Working on a Dream




Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Foster Champions

Everyone has a favorite book, something that has changed their life after reading it. Today, I have the honor to share with you something that has inspired me in a way that few other writings have. The article is by Robert Porter Lynch (President of The Warren Company) and found in the book titled, "Leading Beyond the Walls."

Courage enlarges, cowardice diminishes resources.
In dangerous straits, the fears of the timid aggravate the dangers that imperil the brave.

Champions are probably the most influential factor in creating a synergistic relationship that achieves a mighty purpose. Without at least one accomplished champion, the chance of successfully sustaining, nurturing, and transforming an alliance is virtually nil. Cooperation beyond the walls is in many companies considered an unnatural act; therefore alliances are often perceived as foreign entities. Alliances are essentially start-up companies and must be led by champions who are at the same time entrepreneurs, risk takers, visionaries, and results-oriented managers. Unless an energetic, visionary leader is in place, the parent corporation’s immunal rejection response will kick out the alliance before it’s had a chance to become established.

Champions exist in a perpetual state of enlightened dissatisfaction, always looking for a new idea that will improve upon the current state of affairs. Typically, they have a long history of pursuing new ideas, attempting breakthroughs, and challenging the accepted.

Champions cannot command because their authority is not positional. Their authority
comes from their vision, their energy, and their ability to touch the hearts of those who believe their vision is the reality the organization must achieve for more than its future survival, that vision contains the organization’s thrival. To be effective the champion needs a track record of success. Yet down deep, most champions are idealists; therefore they often tend to become overly optimistic. Thus it is not ironic that the hallmark of real champions is not how many successes they have had, and they will have had many, but rather how they have dealt with failure. Failures should be the
learning experiences that temper their idealism sufficiently to make them effective. Often the best champions will have at their side a seasoned realist or skeptic to provide balance and practicality to their idealistic vision.

Not surprisingly, many champions are entrepreneurial at heart, which enables them to excel with broken tools and inadequate resources, under adverse conditions, and with minimal organizational support. Their extraordinary results come from a blended potion of vision, persistence, ability to learn from mistakes, a willingness to take risks and possibly fail, and an abiding commitment to the greater good of all.

Breakthroughs are the way of life for champions, whose challenge of the status quo is
often regarded as unreasonable, are interested in creating new pathways, and love to
discover that which others have overlooked. Gary Horning, an alliance champion at NCR advocates: “the champion must be very reasonable, recognize the realities of the future, and see issues and solutions from diverse perspectives.” Yet more conservative managers often will be blind to the verities of the champion’s vision and new operating schema, thereby branding the alliance champion as unrealistic, or worse.

When operating the truest sense, champions are the passionate pioneers, the discoverers, the learners, the ones who will never accept mediocrity and are even willing to destroy what they’ve built in order to build something greater.

Champions are omni-directional, in that they know the necessity of navigating the halls
of power, and at the same time are willing to jump the chain of command or network the bowels of the organization. Although champions think of organizations as networks, not hierarchies, they also somewhat grudgingly, but patiently acknowledge the realities of the corporate ladder, without giving it their blessing.

What is often perceived as their neglect of protocol causes champions to be slightly
offcenter from corporate norms and to have offended traditional corporate sensibilities more than a few times in the pursuit of a worthy cause. Typically an alliance champion is not initially anointed from above. Instead he or she seizes the high ground and then asks for support. The motto of the champion is: “’tis better to ask forgiveness after the fact than permission before.”

Because champions operate on the organizational fringe, they are often isolated and
neglected. However, wise corporations with a heavy investment in alliances learn to nurture their champions, and to empower them once they independently emerge. Top managers create more successful alliances when they “recognize” champions rather than when they “select” them ...

THE END OF part 1:
Stop back soon for PART 2, as I will share the 7 qualities a leader of the future must understand in order to manage champions effectively.

Sneak Peak:
1. Building Trust
2. Maintaining Resiliency
3. Working for Co-Creative Change
4. Building Alliance Teams
5. Problem Solving and Ongoing Negotiations
6. Practicing Transformational Leadership
7. Gaining Top Rank Support

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