The leader of a Middle Eastern nation was given a global competitiveness report showing that his country, despite being a major oil exporter, ranked very low in terms of global competitiveness. Investors were simply not prepared to invest in his country, except for a few dodgy characters. Foreign currency reserves were low, and young people were unemployed and roaming the streets.
First, he called in some senior politicians and asked what they thought of the report. Some said it was a hoax designed to embarrass the country. Others said it was the work of their enemies who wanted to steal their oil. Yet others said it was simply not true.
Then the leader quietly called one of the country’s leading business leaders.
“Your Highness, do you really want to know the truth?” the man asked quietly.
The leader then assured him that if he told him the truth, he would ensure that he was protected. After listening to the business leader, the ruler of the country asked him to make recommendations to correct the situation. Over the next five years, the ruler met quietly with the business leader and the team he had built. These men and women were not interested in political power or office. They just wanted to see their country prospering and respected around the world. They also brought in global experts, consulted investors directly, and visited best practice nations favored by global investors.
Using this “data,” they made bold changes to the laws of their country. Some laws in place for generations were simply repealed. The ruler retrained or removed civil servants and other regulators who were hostile to business and investment.
In no time at all, the country began to attract huge levels of investment from some of the largest businesses in the world. Those companies set up factories and businesses that employed lots of people, and those people in turn had money to feed their families, send children to school, and increase their own wealth.
__It’s a remarkable story.
That country is now amongst the top 15 in global competitiveness ratings.
The business leader, a friend of mine, has spoken about what they did at international conferences, attended by global leaders from both business and politics.
Interestingly, this story does not just apply for leaders of nations. It applies also to business leaders, entrepreneurs, and just about anyone who runs an organization, including even a church.
There are a few lessons I’d like you to take away:
#Whether you’re in a business, a not-for-profit organization, or even, as in this case, a government, don’t be afraid to look at the data, even if it’s unfavorable. Only don’t then blame or deny the data. DO SOMETHING!
Start by asking the right questions of the right people.
# It matters whom you go to if you want to fix a problem. If the challenge had been national security, it wouldn’t have been wise to call in a business leader. When you have an economic problem, you must turn to those who understand the economy, with proven experience dealing with the specific challenges you face, even if those experts are not your nationals.
# If you receive a report showing that sales are down in your business and have been consistently falling, don’t be afraid (or too proud) to reach out to experts who understand the business you’re in. By doing so, it does not mean that you’re admitting failure; you are just being wise.
# You will never solve a problem by listening to people who tell you what they think you want to hear.
# There are very few people who, when approached for advice, will admit they don’t know enough about an issue. They’ll always have an opinion. This is why it’s very important to think carefully about whom you’re going to consult, and why.
# If your senior management is unhappy or unsettled when they see you listening to external advice, then you have a problem in your organization. No matter how big or successful, it’s never possible or even efficient, to have all the expertise you need in-house. Even the President of the United States relies on outside advisors to come in now and again to help out on key issues. Be smart, get advice as and when needed, and make it a culture of your organization.
# Being willing and able to get professional advice outside your organization or business is a critical part of modern management. A healthy, successful organization is one in which the leadership encourages and embraces external advice. One way I assess a potential leader in my business is how well they seek advice from others, including those from outside the organization. If a manager comes to me and says he or she would like to hire an outside consultant to help them with something, I usually support such a request immediately.
Author: Strive Masiyiwa