What’s unreasonable?

Graphic of lighbulbs in various sizes, two of which have he words BE UNREASONABLE inside.The other day, I heard from a colleague that the concept and outline they’d put forward for a leadership development program were considered by the CHRO to be too much to take on. It’s unfortunate, because the program would have been a differentiator for their company in many ways – employee retention, hiring attractiveness, and, of course, leadership strength and succession planning. All of which add up to a productive, profitable bottom line (pun intended).

I’m fond of author Ozan Varol’s perspective on “unreasonable”:

“Ideas that make a big impact initially seem unreasonable. If they were reasonable, someone else would have thought of them already.

Unreasonable often refers to reasonable not yet made reality. Unreasonable often means untried or unfamiliar.

Unreasonable suggests that an idea deviates from your preconceived benchmark of what is reasonable. But, in many cases, it’s not your idea that’s misplaced. It’s your benchmark.

And it’s easier to tone down an unreasonable idea than to create a new one.”

We’re at a time when nothing seems especially reasonable, given the pandemic, contradictory messages from the economy, local and geopolitical forces, and … well, I could go on, but it’s a long list.

And leaders have a much bigger role to play now than ever before. It starts with the managers, those individuals recently promoted out of team collaboration into leading the team, leading people.

First-line managers have always faced significant challenges in crossing the gap between that individual-contribution role (which they excelled at, thus leading to their promotion) and the new skills required to lead a team. But now it’s so much more. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently pointed out that the manager is now the “full-service concierge” for their people. And he’s far from the only one emphasizing the importance of skillful managers who understand the importance and impact of their role as leaders of people – leaders of a variety of people who need a variety of things in order to excel.

If you think about the days when you were an individual team member and think about the impact your manager had on you, whether positive or … notsomuch … I think you’ll agree that there’s always been room for improvement in how managers are supported in becoming leaders. A 2019 (thus pre-pandemic) study showed that 57% of employees thought their manager could use some training and support – and I’m sure it’s gotten worse since then.

I’d like to encourage everyone – managers, executives, senior leaders, and, yes, individual employees – to think a little less reasonably about how to go forward from here.

Because in the end, you can spend your money on a solid, perhaps somewhat unreasonable leadership development program, or you can spend your money on recovering from the damage done by struggling, failing managers who simply don’t know any better – but would sincerely love to do better.

In short, when you consider the costs of a leadership development program, don’t forget to consider the costs of not having that program, and the resulting lost productivity, employee turnover, burnout and mental health problems, and challenges in attracting the best candidates for your open positions.

I have several program options for training and supporting managers, from cohort-based to individual. Contact me to learn more. It’s important.