Why The Most Successful Leaders Find A Yin For Their Yang
Do you have a lot of crazy ideas or work with a boss or business partner who loves to come up with the next big thing?
My business partner Raff Vitón keeps a list of my crazy ideas on a white board in his office. Each time I have a new “BIG!” idea, he stands up, and with a bit of theatrical flair, adds it to the list. Then he asks me to think about how important it is in comparison to the rest of the ideas on the list as well as compared to all of the things we currently have underway. This practice reminds me that good strategy depends on sacrifice. And good leaders must know how to sacrifice good ideas for great ones all the time.
There is a famous story about Roy and Walt Disney. Walt, once again, had gotten incredibly excited about an idea that he’d been thinking about and made an enthusiastic presentation to his brother Roy who ran operations. Roy’s exasperated response was that Walt’s idea was going to cost more than $2 million to execute—back when $2 million was really money—to which Walt responded, “Roy, why do you bother me with these meaningless details?”
Stop for a moment. Do you have a partner who will call you on your bullsh** and respectfully make you focus? Or, if you’re all about focus, do you have a partner who will pull you out of your spreadsheet and inspire meaningful changes with big ideas?
Without Roy, Walt would have admittedly been just another dreamer. But Walt recognized his weaknesses as well as his strengths. He had Roy to help him focus on the best ideas and, more important, take care of the incredibly hard—and detailed—work of implementing them.
On the other hand, without Walt, Roy was an amazing operations expert who, left to his own devices, might have ended up running the world’s most efficient insurance company. Through his challenging relationship with his brother Walt, he was able to make millions of children smile.
This pattern is consistently seen with famous Idea Monkeys like Walt Disney, even if you are not aware of their sometimes quiet partnerships; Steve Jobs had Steve Woszniak; Bill Gates had Paul Allen; Hammerstein had Rodgers. When it comes to companies that know how to innovate consistently, EVERY successful firm that I have worked with has had this type of complementary partnerships in the C-Suite.
So why should you care?
Too often, entrepreneurs fail to recognize the importance of this type of complementary partnership. If they are lone Idea Monkeys, they run from one big idea to the next until they run out of cash, energy or people who believe in them. (You probably noticed that most entrepreneurs are out of business in less than three years.) If you are a lone operator, your passion is working to make an existing idea more efficient, which too often leaves you with little to no margin because your ideas usually aren’t unique enough to drive sales, profit and enthusiastic followers.
What’s the solution? You need to know if you are a Walt or a Roy, an Idea Monkey or a (Ring)leader (the strategic operator—the person who helps focus the Idea Monkeys on what matters most.)
I love Marcus Buckingham’s language in his book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. His premise is to first find out what “makes you feel strong,” and then align all your activities against these strengths.
So, you need to begin by asking what makes you feel strong. Are you about ideas, insights or connecting the two with inspired communication? Or are you better at channeling the creativity of those around you?
Great leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses. They make it a point to find partners whose strengths complement their weaknesses. Do you know yours? The proof should not be in the revelation, rather in the complementary partnerships you have formed.
We’ll let you in on a little known secret. Idea Monkeys are usually impotent on their own. They need a partner to leverage their superpowers and eliminate their blind spots. The best Idea Monkeys figure this out early and look to create a dynamic duo, or they find or create an organization that works to leverage their skills.
So, who is the yin for your yang? If you can’t immediately answer this question, you have just found an amazing opportunity to become a better leader.
For fun, we created a little quiz to help you determine if you are an Idea Monkey or a (Ring)leader. It takes about 30 seconds, and it may just start you on the path of finding a new business soul mate. http://www.freetheideamonkey.com/quiz