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Competency Corner: On Takes Initiative in a Business Unit

About 10 years ago I had a chance encounter that led me to change the way I approach consulting my clients.  Sitting at a bar a fellow struck up a conversation and shared his story.  He indicated that, prior to his retirement, he was an internal consultant for an energy corporation.  He was fortunate enough to have taken an early retirement with a seven-figure pension, and chose to travel and play golf.  However, within four months he grew tired of his newfound country club lifestyle and went back to work at the same company as an independent contractor.  But he indicated that something had very much changed.  He was financially stable.  He did not report to anyone.  And he had some very real ideas about improving the way the business ran.  And so in the absence of pressure regarding paychecks or politics, he actually consulted people and told them what he really thought they should do.  It was at that point that I realized we should all do what we think is the right thing.

Everyone should take the initiative to do what is in the best interests of his or her constituents.  We may not all have the financial security of our seven-figure friend (above), but if there is one thing I have learned over the years is that our action, or lack of action, truly defines us.  If we take the initiative to do the right things in our business and our lives, our reputations will not suffer.  Indeed, they will prosper.  But counterproductive to this fact is that many people in our places of work have succumbed to the “comfort zone.”  You will recognize this in covert or overt tactics for resisting change – “that’s not the way we do it here,” and the like.  General (Ret.) Colin Powell has indicated that this is a quick path to mediocrity.  Building a high performance culture means one must break molds and challenge the status quo, and avoid procrastinating on difficult choices.

TAKES INITIATIVE IN A BUSINESS UNIT – Takes the lead on specific, targeted business issues requiring change even if others do not understand or approve.

Sales force transformation is a big movement these days.  When the economy dipped in 2009, hiring came to a standstill, but companies still needed to know their talent.  This was particularly the case with companies in M&A situations or RIFs.  I am reminded of a client who was director of talent management for the sales division and needed to reorganize the sales team (breaking out hunting and farming roles, etc.).  His superiors felt that assessing the existing sales talent was a waste of money because the incumbents’ managers should be able to shed light on their capabilities.  However, the director stood his ground, telling the executive committee that “we are going to do this.”  The result: A resounding appreciation from the executive committee over the richness of the conversations and appropriateness of the decisions that were made.

Note: This is from a series of Competency Corners in which we have reviewed several of our specific competencies and added a real-world context to them.  For more information about Chally’s competency models and measurement using our talent audit tool, contact us!