“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
If we’re going to have a chance at successfully developing and launching anything truly new in our organizations, we have to get into the arena. In other words, we have to fight the inertia to keep planning and thinking, and just get our ideas “out there” into the market, in the hands of our customers. The reality is that getting into the arena is where our entrepreneurial leadership abilities will be exposed and developed and it’s the only place where our ideas can become market leaders. Here are a few tips for getting into and mastering the arena:
1. Get past the resistance:
There are generally two key fears that keep us from putting an idea in front of customers in the market. First, we’re afraid that the idea isn’t “good enough” and won’t be successful; that the customer will hate it, and won’t want to partner with us to make it better. Second, we’re afraid that we, ourselves, won’t be successful in selling in our idea, or in anticipating obstacles or in being able to make needed changes/adjustments to our idea. Both of these fears are understandable, but must be overcome if we’re going to grow ourselves and leaders, and if we’re ever going to launch a market-changing idea. Get past the fear and step into the arena — once you start “fighting”, the fears and nervousness will give way to adrenaline.
2. Be okay with ambiguity:
While the objective of being in an arena is clear — win the fight — there is much ambiguity around exactly how it’s going to go. The obstacles that you face and the creative moves you invariably will have to make are likely the exact places where your idea, and your leadership, will grow the most. Learn to cherish the ambiguity as the source of learning, and let the answers emerge as you work through the challenges that come up.
3. Know how to win:
In the arena, there are two ways to win. You can win by knock out, or you can win by simply fighting a better fight. Fighting a better fight means learning from each challenge and obstacle that comes your way. Trying out and perfecting responses and tactics. Fighting a better fight not only leads to a solid win, but great learning along the way, building your strength and the strength of your idea along the way.
4. Give yourself an edge:
Training makes for a great arena match up. Before you take your idea into the “arena,” make sure you know your objectives. Thicken up your skin and be ready for the challenges that will come your way. Unlike most arena fights, take full advantage of the fact that you shouldn’t have to go in alone — a great team can make a big difference in successfully developing and launching an idea, as we’ve written about many times.
5. Sign yourself up for the fight:
Find an arena to step into for a project your leading, or join another team to get some arena experience. If you don’t put your name on the list, you’ll never get into the arena in the first place. Your development and your ideas deserve to make it to this risky, but rewarding place.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: http2007