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Crippled CEO Blog #170: Resistance and Leadership Capital

Crippled CEO Blog #170:

So much has been written on how important it is to have the right people in your company. All a business is, really, is a collection of people. That’s it. So, it follows that getting the people right is practically the only thing that truly matters.

And while I have seen this repeated ad nauseam, I don’t see a lot of people saying what those right (or wrong) people look like – what attributes they possess.

So, I wanted to talk about one of those attributes, and in particular one that I think isn’t just overlooked, but the very concept itself isn’t known, making it impossible to look out for at all.

This attribute is resistance. 

In his fantastic book, Extreme Ownership, former Navy SEAL commander and current CEO Jocko Willink talks about the idea of “leadership capital“. As a leader, you have a leadership capital “bank account.” Everything you do, from your facial expressions to the way you talk, deposits or withdraws from that account. If I trust someone with an important project, that deposits “money” into my account. If I listen to their feedback, that puts “money” into my account. When I give out bonuses or Fridays off in the winter, more deposits into the account. And it’s important to have that account filled up, because eventually, I need to spend that capital. If I need everyone to stay late to get a bunch of important orders out, that withdraws from the account. If I ask someone to do something that they think is a bad idea, that is a withdrawal from the account. If I screw up, that is a withdrawal. You are OK with your boss trying something you’re not sure about if he’s had a track record of success previously, but if this is his 10th bad idea in a row, then you’re not. If you spend too much from the account without enough deposits, eventually, your leadership capital is bankrupt, and that’s when you lose people. That’s when folks are fed up and can’t take it anymore.

What does this have to do with resistance? 

Employees who have lots of resistance force you to spend more leadership capital. 

I’m going to give two examples. Here is the first:

Let’s say that someone working for you gives a presentation, and it goes really poorly. Afterwards, you ask them how they think it went, and they tell you that it was awful. They already have a bunch of ideas on how they’re going to improve it for next time.

The next day, same situation, different person. They give a bad presentation, and you ask them how they think it went. They tell you that it was amazing. They couldn’t be happier with their performance.

The second person is going to be a lot more resistant to change and feedback than the first person. That resistance is going to force you to spend more leadership capital — a finite and valuable resource.

The second example of resistance is a bit different. 

I’m so thankful that the team that I have now share the same foundational philosophies and ideas. We all see the big picture. We are focused on long-term success, and willing to make short term sacrifices for the long-term success of the brand. We believe that doing the right thing is always the right thing. They all believe that our company should be a happy, enjoyable place to be, where our customers, coworkers, and vendors are treated with kindness, fairness, generosity, and grace. Everyone is on board with trying interesting and creative ideas, even if they might not work, and with constantly trying to evolve.

Because of this, when I (or someone else) want to try something new, bold, or creative, the response I get is typically enthusiasm and excitement. Now, it is important to note that this is different from being surrounded by “yes men” who just agree with me all the time, because that’s certainly not the case. People definitely speak up if they think something is wrong. But when I want to make crazy company shirts, donate to every drowning prevention nonprofit in the country, upgrade the products in a major way, or develop a new warehouse management software, everyone is generally eager to help out, and on board with the larger ideas, even if we debate the details or implementation. 

This makes such a big difference, and it wasn’t always the case. In the past, I had resistance from people on every level of the company, from the leadership all the way down to the person sweeping the floor in the warehouse. Because there was such a gap in our core ideologies, the result was that every new project or idea or direction was immediately viewed negatively, and everything was a fight. And this constant arguing, cajoling, and convincing was a massive expenditure of leadership capital. Because even small things took so much capital, we were limited in what we could do. I was also always second-guessing myself, which caused decision paralysis. It was like being stuck in a quagmire. And the truth is that even a flawed plan is better than no plan, that it’s often better to do something rather than nothing, but if you’re constantly being told that everything you try to do is wrong, nothing is what ends up happening. 

That’s the painful result of resistance. 

Once you know the concept, it is easier to spot it when it’s happening. And once you know how detrimental it is, it is easier to prioritize replacing the people for whom it’s the most salient. 

(Do you know who showed zero resistance last night? Your mom. Your mom also gets a text from me every Sunday with a link to the latest blog post. Send a text to 561-726-1567 with the word CRIP as the message to get a link to the blog as soon as it’s up.

Did you know that I have a YouTube channel now? I do! I am putting up two videos every single week. Go search for Crippled CEO and you’ll find me. I would appreciate it if you subscribed.)

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