Pacing for Growth | Book Review
"Endurance training provides a wonderful metaphor for leading
enduring business growth because the principles by which we
expand our body's capacity to go faster and farther translate directly
to expanding the capacity of an organization." (p. xiii)
Reminiscent of Jim Collins' 20 Mile March, Dr. Alison Eyring shares contemporary stories of organizations that successfully adapt, focus, and restrain rather than sprint all-out until failure occurs. Subtitled Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success, Eyring shares four principles, three rules, and two applications offered in nine chapters, respectively, based on in depth interviews with more than 30 top regional executives based in Asia (p. 2).
There's a reason airline and military pilots rigidly follow a checklist, regardless how many hours flown. In The Checklist Manifesto, Dr. Atul Gawande describes how central line infections in intensive care units dropped dramatically when doctors followed a simple five-point checklist that involves cleaning skin, washing hands, and using a sterile dressing (p. xi).
Eyring engages us personally by weaving her stories of success and failure while training for endurance events with analogous business leader case studies. Both are predicated on having an "abundance" mindset when it comes to people development (p. 14). This review connects selected stories from each of the sections (principles, rules & application) to specific Academy Leadership workshop observations.
Principles | Core Values, Priorities & The Knowing-Doing-Gap
Eyring introduces the instructive story how Krispy Kreme corrupted core values in the mid 1990s (p. 17). How so? At a minimum, pressure for sustained quarterly expansion overwhelmed existing normative behaviors (p. 18). Recall in our Core Values Alignment workshop the desired state is spending 80-90% of time creating alignment while only 10-20% of effort identifying the core values. Krispy Kreme appeared to blindly accelerate rather than establish normative behaviors which could lead to sustained growth such as team accountability.
Like a runner late to a race and wanting to catch up (to eBay), QXL wished to quickly, simply and efficiently match millions of buyers and sellers (p. 37). They wasted a lot of energy and resources without realizing the cost of endless acquisitions. In our Setting Leadership Priorities workshop, the battle between (see Stephen Covey) Category I (important & urgent) and Category II (important & not urgent) quadrants is won by establishing habits allowing us to spend most of our time in Category II. We recall Category I is filled with stress, is reactive rather than proactive, and consumes enormous energy.
In her Growth Readiness Framework (p. 55), Eyring focuses on two capabilities that drive external orientation: Outside-In Thinking and Customer-Aligned Innovation.
Both require humility, and it reminds us of General Stanley McChrystal's story in Team of Teams, whereby establishing a high bandwidth situational awareness center enabled worldwide, connected teams to cross the The Knowing-Doing Gap.
"The resources that you have in place aren't necessarily
the same ones you need to be able to grow."
Leaders walk the talk, establishing credibility and trust. By June 2015, Cisco returned to growth, and Chuck Robbins succeeded Chambers as CEO, then named a smaller and younger top leadership team (p. 53).
Rules | HPAs & E2L
During Setting Leadership Priorities workshops, most of us agree activities such as coaching and planning are genuine High Payoff Activities (HPAs), yet struggle with so much to do every day. Focus requires saying no to opportunities, tasks, and ideas that have less merit than other opportunities, tasks, and ideas (p. 81). Eyring highlights how David Novak liberated time and energy to deliver performance while building production capacity for Pizza Hut (p. 83). Similarly, Airbnb's culture is built on a foundation of core values that are centered around the uniqueness of the global community and the lessons that the founders had learned along the way (p. 85). It's just like working out. If our physical training doesn't vary, or if we don't include sprint work or interval training as a priority, there won't be a performance breakthrough.
We learn quite a bit about ourselves and others during our Energize2Lead, or E2L, workshops. One example is we tend to overuse our dominant (color) traits (e.g. triple-red competitive). Eyring also found an overwhelming number of [the] subordinates said their leader used their self-identified strengths too much! (p. 95). The leaders conserve energy but there's no new development.
In contrast, A list of Growth Routine Tips on page 97 are excellent for including in a Personal Leadership Philosophy. For example: Identify the most critical new attitude or way of thinking that your growth strategy requires...
Tony Schwarz, in The Power of Full Engagement displays how we should toggle between high and low energy positive states, rather than between high positive and high negative states. Eyring found the same, that the better [she] executed physical recovery, the more [she] replenished [her] body as well as [her] motivation to train and exert [her]self more (p. 109).
It's not surprising that both successful leaders and successful athletes tend to be masters of energy self-management (rather than time). Eyring finds that we remember more and apply the skills better at work when we have short bursts of learning followed by time to absorb what we've learned, integrate it into our job, share it with others on the team, or simply catch up with other things (p. 115).
Applications | Development-Based Leadership
Recall Vroom's Time and Development-based decision making models (from Effective Decision Making case studies). In the business world - where millions of people dedicate their life energies and capabilities -- we seem to have accepted a scarcity mindset about talent (p. 126). Try naming an organization that doesn't eliminate training budgets first when reducing expenses. Maybe this is an indicator that developmental goals are not aligned with corporate strategy. Eyring advises what needs to happen at the top of the business is to agree on a small number of capabilities that will enable your business to increase capacity for growth (p. 128).
What really energizes, or motivates us? According to Dan Pink (see Drive), it's autonomy, mastery & purpose. On page 136 Eyring lists Tips to Get the Most Value from Experience, which align well with these three motivational characteristics.
Malcolm Wall Morris found that instilling confidence and trust in the team was essential, and once they felt part of the process, they would do everything to ensure its success (p. 143). Just like The Leader's Compass emphasizes credibility and trust as key attributes of a leader, which, while hard to earn, can be lost in an instant.
Four essential points from Morris' story (p. 144):
• The harder you push; the more support you need to provide.
• To go faster, go slower at the start. Getting your leadership team on board is half the battle.
• The further you take others outside their comfort zone, the more you need to build their confidence that they can succeed.
• As you push harder down the organization, you need to create space for people to push back and express themselves up the organization.
PACER | Dr. Eyring's Leadership Philosophy
Eyring concludes with a five dimensional PACER for renewal (pp. 159-160), which we could easily map to individual leadership philosophy components:
PACER Dimension Leadership Philosophy Element
Adaptation Personal Values
Control Operating Principles
Energy (Physical) Priorities
Relationship Expectations & Feedback
Note: Alison Eyring generously provided a copy of her book for review.
JE | March 2018