Usain Bolt

If you watch someone run the 100 meters, they sneak glances around. Sprinters watch each other while they run. They want to know where are in the pack and what place they might get. I noticed that only Usain Bolt looks at the clock.

Usain Bolt looks at the clock because maybe he’s used to being ahead of everyone else. But I think it is because he is really only competing against himself.

When trying to introduce innovation I often get asked a frustrating question. The question is “Who else is using this?” or “How does Blackrock / PIMCO / Janus / Etc. do it?”. It is even worse when talking about policy because I am almost guaranteed to hear: “What’s Goldman’s / Barclay’s / Fidelity’s policy?”

It seems in order to make a decision some people want to know what everyone else is doing first. This line of questioning is almost inevitable in a large organization but it makes me cringe when I hear it.

Think about it for a moment. This isn’t the recipe for leadership and innovation. This is the recipe for risk avoidance/going with the heard. It is the sprinters in the pack looking around to see where everyone else is.

PROTIP: You can’t define your metrics in terms of others. In other words “We want to be in the top quartile” means you are just in the pack watching everyone else. Define your goals simply, directly, and on your own terms: “Our margin will be 40%” or “We will bring in $1 Billion in net flows” and then watch your scoreboard.

If you really want to lead then you should only look at your target, the clock, your scoreboard because everyone else is behind you.