It’s shortly after 3am, and you wake up for no particular reason. Unable to go back to sleep straight away, you absentmindedly check your email. “We caught the cow!”, says the subject line of a message from Mio, your manager of future-oriented lightning logistics yield (f.o.l.l.y.). Mio and his team are currently on a negotiation tour in the South-East, and just yesterday, they succeeded in securing an advantageous contract with an elusive supplier of rare metals. You nod, smile, and start to type a congratulatory reply to the team. Suddenly, a cloud moves on and moonlight streams into your room. You pause.
You wonder: At an industry meeting last month, one of your competitors had indicated that he was about to close an exclusive deal with this particular supplier; in a status meeting less than a week ago, Mio had strongly opposed continuing negotiations because of unacceptable risk sharing clauses; and just yesterday, in a different context, your acquisition target task force had shown rapidly declining share prices for this segment of the supplying market. Something is odd about this deal happening now.
You close your email. Your mind is humming: “All that is gold does not glitter”.
Because of their position, leaders mostly get messages about what is out of the ordinary. People turn to them when things get really difficult, and they turn to them when things go really well. Of course, in these cases, there’s advice to give or support to provide, and there’s praises to sing or rewards to offer. Organizations thrive when their leaders know how to extend help when things go south and how to sustain motivation when things go north.
At the same time, leaders are responsible for carefully watching the bigger context: What’s really going well? And what isn’t? Who’s benefiting? And who isn’t? Who else is watching what’s happening? What do things mean for them? Closing the contract with the rare metals supplier might be a good thing – and it might also be an indication that the supplier landscape is about to break apart with a ping and a pang, that your competitor is planning a major “Cow jumping over the Moon” project, and that Mio from f.o.l.l.y. is about to run away with some silver Sunday spoon.
Only by watching who’s watching you’ll be able to see the broader web of causes and effects surrounding the immediate event which was brought to your attention – allowing you to plan ahead and prepare for developments well beyond the actual success (or failure) at hand.
You reach for your notebook. “Who’s the little dog laughing?”, you write. And: “Who’s Sauron? And what does the Eye of Sauron see?”. You put your notebook down next to the last volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, which you’ve been re-reading for the past weeks. And as the sun raises, you go back to bed.
* This is the third of a series of blog posts exploring some uniquely motivating mindfully elaborated ramblings (s.u.m.m.e.r.) of mine, written during my summer vacation in 2019, investigating topics and trends relevant for leaders in today’s multilayered world. All persons, situations, and dialogues quoted are purely fictional, albeit informed by what I see happening in companies I work with. If you want to know what I do when I work, read more here and here [retrieved July 9, 2019].