Last evening I had one of those awkward and necessary conversations. Awkward in the sense that it was uncomfortable and unexpected, and necessary because I needed to hear what was being said to me.
Five years ago, as a new business, there were clear goals and a clear direction set for The Exploration Group. One of the clearest was the need to make money as a start-up company. Over time, the angst of generating revenue has not felt as pressing or immediate. That's a good thing; a sign of success. However, it lulls me into faulty thought processes that justify negotiations and engagement terms that previously would never have been acceptable to me.
Hence the awkward conversation yesterday.
My friend Chuck said, "You have to stop negotiating with yourself about your business." I had no idea what he meant, so I started asking questions. Fifteen minutes later, I was coming to an understanding of a profound lesson. Chuck said, "I have been listening to you for awhile and I hear your desire to be on the same side of the table as those who commission you. That is good, all businesses want to do that, but (and this was one of those painful buts) you are hurting your own company. You are justifying their problems and doing so is costing your own business."
That hurt. Not because he was wrong. It was because he was right.
As Explorers we have sold The Exploration Group as outsider insiders. Essentially we become a part of the Commissioner's team. There are perils of becoming too close.
So I see that some course corrections are needed as The Exploration Group goes forward:
We always need to see beyond what is there now. In doing that we MUST question status quo even if there is push back from current staff. Current staff see problems and miss opportunities. As "outsiders" we cannot succumb to their focus on today and the problems of it. Explorers see opportunity and shake up the status quo.
Empathy, not sympathy.
We need to care for the people we explore with, but not feel sorry for them. Sympathy causes us to justify their shortcomings and lose our edge in calling for what is next.
Know what time it is.
Where are we in this relationship? Is it working, are we getting paid on time, is there progress? These are not management questions, they are where-are-we questions. Without keeping this perspective we will get lost in the exploration. And if we get lost, we cannot take the commissioner to where they want to go.
The Exploration Group provides a needed service, a way to take organizations from where they are to where they want to be. It is a necessary service. Without it they are stuck. The Bible says, "a workmen is worthy of his labor." When we do our job, we get paid. No need to be shy on the terms. That is what they agreed to up front when The Exploration Group was hired. We agreed to work, they agreed to pay.
So, what I say to myself now is not about cutting corners or justifying the problems of Commissioners. It is about delivering the path from where they are to where they want to be be. Nothing can get in the way of providing that.
When The Exploration Group was started all that we could see were the upsides of exploration. Five years later, the upsides are still clear, but now we are also seeing the considerations necessary for staying in the hunt. In a long journey, the road can become tiring and the days a bit dull. On those days there is learning. It is not the fresh learning of a start-up where everything is new. It is the tedious learning of recording, experiencing and listening. This patience matures the explorer and builds the anticipation for and appreciation of the discovery when ultimately reached.