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SMEs As a Litmus Test for Leadership
Episode #31 of the Third Turn Podcast.
Does the use of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as a litmus test for leadership seem a bold and unusual statement? Hear us out as Mark and I explain this perspective, having led and served on both sides of the fence--as executive leaders and as SMEs. (And as you listen, you’ll note that we changed the title post-recording--wink wink.)
Why and how would the use of SMEs be any kind of litmus test? Especially for the Third Turn leader?
If, when, and how we use SMEs throughout our leadership journey can snapshot:
- Whether we lead with an I-need-to-have-all-answers persona and pressure (think back to Episode #27 with Scott Rodin), or recognize the value of outside objectivity and timely expertise at strategic junctures;
- Whether we penny pinch talent allocations, insisting on in-house resources in all cases, or plan and budget for broader thought-leadership and resource needs when merited;
- Whether we fall prey to the latest/greatest methods and strategies for their own sake, or engage SMEs first and foremost in ultimate service of the mission, values, and operational culture.
Mark and I discuss these dynamics and have lived experience from the best and worst sides of the SME litmus test.
- The leader who glossed over a staff suicide in fairly short order, totally missing the needs of the team--rather than reaching out for expert help and resources that were desperately needed in a painful time.
- The president who didn’t have patience for his in-house SME who had deep reservations about the very real operational ramifications associated with a sexy new strategy;
- And on a brighter note: The innovation story where brand managers enlisted brand elasticity and product/packing innovation SMEs for a new product introduction that ultimately leveraged the very best of both the mission and brand, and its collaborative expert teams.
Especially at the Third Turn, as we intentionally peer into the mist of future opportunity, vitality, and value, Subject Matter Experts in areas like trends and innovation, strategic finance modeling, and talent development can bring much-needed perspective to serve and grow the mission in fresh, timely, market-relevant ways. And whether, when, and how we engage them can serve as a litmus test both for the types of leaders we are and for our outcomes and probability of success.
- The Sigmoid Curve, developed by Charles Handy, can serve as a helpful visual diagram of the need and process of organizational growth and strategic junctures, and this article--CEOs: Stay Ahead of the (Sigmoid) Curve to Grow Revenue in 2020 and Beyond--explains it in very practical terms.
- Organizational Development Consulting: We Might Turn You Down - Written by Mark and the team at Design Group International, this blog article humorously describes that Subject Matter Expert who is perhaps more focused on the organization’s mission than is the executive leader.
- Outsourcing - An Outcomes interview with Mark and accompanying article
- Plus a diagram that visually depicts the role of SMEs in an organizational context:
- And we reference marketplace chaplaincy in this episode, an outsourced service that is experiencing a resurgence in relevance in context of our current labor shortage and stressful culture and workplace dynamics. Check out Corporate Chaplains of America and reach out to Chaplain Jeff Thomson if you’d like to learn more.
With each episode of the Third Turn Podcast we host a conversation among leaders who want the world to flourish for generations beyond their lifetimes.
Listening with others in some way and enjoying in-depth conversations of your own as you reflect and choose what you would do the same or differently is a plus!
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