Leaders Remain Open to Exploring Ideas

***This is the first post in a series based on the Work of Leaders process (details way below). Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.

For positive examples, however, we’ll look at one specific case study:

The Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local.

It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more.***


Leaders who remain open enjoy entertaining new ideas and possibilities, and don’t hurry to finalize plans.

If we’re in the early stages of a project – but we like to rush things and get them done – we might indulge our psychological need to seek closure too soon.

I was part of a committee once that had to come up with a non-alcoholic beverage alternative for a community event. There was a lot of beer at this event, but we needed to provide an alternative.

Someone suggested fresh-squeezed lemonade. This was a great idea, because we had some equipment for it that was sitting idle. Get that equipment out of storage and give attendees an interesting beverage option. Win-win, right?

Well, it was okay, but not perfect. It was expensive to make because of the fresh lemons, people didn’t want to wait in line, and it took a while to make each lemonade. So, it flopped. We lost money and didn’t fulfill our desire to get people to drink something besides beer.

How did this happen? We went with our first idea, and the leader didn’t push us to remain open to all ideas.

An example of remaining open from our case study:

In 2010, the team at M Booth was ready with some great ideas to help American Express become more of a champion for small business.

The problem? AmEx, like any other financial services corporation, was institutionally risk-averse. This was exacerbated by the economic downturn of 2008.

It was a perfect recipe for going with the earliest and safest of ideas, but something better happened. Rosa Sabater, an AmEx Vice President at the time, was the lead on this effort, and she remained open to any and all ideas, no matter who they came from.

Some leaders might have rejected ideas that seemed too risky, or off the wall, or that came from someone young, new, or outside the inner circle. But Rosa remained open and entertained them all, including one from a big thinker named Shaunn. More about her next week.

Leaders who remain open enjoy entertaining new ideas and possibilities and don’t hurry to finalize plans.

DSC_0768_2Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

 

 

 

Remaining open is a leadership behavior that helps drive Exploration during the Vision process of the Work of Leaders.

To learn more about an assessment that measures and guides growth for leaders and potential leaders, start here.

To learn more by reading a great book, see the link below. Purchases made through this link may result in a small commission for me.

Leave a Comment