Innovation is important in today's turbulent world, yet the ability to scale innovation is more important than the volume of innovative ideas. Jim Collins in his most recent book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck -- Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, outlines the importance of the 10X approach and how it is a motivational advantage in attracting great talent.
Most firms are conservative by nature and tend to play stronger on the defensive end of the court than on the offensive end. Collins does stress the fact that 10X leaders figure out when to go fast and when to hold back. They also have the ability to scale innovation and to blend creativity with discipline. Another myth that Collins refutes is that radical outside change does not mean you need to inflict radical change upon yourself. Neither does this mean you should resist change.
I have been in the Strategic Coach Program, with Dan Sullivan as my coach, for the past 15 years. Some may think I am just a slow learner, but the program has evolved over the years into a think tank for entrepreneurs and industry transformers. Two years ago, and prior to the release of Jim Collin's most recent book, Dan started a new program called You x 10. His premise was that millions of entrepreneurs limit their thinking ambitions by the fear of being overwhelmed by the conflicts and complications that accompany significant and rapid growth. This thinking is limiting and keeps many leaders from taking advantage of new opportunities, learning new capabilities and satisfying their desire for greater personal freedom, accomplishment and enjoyment.
HAVE YOU HIT THE WALL?
Of the CPA partners that I know, 95 percent are financially more successful than other people, yet they are often frustrated by the fact that they have hit the wall -- they cannot work harder and produce greater results. Deep inside they know they are capable, but a different way of thinking is required in order to break through the ceiling.
In reality, all that is required is a simple decision that only you can make. The 10X decision will change your life and attract excellent talent and engage employees who are already on board. Thinking about a problem from an exponential (10X), rather than incremental (10 percent), perspective is a game changer for you and your team.
Your first reaction to 10X leadership will probably be to come up with objections. That is natural and how our brains have been trained. Dan Sullivan has addressed 40 objections and Jim Collins stresses the fact that the 10X mindset is one of the biggest differentiators between companies that are great by choice and good companies. Don't scare yourself by only thinking of 10X growth in revenue. Not everyone is motivated simply by more money. There are hundreds of 10X projects, ranging from client service, workflow, pricing, revenue per client, charity and talent development. The 10X leadership approach transforms the capabilities, resources and opportunities for many other people. We no longer operate in a linear and local environment, so the 10X approach can quickly take on a global perspective. Technology plays a significant role due to the fact that Moore's Law continues to exponentially impact the processing power and cost of technology.
The 10X leadership approach requires a sense of urgency, and from experience, accountants are driven by deadlines. I challenge you to address the five biggest challenges in your firm by naming five five-member teams (or fewer and smaller teams if you are a smaller firm). Give each team five weeks to come up with five ideas and a budget of $5,000 (or a number you are comfortable with -- don't be cheap) to implement a pilot project.
THE TASK FORCE APPROACH
For the past year we have utilized a program we named "The $DEA Factory," where we award a monthly prize for the best idea that will positively impact the firm. We have learned that the task force or team approach takes the idea beyond just an idea and drives results. Some of the best results have come from team members focused on back-office operations such as expense reporting, content management -- including e-mail -- number of sales/influencer calls, and revenue per client. Once you get over the initial reaction that, "I don't have a 10X idea," you find out that people do have 10X ideas. Many people just haven't worked in firms where people were encouraged and allowed to express their ideas, and certainly not rewarded financially. Dan Sullivan refers to this as a "bubbling company."
Leverage comes from the fact that the entire culture thinks in terms of 10X, not just the leaders.
Be careful and don't think success is only based upon the number of ideas. According to Jim Collins, the success of great companies is driven by the leader knowing when to scale or go fast. Every idea is not a great idea, but a culture that encourages 10X thinking will get more and better ideas.
Peter Drucker was the first person I heard say, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." 10Xers take an active approach in creating their future. Some of the characteristics of 10X leaders are:
1. They channel their ego and intensity into something that is larger and more enduring than themselves. They have passion and intensity.
2. They maintain a conservative financial position and retain resources that allow them to scale when the time is right.
3. They build the firm to be great without them. They define themselves by impact, contribution and purpose.
4. There are many individually successful people, but very few great firms make a 10X impact.
5. 10Xers know how to deal with luck -- good and bad. This is a primary differentiator.
6. Discipline -- they demonstrate consistency with values, standards and methods. This is not the type of discipline most CPAs think of -- obedience to authority and compliance with bureaucratic rules.
7. They are extremely vigilant, especially during good times.
8. They are creative and maintain a high level of confidence, which allows them to learn continually. They are lifetime learners.
9. They are innovators, but not necessarily pioneers.
10. They pace themselves. This reduces risk and builds confidence.
In closing, Collins refers to one of the most important characteristics of great companies as the strategy to fire bullets, and then cannonballs. He tells the story of a hostile ship coming directly toward you. If you want to survive, you don't start by firing cannonballs. You use rifle shots and when you hit, you scale with the heavy artillery.
The concept of the 10X leader is not for everyone, but as the most trusted advisor, CPAs have more influence than you think. With this trust comes responsibility. It may take a while for 10X leadership to grow on you, or you may already be a 10X leader. At any rate there are some great lessons for all firms and their leaders. I encourage you pick up a copy of Great by Choice and see how you and your firm can thrive in a chaotic world.
Gary Boomer, CPA, is the president of Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.
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