When leaders have epiphanies

Bam! In a gush of mental processing, you figured out the puzzle pieces and achieved a breakthrough of extraordinary, life-altering magnitude. Not only has your epiphany enlightened you, it has illuminated the path before you. You are in a different place where you see everything clearly. As a business trainer and coach, I witness leaders having epiphanies all the time. Heck, it’s my job to guide leaders to have those epiphanies.

The good news is that when leaders have epiphanies, they are massively empowering and ignite a sense of urgency to innovate something new, do things differently and just get the change train out of the station. The bad news about leaders having epiphanies is that people around them often don’t have a clue what’s going on or where the train is going. How could they, with the leader up front in the engine flailing his engineer hat around, shouting “woo hoo” and pushing the throttle to full speed ahead?

Here are some no-compromise strategies to allow your epiphanies to occur without driving everyone else crazy:

  • Beam me back, Scotty: Epiphanies instantly transport leaders to a different place while leaving your team in the dust. Until you share your epiphany Kool-Aid with your team, they will perceive you and your epiphany as something from outer space. Until you invest the time to thoroughly download the why and wherefore of your epiphany to your team, your enlightenment or idea will frustrate those you lead instead of inspiring them.
  • Epiphanies signal change: Not everyone is comfortable riding the change train. Some even refuse to get onboard. That’s why it’s essential that you balance your newfound enlightenment with determination and heavy doses of information. If your epiphany came with a user’s guide, what would that look like? If your epiphany caused a shift in your leadership style or focus, it would sure help your employees figure out the new you if they could read about the updated features and how to use them. The same goes for any new system, business model or innovation.
  • Lead through the epiphany: Don’t push – lead. Epiphanies can be inspiring. In our recent Beyond Being the Boss seminar, I did a segment on how to take a sabbatical for a month or so. Most initially balked at the idea saying, “There’s no way I can take that much time off.” After further exploration, bam! The epiphanies went off like popcorn popping. Two leaders went back to their companies and announced their sabbaticals, focusing on the unique opportunity it presented to their team leaders and staff to prove themselves.
  • It’s a seed – not a tree: When epiphanies occur, they’re in a fairly raw form. You may see the destination or outcome quite clearly, but the process or plan to get there only exists in the abstract. Epiphanies need time to bake, to gain texture and definition. Think of an epiphany as only giving you the first 15% of the solution. New thinking and behavior take time to lock in. Ideas or systems need to be tested. Sense of urgency is fine, but making a mad dash across a potential minefield can get you and those who believe in you blown up.
  • Epiphany or brain fart: This is a tricky one to explain. Some epiphanies can be acts of desperation. I’ve seen leaders make some pretty bad decisions that only made matters worse. An epiphany can be a great idea but impractical to initiate at the time. And there are epiphanies that are just brain farts that you hope nobody notices. You feel it when a true epiphany occurs. An epiphany lights you up and energizes you. Even then, you need to see if the epiphany has staying power.

So, let your epiphanies materialize. Just manage them so they don’t get out of control.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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