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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

Beware of Self-imposed Roadblocks

This week we capped off a long, 4 day meeting with dinner: 7 people around a table from both Marketing & R&D. Everyone was tired, but also energized after making great progress laying out a foundation for future growth.

The dinner can be summed up with the following Pic.

Pretty basic, a couple of drinks and a few $ bills. What’s so special about that?

The picture signified the night’s ground rule:

Talk business, and you put a $1 in the pot. No Shop Talk! $’s would get donated to charity.

In other words, let’s leave the business behind for the evening. The first 30 minutes I think we filled it with $3 or $4 bucks, minor slip ups, but the business found its way back in the conversation. The pot however was working, all 7 of us made a concerted effort to avoid shop talk after the $’s started to mount and the “Gotcha’s” were penalized, even cheered.

Then something impressive happened. One of our R&D managers reached into his pocket, pulled out a $10 bill and slapped it into the pot, with authority! “I don’t care; I’m buying some shop talk!” He proceeded to discuss with his teammate/partner an idea that’s been percolating for months, an idea they are both passionate on and won’t let go….

  • “It’s big, innovative, not out there, minimal risk! What do we need to do to get traction? How can we move forward? When? What’s it all look like? We can balance it, not let it consume us” etc.

How do you NOT admire PASSION that just doesn’t seem to die?

I still don’t know if the idea itself has any commercial potential that makes the energy worthwhile, and to be honest, it does not matter.

What DOES matter? People. Their passion. Their drive to take risks, get things done and rally people around a future idea that can pay dividends.

The fancy word for advocates and leaders behind ideas? CHAMPIONS.

Champions tend to be different from your average person. They have a spark and drive to accelerate results, make things around them better, and usually have fun in the process. Champions are worth celebrating, for their passion alone. They are force multipliers in organizations.

Champions find a way over roadblocks, even when you deliberately put one up in front of them.

The other simple learning of the night?

Having a penalty pot for not talking shop certainly has its purpose. It can force people to get to know each other on a more personal level, and that has huge value.

But let’s be real: If you believe that magic can happen around the cocktail napkin for your business, don’t put up roadblocks around topics your people are there for in the first place. It makes it hard for people to shine when there are roadblocks established.

Not everyone is comfortable breaking rules. In fact, most people will play by them.

Leaders have basic roles: Bring people together. Remove roadblocks. Create an environment where ALL people want to contribute.

Thankfully, Champions find a way to jump OVER roadblocks, even when self-imposed.

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