On October 28, 2015, I’m thrilled to keynote the 10th Annual Professional Women in Building conference, a gathering of women leaders from the nation’s largest homebuilders. The theme is Women Leading the Way, and it got me thinking about what makes creates a great leaders. The post below was originally published for this event.
Don’t look now, but the building industry isn’t what it used to be. Hyper-connected clients are demanding more individualized, avant-garde solutions. 3D printers are spitting out buildings on site. Robots are joining construction crews. Concrete can heal itself. And MIT engineers are making building materials out of CO2 emissions. As a leader, you’re under a lot of pressure.
How do you keep from spinning out of control? What will give you the agility you need to thrive in these innovation-fueled times? What is the missing skill? I’d say it’s courage. Courage can turn a marketplace disaster into an unbelievable opportunity. It can empower you to make quick decisions that put you ahead of the competition. Inspire your teams to delight your clients. And transform your fear of the unknown into calm, cool, focused action. To harness your courage skills, start by asking yourself these three simple questions.
1) What are you really afraid of?
Understanding your fears can diminish their power and set you free to be the great leader you know you can be. So ask yourself, “What’s holding me back? What’s keeping me from taking action – individually, as a team, or within the culture of my organization?” Your answers will help you gain clarity and differentiate between actual and perceived risks.
2) What’s your history with fear?
Think about a time when you went after something that really scared you. Maybe it was a project you took on. A meeting you led. An initiative you pushed through. What were you afraid of when you took action? Beyond the simple outcome (the project succeeded, the meeting went fine, the initiative got implemented) what were the benefits to your company, your team, your life? What can you learn from these positive outcomes?
3) Is “good enough” enough for you?
Think about that little voice inside your head that says things are okay the way they are. The one that rationalizes with phrases like, “Eh, why rock the boat?” “We’re doing all right compared to the national average” “There are plenty of others in our same situation” “Now just isn’t a good time.”
Many, if not most, leaders have advanced in their careers by figuring out how to limit risk. We’ve played it safe. We’ve paid attention to hierarchies and office politics. We’ve done what we were taught to do. But staying safe can often translate to staying put. And staying put means you stop growing, which can be dangerous in a world that’s spinning on innovation and new definitions of success.
Take a minute now to consider an upcoming leadership challenge. Imagine taking action and achieving the best possible outcome. What will it look like for you, your team, your organization? Could it change the trajectory of the project, the company … or even your corner of the building industry? You don’t have to be an MIT engineer to be a part of the bold new world of building. You just have to decide that good enough isn’t enough for you.