Stop Duplicating. Start Leading.
Duplication is king in our industry (network marketing/direct sales), or at least that’s the myth we are sold. “Make sure you have a duplicatable system.” “A DVD never has a bad day.” “Whatever you’re doing, it better be duplicatable.” Duplication is the mantra, the subtext, the mecca to strive for on our yellow brick road to success.
However, in our endless pursuit of this supposed golden egg, do we ever stop to ask, “What are we duplicating?”
The franchise model is held up as the example of why having a system is the key to our success.
But maybe it isn’t.
If we are seeking to develop entrepreneurial leaders then duplication could, in fact, be our enemy. Gasp! Sounds blasphemous, but we need to stop and ask ourselves what are we really looking for? Do we want robots who duplicate by rote or leaders who create for themselves?
The state of our current education system demonstrates clearly how duplication creates followers rather than independent thinkers or leaders. A recent article on Ivy League schools contends that “the overachievers at the nation’s most elite schools are conformists, who excel at jumping through hoops without questioning why.”
More and more, school curricula are “teaching to the test” and producing students who can test well perhaps, but haven’t necessarily learned critical or analytical thinking. What I hear from friends who are current or former teachers is that students are so focused on the what they need to do to get where they’re going that they miss learning in the process. They’re focused on outcomes rather than who they want to be in the process.
Parallel this to relying on scripts, presentations, sales strategies, one-size fits all training and systems that are prevalent in the culture of our industry and you can see where duplication takes the humanity out of our business. A business which is supposedly all about relationships. A business whose goal is to foster leadership.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do believe that scripts, systems, etc. have their place, especially as part of training for new people, providing a security blanket they can fall back on for courage. However, what I see time and again is a failure to let go of the safety wire. Instead, too many hold on tight, long after they need to, rather than put themselves out there as leaders, confident in their own abilities or new found skills.
Please understand that I am NOT saying that we don’t need systems. I’m saying that we rely on them too heavily. It’s as if having the perfect verbiage, the right presentation, the magic bullet is a shield we can hide behind, avoiding responsibility for planting our flag. Are we afraid of playing a bigger game?
“Step By Step” system? Great if you want followers. If you’re looking to develop leaders? Not so much. I say yes to core concepts and having steps people can take, a tool chest from which they can draw what they need, when they need it. But if I’m looking for (or being attracted by) a step by step process, then perhaps I’m not really an entrepreneur but instead stuck in the limited employee/manager model of thinking.
A step by step process requires no leadership from the follower or the leader. It exonerates both from being creative, listening to one another, problem solving, taking ownership and all the other qualities required of an entrepreneur. We complain that people make excuses, that they don’t “do what they’re supposed to.” If they’d just follow the process… Well, maybe the process isn’t serving them. It certainly isn’t requiring leadership from them.
We all want fail safe systems that we can follow and ultimately give responsibility to. There’s definitely comfort there. We followed the system and it didn’t work so now we can blame the system. Certainly we are not to blame.
I daresay that having a step by step process is a myth within a leadership model. It’s a comfort zone leftover and created by managerial thinking (not leadership) because what we actually create is just another hamster wheel for people to run on. It’s still fostering a JOB mentality rather than independent, free entrepreneurial thinking.
Instead, what if we meet people where they are and point them to an appropriate resource? Follow up, meet them again and repeat the process.
If we are going to insist on a process, perhaps it is this:
Meet. Point. Dance.
The sooner we embrace that this business (and life) is about improvisation and being in relation to (dancing with) the person and situation in front of us, the faster we grow. Yes, we do need an outline, a script and to know the plot line for our play or the steps of our dance. At some point, however, we must go off-script and trust that we know our lines, that we know what to do.
Yes, we must learn the dance – but then we have to actually dance!
Ultimately, it is our willingness and ability to dance with our partners in any given situation that determines our success, not the dance itself. The type of dance or the steps don’t matter nearly as much as how well we’re dancing with our partners.
Ultimately, it is about what we are focusing on. Like students focused on memorizing facts for a test rather than learning concepts, we can focus too much on outcomes (duplication) rather than the game we are playing (leadership).
The fact is, we can’t play the game very well if we are always looking at the scoreboard.
Let’s focus on the game we’re playing rather than the outcomes. Because, when we focus on the game of developing leaders, the duplication will happen. Not the other way around.