Nothing in this world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – President Calvin Coolidge

“Just do it!” — Nike

The test of leadership

“If the end brings me out right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out wrong, then 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference.” – President Abraham Lincoln

“It is not the critic who counts, or how the strong man stumbled and fell, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; and if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that he’ll never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” — Japanese proverb

2014: The Future Is Coming at You Faster Than You Think

Without a doubt, 2014 will be a pivotal year for the insurance industry – a new future is dawning, reshaped more quickly than expected by powerful influences such as customer expectations, forces from outside the industry, and technology. We will see the acceleration of these influences. 

This pace of technology change, challenging decades of business traditions and assumptions, is unprecedented in the history of the insurance industry. The industry’s biggest technology disruptions and changes usually came along every decade or two, from the introduction of mainframe computers in the 1950s and ‘60s, to the personal computer in the ‘80s, to the Internet and e-business in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and the first iPhone/smartphone in 2007. 

Now, changes are coming every month, with new technologies, the mash-up of technologies and new uses for these technologies. There are next-gen technologies such as mobile, cloud, data and analytics, telematics and collaboration tools. There are emerging technologies such as 3D printing, the Internet of Things (billions of devices that talk to each other without human intervention), drones, driverless cars, and wearable devices. The speed of experimentation, innovation and adoption will intensify. Insurance will begin to be redefined and reshaped, from the inside as well as from outside the industry.

As other industries have experienced, from retail to books, music and movies, the insurance industry is finding the very foundations of the business being challenged, requiring new thinking, experimentation, innovation and adoption of the new technologies. To respond to this continual disruption, insurance leaders will create a culture and model around continuing collaboration and ideation that extends outside their organizations. Legacy business assumptions, operations, systems and culture will begin to fall away. 

Increasingly, insurers will recognize that tracking and assessing the potential and use of next-gen and emerging technologies (both within and outside the industry) will be paramount to their competitive advantage and long-term survival. But insurers often lack the time, expertise and resources to track details of technology trends, follow outside industry perspectives, find and access research and case studies and stay current on trends outside the U.S. market. Insurers will increasingly look at creating and participating in an ecosystem of outside experts and resources to capture the potential, inspire their leadership and enable their journey of change, transformation and innovation. 

The journey toward reinventing insurance has started, whether you are on the road or not. No business, regardless of its size, can go it alone and expect to completely take hold of all the possibilities. It will be interesting to see the innovation ecosystems that emerge to help fully capture the potential, change legacy cultures and enable the ideas and technologies to be put into operation uniquely within each insurance organization.