“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” ~ Richard Branson
Management is Seeing What’s Missing
Have you ever noticed that there are some things in the world that you really despise when you have them, but that you don’t notice when you don’t have them? Like pain. Or feeling unwell. While it’s upon you, you can’t imagine what you felt like without it, but after a few days, it’s like you never had it at all?
As a manager, there have been uncountable times when a very earnest team member has brought me a near finished product – a policy, a project plan, a business case – certain that, having shared it with numerous colleagues and agonised over every word, that it is as near as possible to perfect as any human could be expected to produce.
Early on in my career I always wondered how, in spite of this certainty, there was almost always something quite significant missing. Overlooked, not deliberately left out. Still, significant enough to require some rework.
Then I twigged.
The first draft happened too quickly, with a focus on producing the end result as expediently as possible, rather than with a genuine curiosity about what might be possible.
Linear thinking, rather than lateral thinking.
And to be honest, I can’t be sure that I wasn’t exactly the same before I became a manager. I may have been just as eager to please!
The tricky thing about this is that once you have a relatively ‘polished’ draft, it’s really hard for other people to do anything other than comment on what’s on the page… They slip into editing what exists instead of imagining what could be.
Some people are content with the status quo. They like things the way they are, and are not interested in asking why something is the way it is. They can see and comment on what exists, but not what could exist.
Leadership is Seeing Opportunities
“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Among those who do see what’s missing, not everyone sees that ‘gap’ as an opportunity.
Leaders are always curious about what could be improved, no matter the scale. The small little ‘irking’ frustration in the business process that occurs once every Thursday afternoon might be just as important as the entirely new product innovation…
I have personally found that these ‘gaps’ between what is and what could be are not only my main sources of frustration, but ultimately become my greatest sources of inspiration.
Once you can mentally turn the ‘absence’ of something into a possibility to ‘create’ something, you are starting to master a growth mindset, and to create opportunities from nothing. Seeing opportunities rather than gaps is the essence of leadership.
Rather than bemoaning the problem, focus on finding the solution.
Rather than complaining that women don’t want to progress to senior levels in your organisation, find out why, and what you can do about it.
Rather than focusing on the extent to which your customers don’t understand the full potential of your product, take ownership for helping them understand.
Rather than complaining that your team members bring you a ‘finished’ product with vital aspects missing, take responsibility for creating the kind of environment where collaboration, innovation and courage are encouraged and failures become an opportunity to learn and grow.
Turn what’s missing into an opportunity, and you’ll start to see that opportunities are everywhere.
If you are interested in honing your mindset so that you can see opportunities instead of problems, I strongly recommend Dr Carol S. Dweck’s book Mindset: How You can Fulfil Your Potential. Check it out!
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