Leadership often feels like a leap of faith. As Simon Sinek has said, “it takes great courage to believe in something greater than yourself.” Being a leader is tough—it can be a thankless, lonely job. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe to be right, especially when leading people through change.
October is a month riddled with fear as people ramp up for Halloween. We thought this was as good a time as any to talk about fear as it relates to leadership, decision making, and change. The younger generation refers to fear as FOMO—the fear of missing out. This fear drives their decision to jump on board or stand on the sidelines. The water industry doesn’t suffer from FOMO as much as it suffers from a fear of change at times. However, there is a good reason why water providers are traditionally risk-averse. When your product directly affects a community’s public health, you don’t have the luxury of failure or the ability to simply jump around between the next new thing or trend. There needs to be some level of proven results and safety considerations.
While slow-moving may be acceptable, innovation and creativity are often stymied by paralysis by analysis and fear-based decision making. Do you suffer from a fear of missing out on innovative smart water opportunities or fear that you’ll fall behind? As a leader, it’s important to recognize when you’ve crossed over from caution to fear. Fear of the unknown is common but information is the antidote. Here are a few tips we’ve heard from insiders that help use that fear of missing out a tool to move forward instead of an excuse to stay stagnant.
SET A DATE
Set an implementation date for your proposed project and share it with your team. This turns your research into part of a process moving towards a common end goal and not just a hypothetical activity. Delegate and work together to gather the necessary information to make an informed decision while avoiding the black hole of paralysis by analysis.
A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS
Get input from your network but limit the number of people you reach out to. Get information from utilities of varying sizes—similar, smaller, and larger. Utilities similar in size and structure provide a more “apples to apples” comparison. Looking at larger utilities gives you perspective related to the future growth of your community. Smaller utilities may provide insight from a budgetary perspective as they are often challenged with smaller budgets and have to be creative regarding funding.
THE MORE THE MERRIER
Don’t go it alone. Bring in your team and make sure the group you assemble represents a cross-section of your utility so that you’re getting input at all levels. This not only helps gain buy-in for future decisions but also helps catch any obstacles you may not have considered. Don’t forget to look outside of your department either. There is value in having your IT, finance, customer service, and communication folks in the loop so you don’t hit snags later down the road.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Smart water means changes for your utility but how it is going to impact your customers? Make sure you communicate how the current system works, your vision for the future, and how this impacts them. Focus on what this change has to do with them and how it will impact their day-to-day. Be upfront about both the positives and negatives, i.e. better service comes with a cost but address your plan to continually improve and do the most with every dollar. Have this plan in place before implementation or better yet, include the public in the process from the beginning.
Information is wonderful, but there is truth in the saying there can even be “too much of a good thing.” Don’t let data overload become the quicksand to your utility’s adoption of smart water innovation. This year, leave the fear for the trick or treaters and use information effectively to overcome fear and become a leader in both your community and the industry.