Use the emotional energy from your frustration to fuel your passion for change
Kate Sweetman who radiates passionate leadership has been named an Emerging Guru by the London Times and has served as Editor at Harvard Business Review. She is the Co-Author of The Leadership Code and the most recent bestselling book REINVENTION.
She says the best place to reinvent is to start where you are frustrated the most and using the emotional energy from that frustration to fuel your passion for change.
She also talks about the difference between invention vs. innovation and how to reinvent you inside out. And as a leader is not only about yourself, its about being able to show people a future they haven’t seen yet and getting them to believe in it and that is real passionate leadership.
So go ahead and click here if you want to find how to be a passionate & innovative leader, and don’t forget to share it around and spread the passion.
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Passion Sundays: Kate Sweetman Interview Transcript
Moustafa Hamwi: Hello everyone and welcome back to Passion Sundays, the best way to end a week and start another. Our guest today is phenomenally passionate about the leadership and reinvention of innovation space. Kate Sweetman is the previous editor at Harvard Business Review and the current co-author of Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption. Kate, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it.
Kate Sweetman: Thank you. I’m delighted, completely delighted.
MH: The pleasure is mine.
KS: I love your work.
MH: Thank you very much. The first obvious question… Passion: How important is it in the age of disruption?
KS: It’s a fantastic question because actually – and I hadn’t thought about it until I was talking with you earlier, but honestly – I think there’s nothing more important than passion if you’re going to be reinventing. Because reinventing, the way we describe it, is you’ve got to take a look at every piece of your business and everything’s up for grabs in terms of change if you want to take your business to a new place. And you need passion to get through that because that is a huge undertaking.
MH: Okay, awesome. And it’s very easy to say you need passion, and it’s important for disruption, [but] – especially when you’re talking in the corporate world – it sounds like a taboo more than an actual thing. How do you find passion in the corporate world?
KS: That’s a great question because the corporate world is much more the left brain sort of place, and in fact, an excess of passion might be a little suspect, right?
KS: I think that’s something that we need to change, and in our work we do address that. We actually have a huge emotional component in our work because we say that if you want to make reinvention happen, the first place you have to go is where you’re not – well, I was going to say where you’re not passionate, but it’s actually dissatisfaction. You have to have an emotional reaction to where you are and say, “This isn’t good enough.”
KS: “It’s not the best we can be. We might even be in danger. But at a minimum, it’s not our highest calling.” Then you need to say, “What is our highest calling? What is our vision?” Those are two quite emotional things. And then you need to say, “Aha. Here is where we’re going to go.” And it’s not just me as the leader, it’s me getting everybody, getting a common spirit. You know, we call it shared energy, but you might call it shared passion around where we need to go and how we’re going to get there.
MH: How do you put a framework around the whole disruption and disruptive innovation in the context of passion – or not – but obviously, passion is needed there… How does that fit within a framework? It’s very easy to talk about abstract stuff. The trick is how do you distill all of that into a best-selling book, and then how do you take that framework and apply it in the business world?
KS: I love that question because that’s absolutely right. If we have a framework… I have a mentor, his name is Dave Ulrich, and he said, “Give me a framework and I can do something with that.” And that’s absolutely true. The way we go about this is we have taken the process of change, and we’ve made it into a formula which starts with dissatisfaction and goes to focus and then says, “Okay, we know where we want to get to, now how do we align everything around that? What are all the different pieces that need to come together?” It’s a very complicated thing. And then, “How do we get going?” All that, we think of it as an equation: Dissatisfaction x Vision x Alignment (of all the different things that need to come together) x Getting Started and Execution. All of that is animated by leadership, and leadership is the thing that flows passion and life into what it is you’re trying to do. Otherwise, it’s a pretty dry exercise. But somebody with passion, energy, vision, excitement, persuasiveness, influence keeps everybody going when the going gets tough.
MH: I like that. You have segued nicely into my next question about leadership. I know you are also a best-selling author of another book about leadership. How important is it for a leader to be passionate?
KS: Especially in this day and age… In fact, when Shane, my co-author and partner, and I sat down a couple years ago and said, “What are we going to do differently about leadership?” because we’d both been in this leadership development area, we’d both been in the change area (that’s what leaders do) for quite a long time. Even we felt there was this sea change, there was just something different. There’s something about this era in which we live where things are different. We’re both students of leadership, I used to be an editor at HBR. I’ve done all the reading, he’s done all the reading, and we said, “You know what? It really comes down to – in this day and age, with all this change and all this shifting and all this confusion and all this turmoil and all this acceleration – there’s really only two ways you can be a leader anymore. You have two options: One is you’re a leader accelerator who helps everybody internally move faster than the speed of external change, get ahead of the speed of change, and that takes a lot of passion because you’ve got to get people seeing a future that they haven’t experienced yet. Or you’re a leader decelerator. You’re somebody who gets in the way of the energy of the organization and doesn’t allow it to move forward. You’re either that passionate leader accelerator who’s breathing life into the organization, breathing life into the team, helping people to see the possibilities, or you’re somebody saying, “Hang on. I’m not so sure. Let’s study this some more. Is this in my best interest?” All those kinds of things.
MH: That’s old school corporate, obviously. Covering your backside.
KS: Very old school corporate. Worrying about silo, worrying about your politics, worrying about things that have nothing to do with the mission, and that’s what the company’s really about.
MH: I’m going to push back a little bit. As much as I love anybody who endorses anything I say about passion, I don’t like to take [it at] face value. And it’s easier said than done. I have the highest level of passion I can imagine, and I go into an organization and I’m like, “Run, run, run! Let’s do it!” But it’s not easy to transfer that through the layers as you move, and as it trickles down, it phases off. You start getting less and less and less passion. How do you take that passion from being just a passionate leader to a leader who’s truly accelerating that passion?
KS: That’s a great question. It’s a whole process, as well. And I say it’s a process because you can break it down; that’s something that we do. One, clarity is huge. Clarity of what it is you’re trying to accomplish is really, really huge. The second thing is clarity around who’s around you is really huge because you’ve got to evaluate the people who will be going with you on this journey. Jim Collins would say, “Get the right people on the bus.” They have to have the skill set, they have to have the mindset… Well, first they need to have the mindset, then they have to have the skills and tools. But they also have to have the passion, they have to believe. The thing is, you need to evaluate that as much as anything else. Sometimes some tough choices need to be made. Furthering an organization? Communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate. In fact, we just mailed a client last week and we’re even talking about taking this mission, vision thing… How do you communicate it to the factory floor? There we have some graphical solutions that we use to take it even just out of words into image, so that people can start to see where we were and where we want to get to and be part of the whole thing.
MH: I see. So if I’m dealt a not-very-good hand with people who might not be as passionate, what you’re saying is I have to differentiate who fits on the journey and who I have to let go very quickly.
KS: Yes, I have a great example. First of all, this is ancient history for most people, but that’s what Lou Gerstner did at IBM, that’s what he turned around. I had a lot of experience at Verizon, which is an American telecom company. It was a merger – two different companies come together, people feel like winners and losers, and a new culture emerges. After two years, Ivan Seidenberg, who’s a great CEO, said to the 80,000 managers, “If you want to stay, stay. If you want to go, go, and I’ll give you a year’s severance.” 25,000 people said, “I’m leaving,” out of 80,000 people. And he said, “God bless you, off you go.” You know what? The company moved on. There were a lot of predictions that would leave a lot of holes, and that it wouldn’t work. But what he wanted were people who wanted to stay.
MH: Nobody wants dead weight.
KS: Exactly. It’s one of the great success stories.
MH: Love it. So in the context of people leaving and changing and causing disruption – I love this – how important is it for a leader to be okay with some mess along the way, to be able to reach that disruptive innovation?
KS: It’s inevitable because as much as you know where you want to go, the fact is you haven’t been there before, and so you are feeling your way, you’re learning your way, you’re doing your best, you’re trying to anticipate, you’ve got your plans. But the best laid plans… You have to be able to deal with ambiguity, you have to be able to deal with uncertainty, you have to deal with things that are not planned. It really is the opposite of the organization of the past where you could predict the future based on the past.
MH: I see. One last question. Why reinvention rather than innovation? I love how you talk about reinvention – there’s a hidden message there, I’m reading between the lines.
KS: Great question. You know, I think the word innovation is really associated with products and services – what you’re offering to the world, design, things like that. We’re talking about the corporation or the family enterprise. We’re talking about reinventing who you are. From the self-concept of who we are in this world to how we go about navigating the world, so it really is a reinvention, not just an innovation. Innovation is definitely part of it. Innovation is part of it, change management is part of it, figuring out the shared energy is part of it, but add it all up and it’s reinvention.
MH: Awesome. I love it. That’s probably the best way we could have concluded today, so let’s reinvent and “passionnovate” along the way. Thank you very much. I’m sure everyone enjoyed this and found it very useful.
KS: Thank you. I enjoyed it myself.
MH: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
KS: My pleasure.
MH: What do you think? I would really love to hear your opinion, so do share your opinion with the passion community on the blog below, and if you’d like more exclusive interviews, tips, tools and techniques, then go to moustafa.com. Until the next episode, live passionately.