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On first blush, this question seems ridiculous—maybe even absurd. In fact, we asked this very question to some talented managers last month. Some answers were predictable; others, not so much. One leader stated, “This is nuclear power, and we need to treat it with respect. However, we also need different ways of thinking to solve problems AND account for risk and safety.” So, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way.

Entrepreneurs often, and rightly so, get labeled as risk takers. Clearly, there’s not a lot of room to take risks in a nuclear power station, rail yard, or refinery. Those very organizations are primed to do just the opposite—control for and eliminate, when possible, any risks. At ELP, we won’t argue that—at all.

However, maybe there are other dimensions of entrepreneurship that could be ‘atplay’ in high hazard organizations. First, entrepreneurs are known to be creative problem solvers. While others may think in similar, linear fashions, successful entrepreneurs bring a diversity of views and thoughts to a problem. In high-hazard organizations, the problems can be complex. As a result, solutions sometimes need to be creative. Perhaps, the best way to know if your problem-solving is stale is to look at reoccurring problems. Clearly, the previous solutions weren’t working. These situations often demand out-of-the-box solutions to put them to bed—for good. By the way, entrepreneurs are often quite nimble and can move on a dime. Taking too long to identify or resolve a problem, common in many large organizations, violates the essence of entrepreneurship.

Second—and for some reason, many overlook this—they stand for continual improvement. They will take a product or a service and improve it at the margins. When even marginal improvements are enacted, they can charge a market premium. Of all the entrepreneurs that we’ve met (and we are part of that sample!), the most successful have an unerring—almost fanatical—devotion to continual improvement. They reject the status quo. Again, the reason is simple. Any improvement, no matter how slight, usually involves more profits. We are not alone in assuming that all high-hazard organizations, whether nuclear, oil, or rail, could benefit from this continual improvement mindset.

Finally, entrepreneurs and small business owners watch every cent because, often, it is their money—not other people’s money. With that, small business owners often possess a nuanced appreciation for value. In high regulatory environments, are we making smart decisions—ones that add value? Do we treat money and investments as if the business were our own? Maybe we all should do a better job here.

So, while on the surface, it may seem like running a small business and a nuclear power station are worlds apart, they may be much closer than they appear. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are a different breed. Moving forward, high-hazard organizations, such as nuclear power stations, may improve by allocating just a bit of their organizational mind-set to an entrepreneurial orientation.

80% of those who start PhDs never finish. A staggering statistic suggests that a full 50% of all doctoral candidates fail to earn their degree despite finishing all coursework. The stumbling block, of course, is the writing of the dissertation. Those who fail to progress often suffer from a lack of follow-thru. Follow-thru is the ability of an individual, team, or organization to deliver on a project or commitment-regardless of the difficulty. Not surprisingly, this notion of follow-thru is readily apparent in top-performing organizations, while conspicuously absent in lower-tier organizations. When we fail to follow-thru, we are making a statement-a declarative statement about ourselves, and our organizations.

This is what we say about ourselves when we fail to deliver on a commitment. First, it shows that we are easily distracted. Those individuals and organizations that follow-thru tend to be able to focus their attention better and stronger. To be clear, follow-thru doesn't require focus. It requires a steady, continual, and unwavering application of focus. Second, lack of follow-thru highlights a lack of endurance and stamina. About a decade ago, the U.S. Marine Corps added 'endurance' to their core Leadership Principles. One of the reasons is that follow-thru-especially on the difficult, trying, and complex projects, initiatives, or commitments-requires more time. Marine Corps leadership must've understood this unassailable truth-anyone can be committed for a day or two, even a month or two. True follow-thru, however, means extending that horizon to several months, if not years. Third, when an individual or organization fails to follow-thru, we see a lack of courage. When the going gets tough (and it always does), can the leadership team remain resolute in the face of naysayers, cynicism, and negative politicking? When a project gets bogged down, weaker leaders and soft organizations will roll over at the first sign of trouble and pain. Conversely, the very best organizations stay the course and continue to march. Finally, and related to the points above, when we fail to follow-thru, we demonstrate that we lack the will to persevere-the political, internal, and organizational will to drive on. This is quite damning. When followers and other stakeholders observe this lack of will, they lose confidence in the leadership team or organization. This lack of confidence is haunting as it will hinder or stop the next project or initiative before it even gets off the ground. A vicious circle is born. Failing to follow-thru hurts organizational confidence, which makes future projects/commitments less likely to succeed, which further hurts confidence.

Fortunately, follow-thru can be learned. Call Robin Bichy, an ELP founder and principal, at 703.999.5676, to learn more about how our process can build the follow-thru you need to win.

Three months ago, a manager with 20+ years of experience approached us after a meeting with a remarkable assertion—she was ready to quit. And the dominant reason offered was that she was convinced her boss didn’t care about her. Using our own medicine, one of us asked, “How could you possibly know that?” Her response was telling. She had said that over the last five years, neither her boss nor HR held a career discussion with her.

She may have been right. Few things signal that we care more than having a career discussion with members of our team. We remember her saying, “I don’t even want a promotion. I would love a lateral transfer to this job at HQ, but nobody ever asks me. I’ve been a top performer for the last five years, and I expected more of my leadership than this.”

Career mapping serves dual purposes. Most importantly, it shows, as a leader, that you take interest. You care enough to know someone’s wants, needs, talents and desires. It shows, as a leader, you care about the future potential of a person to a degree more than just caring about what they can produce in the present. Career mapping also serves the organization. The most sophisticated executives and HR departments are matchmakers! In essence, they match an employee’s wants, needs, talents and desires with organizational opportunities. As a leader, if you don’t know the wants, needs, talents and desires of your employees, how could you possibly match them up with an organizational opportunity that fits? You can’t. That’s the point.

To learn how to do career mapping correctly, legally and effectively, ping Robin Bichy, an ELP principal and founder, at