Edit ModuleShow Tags

CEO Coaching: Strategy Is About Being Different

Try to resist normative pressure


Published:

Most of my readers don’t wake up every day and think, “I want to be only as good as most other people.” I know that many of you want to leave your mark on the world and succeed versus just survive. (There are many ways to succeed, well beyond money and status.) Conformity and break-out performance, by definition, cannot coexist. If that’s so, why be normal?

We were pushed to “fit in” since we were young children, and justifiably so, in most regards. Having good table manners, doing your homework, cleaning your room, eating your vegetables — those are all good things when not taken to an extreme. Even as adults, fitting in is often appropriate. Following traffic signals, paying your taxes and continuing to eat your vegetables are all appropriate. Be “normal” in those areas, by all means.

Because I’m a CEO coach and not a nutritionist, let’s switch from vegetables to leading others. There are normative behaviors that are appropriate for executives. If you run a public company, filing 10-Ks and 10-Qs is neither optional nor the place for creativity. Revenue minus expenses isn’t a rule to ignore. Treating people with respect and giving them autonomy is pretty well proven to be the right way to go. In other words, being a rebel in the wrong arena will just bankrupt you or worse.

However (you knew that word was coming, didn’t you?!), acquiescing to normative pressure and following established procedures isn’t the path to success, unless you want to be like everyone else.

Only a weak-kneed CEO says, “I want the same strategy as my competitor — same products, same markets, same production methods and same management practices.” Strategy is about being different! A Catholic priest might want to be exactly like the guy in the next church and follow the same rules, but in business, that’s crazy.

Some best practices are appropriate to adopt, but guess what? They came from someone who broke the rules!

Jeff Bezos didn’t want to be a normal bookseller. Sam Walton didn’t want to run a typical five-and-dime. Both adopted some well-established business and leadership techniques, but they also wanted to resist normative pressure. They knew that to succeed, they needed to be different, not just better.

Many of us are too fearful of looking different, of making mistakes, of trying to achieve wild things. We self-edit our great ideas. Maybe we should blame our parents, the school system or organized religion, but perhaps we ought to own it and create a different definition of success.

My wish for you is to not have a normal week! Do something different, something crazy! And if you fail, call it a learning experience.

Edit Module
Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

Get more content like this: Subscribe to the magazine | Sign up for our Free e-newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

Denver's Startup Ecosystem is Bolstered by Community

During DSW, discussions spanned a number of industries including technology, art, the outdoors, government, aerospace and much more. What I heard most consistently was that the community surrounding entrepreneurs here is what makes Denver unique.

How Treating Voting Like a Business Could Actually Improve It

In recent election cycles, Colorado (and Denver) have consistently boasted some of the highest voter turnouts in the country. In the 2018 midterm election, the state was ranked at No.2, second only to Minnesota, with 61.9% of eligible voters casting a ballot.

Alice Jackson Guides Colorado Toward a New Energy Future

Xcel's way forward includes cutting carbon emissions 80% from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving net-zero carbon by 2050. In doing so, Jackson hopes to help provide reliable electricity in a safe, economical and sustainable manner.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags