Ten years ago, I spoke at a national meeting of sales teams and executives. This was my last formal presentation to a company that I helped grow over the previous 27 years. The speech I gave was about kaleidoscopes and their relevance to business and leadership. That corporation was going through a significant reorganization and rooftop reduction effort. The changing view of a kaleidoscope seemed like a classic and relevant metaphor then. Now, it seems more relevant than ever — not just for that company, but for our security industry.
Here are four lessons from kaleidoscopes and life:
Think about the various pieces of material that go into the making of a kaleidoscope. First, there is the cylindrical body. Inside that body there are lenses and mirrors. And even further inside are glass fragments or beads. When you peer into a kaleidoscope, however, you don’t just see these individual elements — what you see can change depending on how the pieces inside the cylinder are positioned.
The same is true of business.
If the viewing tube represents your business then the glass beads are your assets — your people, your processes, your intellectual property, your products and services. Staying agile in this era of unforeseen changes can be transformative. Those who adapt and twist to move their assets or people into a new, more powerful view to the marketplace will be rewarded. The distinctive parts in their kaleidoscope are still the same parts. They simply have been moved or repurposed to meet the needs that the market is demanding — same parts, same lens, different view, new outcome.
Inclusion & Diversity
Think about a kaleidoscope in terms of its colorful intricacies. There is richness of color, a diversity of many sizes of shards, a collection of shapes and hues of the glass beads, and a variety of light that shines upon those pieces. There is also the ability to twist and turn a kaleidoscope to let other pieces or parts shine brighter than they were able to before.
Now compare that description to your company. Compare it to your business practices.
Back in the mid-sixties, my grandma and I used to talk at night after school. The conversation would often turn to people. She would say to me, “Ricky, not everybody likes white Chevrolets and that’s a good thing!” She was so smart. What would the world be like if we all looked alike and drove the same car? What would it look like if we followed the same sports team and all shared the same beliefs?
The diversity of people, with all of our various backgrounds and histories, could be our greatest strength. The best companies I have ever worked for had that exceptional tapestry of heritage and diversity. It is heartwarming to see many current business leaders not just speaking about change, but that many are actually affecting change through their actions. Scholarships, sponsorships, mentorships, internships and even the basic premise of discussion now dot the landscape. More is needed.
Think about what a kaleidoscope would look like without color or diversity. Now think about business.
Your Moment in the Light
Throughout my career and my family life with my wife of 33 years, I have often talked about wisdom passed on to me by others. Your work is your word; it is a definition of who you are. When you add your signature to any document, it should represent the absolute best of you.
Let’s talk about you as one shard or bead in your company’s kaleidoscope. When the lens spins and it’s your turn in the spotlight, how will you act? Will you take full advantage of your moment to shine brightly? Will you push forward or hide behind the other shards around you? Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we only get that one moment in the brightest light. Let’s make sure that when we do, we take full advantage.
What Your Customers See
Without customers, there simply would be no point in discussing anything about leadership, structure or strategy.
Our customers are the single most important part of our business. There is nothing that should ever get in the way of that reality. And so, we need to ask a question: When you present your business kaleidoscope to your customer, what do they see? Does what you described to them and what you intended for them to see matter? Or, does it only matter what they see?
A crucial view of your kaleidoscope is what your customer sees. Does that view match or exceed their business needs? If not, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. If it does, capitalize on that truth. Always do your best to adapt to their needs.