Over the years, I have marveled at leaders, speakers and influencers who demonstrate the ability to stay relevant year after year, decade after decade. I have had the good fortune to study and in many cases, meet quite few. Two leaders that stand-out are The Vanguard Group’s John C. Bogle and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon. Both leaders have long and highly successful tenures. While Dimon’s career continues, Bogle is now in his eighties and remains relevant even today.
Are there common actions we see from these individuals who demonstrate longevity? I think there are. As I spent time understanding where this unique staying power comes from, I found some key actions that repeatedly surface again and again. These actions are notable as they help these individuals achieve and then sustain relevance.
Keep in mind greatness is achieved by repeating these activities continuously … some may say obsessively!
1.) Walk the Gemba: This is a Lean Six Sigma term used to describe personal observation and interaction of work / where the work is happening. As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure the vision of the organization reaches front-line team members.
I am a firm believer in trusting your direct reports but verifying. Walking the Gemba, observing and interacting with the all team members will indicate very quickly if your team is flawlessly executing your vision. The silver lining to this activity is you will spend time with the front-line experts – believe me when I emphasize this is time well spent!
2.) Read, read and read some more: I am amazed at how many leaders spend so few hours proactively staying informed. I personally use the weekly 10% rule of thumb: I invest anywhere from 5 to 6 hours per week in reading activities.
I read and listen to everything and anything that makes me think: fiction, non-fiction, blogs, tweets, LinkedIn postings, podcasts, magazines and newspapers. It never ceases to amaze me how many ideas, how much information and data I pick up from this consistent habit – all of which makes this next activity more meaningful and impactful.
3.) Networking / Personal Branding: It is astonishing that so many people, especially leaders, put very little effort into networking and personal branding. For me this is a critical part of professional growth and is crucial to remaining relevant in this fast-paced world.
If you are an introvert and prefer to linger on the outskirts of a network event, try moving to the inner circle and working your way around the room. I am shy by nature; however, I have pushed myself outside my comfort zone and frequently network. And – drumroll – this is where that reading advantage I mentioned above comes in.
In the past I have been cautious at events because I really didn’t know how to get the conversation started with people I have just met. However, now I cannot wait to share what I have read or learned and I look forward to asking others for their opinions on the latest trends – these are ideal conversation starters! My habit of proactive reading makes it easy to find a common interest with anyone I encounter.
Remember that the knowledge you constantly gain builds your personal brand, while at the same time it enhances your networking conversations.
4.) Participate in charitable organizations: My most memorable experiences have come from participating in helping others – like building a playground from the ground up, or refurbishing bicycles for disadvantaged children. While the networking is memorable and sustainable, it’s the relevance that makes these activities magic and makes the impact so profound. Truly, who does not want to make an immediate positive impact on someone’s life?
Another thought on the idea of community involvement – there is nothing more relevant during these turbulent social times than helping one another!
Think of the leaders and personalities who you view as having lasting power and who stay relevant in our society. And remember that relevance is a leader’s ability to always have a pulse of where everything and everybody is trending.
While in many ways staying relevant is a monumental and daunting task, there are some activities where you can focus efforts to enable you to find ways to achieve market relevance. Start with small steps and expand from there – and over time, I promise you will start to see a noticeable difference.
Chris Lee is a Managing Partner at Empirical Consulting Solutions and has more 25 years of experience working with companies across a wide range of industries to accelerate their growth and profitability.
Chris can chat further about any questions you have and is happy to learn more about your situation; the ECS team might be the fresh set of eyes you need to look at your company with unbiased perspective.
Connect with Chris or any other member of the ECS team at collaboration@thinkempirical or (610) 994-1139.