The best leaders have the ability to truly self-reflect. There are always issues and changes needed in an organization, and while many are complex and cannot be taken care of immediately, we must know what they are and be able to prioritize executing a plan of correction/change.
We should also focus on having the type of people on our teams that think this way as well. An organization is a culmination of people and when things are going well, or when they are not going well, it is a reflection of the team’s strategy, execution, and the combined effort of individuals. Therefore, each person having strong self-reflection is necessary. If we all focus on the hypothetical question of “what would my replacement do?”, it really cuts through the emotion that can sometimes cover up the issues that are so close to us.
This thought process works for any role…. Say we are in charge of accounting for the organization and we notice we are having an issue with receivables. Actually it has been going on for a long time and we are just waiting for something bad to happen. So what would our replacement do? They would make sure our receivables report is up to date, they would circulate it to the appropriate team members asking for feedback, and then they would start making calls to delinquent accounts. As a follow-up they would set up a monthly collections review meeting, and would institute a new goal for the average maximum number of days bills should be outstanding; Now let’s say we are a sales person and what has worked for us in the past is not working so well anymore. We know we have baggage that is holding us back from entering new verticals, talking to new prospects, etc. Someone new coming in would have the advantage of not being tied to the past, so thinking like they would, could help. They would focus on where success is going to come from moving forward and would start executing on that right away. They would be trying to make their mark as a new person, and while they would acknowledge the success of the past, they would want to become a new pacesetter themselves. All of the sudden we remember the word “prospecting” again, and remember that doing it is the reason we have been successful so far, and that is time to rev that engine up again; and as one last example, let’s say we are a project manager. We do a great job with our projects and rarely have a complaint. De we need improvement even if things are going right 95% of the time? You bet, and in this example, we likely would be focusing on that 5% and the “why” behind it. Let’s assume the complaints are a result of not providing satisfactory training documentation and project management notes to the client. Additionally, we know our process by heart, so we do not document them, and it sometimes leads to missing a step that causes an issue. Any good new person coming into this role would ask for feedback from peers on what could be improved, and would set out making the appropriate changes.
The question of “What would my replacement do” is one that leaders think about frequently. It allows us to look at things from an outsider’s perspective, but with insider knowledge. And just know that there will only be brief moments in time when we do not have an answer for the question – because no matter how strong our pursuit of it, perfection is rare.