Recently I had the misfortune to be trapped in a room in which an executive was enthusiastically ‘rallying the troops’. I am sure he thought that he was doing a good job and that those present were being suitably inspired with his every word. Fact is, I am pretty sure that what most in the room were thinking was simply, yada,yada, yada…
But, there is another way to interpret the word ‘yada’. Typical of consultant thinking (and no, that isn’t a recognised oxymoron!) I offer this to you for your contemplation when next you are trapped in some room or meeting with a leader who happens to be ‘yadering’ (my word). Yada could also be an acronym for, ‘yesterday’s answers don’t apply’.
Many leaders fall into the ‘yada trap’ (also my term) in both senses of the term yada. They are predicable, repetitive and tedious, as well as espouse ‘yesterday’s answers’ in response to today’s challenges. It is a fatal combination and yet can be a hard habit to get rid of or leave behind. One reason is that many leaders look to their own experience to provide solutions for today (and tomorrow’s) challenges. Whilst I will be the first to admit that there are instances where experience can prove valuable, in the majority of instances it doesn’t. In a world of exponential change and complexity, the solutions needed are not to be found by looking in the rear-view mirror! It can be said that in today’s world ‘experience has never counted for as little as it does today’.
That is a harsh thing to say. It is severe to hear – especially for those who’s only response to the future is their experience. Yet, I believe it is true.
It is a threat to those leaders who have stopped learning. Such leaders can be identified by their rhetoric. They spend more time looking back as opposed to creating a picture of the future; they strive to defend the status quo rather than challenge the current paradigms; they create stability as opposed to risking disruption. And, when they get to their feet, all we hear is yada, yada, yada…
Don’t be a Yada leader (again my term) and there are a couple of things you can do to prevent the yadaisms (my…you get the trademarking going down here, so I will stop) taking root. Here are five things you can do to ensure that you remain yada-free:
1. Allow others to challenge your thinking. Go beyond ‘allow’ and actually encourage it.
2. Talk more about the future than the past. Catch yourself starting sentences, “when we…” and rephrase them to be questions that start with, “could we…?”
3. Talk less and listen more.
4. Appoint a ‘yada cop’. Give permission to someone on your team to be a ‘yada cop’ and call you up whenever you break the yada rules.
5. Use the yada test: If everyone is always agreeing with you the chances are that you are yadering.
Yada, yada, yada. You simply don’t want to be that kind of leader, so don’t be.