Starting a new job, particularly a leadership role (or indeed starting a new project) you face two distinct challenges:
- Knowing what you need to do
- Knowing how to do it
From those two challenges we generate four scenarios:
- ⚔️ Quest: We know what to do just not how to do it. Think Bilbo Baggins trying to destroy the ring or 99% of start-up founders. Quests are exciting but can they can be long and dangerous.
- 🎬 Movie Making: we know how to do it we just don’t know what we are doing. The curse of starting to film a movie without a finished script or the newly appointed CEO who’s only skill is cost cutting. It’s not a compelling approach and can deliver incremental change, but nothing transformative.
- 🎨 Painting by Numbers: We know both what we need to do and how we need to do it. It feels easy but let’s face it, it’s not much of a challenge. If you subscribe to this newsletter, well then like me you love to be challenged. Painting by numbers can be tedious but is also an opportunity for some. This is the life of a consultant; moving between very similar scenarios with a tried and tested approach.
- 🌁 The Fog: The hardest place to be, now knowing how or what to do. This might mean you do nothing. We’ve all seen new leaders come in and nothing change. It feels like they lack the courage to solve the problems but in reality they might just not know what the problems are or how to fix them.
If you are starting something new. Be honest with yourself. Do you know what you need to do and how to do it? How confident are you? If I gave you a $200 now (I’m a generous guy) and I asked you to bet $100 on knowing exactly what it was you needed to do and $100 on knowing exactly how to do it – How much would you bet?
There is nothing wrong in not knowing the answer to these two questions. Leaders don’t need to have all the right answers, they just need the right questions.
Ask yourself, your managers, your teams the same two questions.
- If you don’t know what to do; How could you find out? What research could you do? Who does or could know? Who can help you map out the problem?
- If you don’t know how; Who could you hire? What skills are you missing? What professional help could you get? Hiring a consultant who can paint by numbers can give you that confidence, a guide to help you maximise your $100 bet.
To get out the fog you need both a map and a guide.
Back to the quadrants, understanding what to do you moves you from the Fog to a Quest. Then by understanding how to do it, it becomes obvious, before you know it, it’s Painting by Numbers.
Let me know your thoughts. Does this ring true for you? Drop a comment and let’s talk.
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I make no apologies for mixing so many metaphors in this post or for the typos, both of which are of course features and not bugs 🐛.