I read a fascinating article in Wired recently about how Google has failed to respond appropriately to rise of Facebook and other social networking sites. Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt is taking full responsibility. Schmidt is quoted as saying, “I clearly knew I had to do something and I failed to do it.”
For me, this was the most intriguing line in the article. Sam Gustin, the writer of the article, explained Schmidt “was so focused on running Google’s day-to-day operations that he didn’t give the issue the necessary attention.”
That’s when leadership fails. It’s easy to fall into the trap. We get focused on doing what we do. We try to get better at. We do all we can to get the team focused on what we do. We want improvement. We want quality. We want to do what we do well.
The problem is that when we get so focused on doing what we do well, we run the risk of missing what’s happening in the bigger picture.
- What we do well and had success doing in the past, may not work now and in the future.
- Other opportunities may surface, but we’re so focused on what we have to do today that we miss them.
- New threats to our strategy continue to pop up. If we only work on the day-to-day, they go unnoticed.
- We may falsely assume that the people we’re trying to reach stay the same — we assume their needs never change.
Here’s what’s most challenging about all this — leading the day-to-day is the easy part of leadership. We know it. We’re comfortable with it. We feel good doing things we know how to do.
The challenge, of course, is that an organization concerned about impacting multiple generations will experience a brief existence and then die if it’s focused solely on the day-to-day…even if the quality of the execution is flawless.
It’s probably time we pause to notice and then act on what requires our necessary attention.