“I don’t like surprises!”

This declaration, used in the pre-digital era, was uttered by leaders to communicate to their employees that they detest any divergence to the plan which they authored: “Make sure I know of any deviations to our plan – before anyone else hears about the matter.”

This is a different age, however. New discoveries or knowledge are being created daily – in nearly every meeting across the business. Therefore, surprises are normal.

Consequently, if you work for a boss who does not like surprises, you are forced to reduce the risk to your career by taking the following actions:

  • attend every meeting in the business covering topics related to your area of responsibility,
  • slow cross-functional decision making so you can manage deviations from the original plan,
  • then, when surprises do occur, hide in the system by escalating the issue faster than your cross-functional colleagues.

Organizations that need to innovate and which have leaders preaching “don’t surprise me” create cultures of irrationality: While they implore employees to take risks (a prime ingredient for innovation) they are also demanding everything “goes as planned.”

Employees of such organizations can only hope their company is large enough to hide within – while they run on a treadmill of meetings.

There is a better path forward.

Those who are successfully leading innovation within their organizations have different messages for their teams:

  • It’s not the organization with the best plan that wins. It’s the organization that can adapt their plan the fastest that wins.
  • If we’re not being surprised, we’re not learning – and growing – fast enough.
  • When you are in a meeting and make a discovery, you are empowered to make the decisions that get us to our defined objective.
  • We will use ____ process to keep each other updated on the decisions we’re making.

Consider the possibility that the biggest surprise in store for an organization is this: They achieve sustained success by discovering how brilliant their employees really are.

P.S. Truth-telling among teammates is a fuel that speeds an organization forward. On May 26, at 11am Eastern, Ahmet Tezel, PhD, Vice President, R&D for Ethicon, will join our Activation Session. Join us for an unscripted, honest conversation about what successful leaders are doing to create greater cultures of candor. The investment of 50 minutes will likely save you days of wasted projected time. Click here to save your seat.

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Activate Your Greatness.

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