Why Innovating Is Lonely…And Other Lifelong Insights from CEO Bob Pearson

I love the podcast format to just sit back and think out loud on what we are learning in life with leaders who are expert at interviews, like Rick Tocquigny, who leads a great podcast series called “Success Made to Last Legends.” In our 28-minute talk, we touched on several important moments in my career, thus far. Here are a few that stick out:

Innovation is Lonely – When you build new models or start new companies, I am always amazed at how people will say “why do you think that will work” or “you sure you can do that” or some other piece of helpful advice.  Having the courage to take a chance requires an inner peace that is worth thinking about vs. listening too closely to some of the advice we do get.

How to Prepare to Take Risk – If we are honest, we all have moments in which we get “butterflies.” That’s normal. What we need to do is prepare ourselves so that we can harness this energy and make the most of it. I liken it to getting prepared to play in sports, since I grew up as an athlete and had to continually prepare, conquer anxiety, and just get out there and do my best.

Breakdowns do Lead to Breakthroughs – Early in my career, I was part of a team at CIBA-GEIGY (now Novartis) where we presented to the marketing leadership team on a launch plan for the 13th non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to enter the U.S. Marketing rejected our plan and told us to go figure out a plan that would succeed. We were initially dejected. Next thing I know, I am on a plane to Joplin, Missouri to recruit Mickey Mantle as our spokesperson. We launched with Mickey and became #2 in the U.S. market in six months. We never would have built that breakthrough campaign without the initial breakdown. Perspective matters in life. 

Some of the Best Stories May Never Be Told –  After the Tsunami of 2004, Dan Vasella (then-CEO of Novartis) directed leaders to help countries and people in need worldwide. He also asked that we not publicize our efforts in any manner. His strongly held view was that we should just do the right thing and if people figure it out later, great. If not, also fine. It was the most significant example of being truly humble in the corporate world I’ve ever been part of.   

Why the ABCDE Model was created – Kip Knight, Ed Tazzia and myself wrote the book, Crafting Persuasion, based on the ABCDE Model, which was created by the hard work of 15+ teachers for the U.S. State Department who didn’t give up until we could figure out how to build, tell and share a more powerful story in a model that can scale worldwide. Judging by the notes we routinely receive from leaders in Africa, South America, Asia, and some remote parts of the world, I would say the team has built a powerful and long-lasting model.

Knowing if Your Team is Really Doing What You Asked – Sam Gibbons was my regional director and informal mentor when I was in sales, who may have never known the impact he was having on me. I remember being asked to lead a district planning meeting for 10 salespeople for two days, as part of my sales management training. After the meeting, Sam asked a simple question: “What will everyone do next and how do you know?”  I told Sam that I told everyone what they needed to do. Sam repeated his question and I realized I did not know. I might have been articulate, but it wasn’t clear we had a game plan that was easy to check on months later. Never forgot this lesson. 

Why Sound Can Break Language Barriers – Sound and emojis can help transcend language barriers, which is important in accelerating how we communicate worldwide.

The Silver Lining of Covid-19 – The pandemic has made us all wonder if we are running our lives, professionally and personally, in the best way. This is changing how we work, as well as how we interact with our friends and family. It is also reinforcing what we value in the workplace. These results are healthy for us professionally and will lead to a better way over time.

What Successful People are Really Like – I have worked alongside many top CEOs and C-Suite leaders for my entire career, in addition to having been exposed to how great athletes, musicians and other leaders reflect on their work. The headline is simple. People who are successful never believe they are successful. They always think of what they can do better and must be reminded sometimes that they are doing good things too.  In reality, they often find praise to be slightly embarrassing. They are far more comfortable figuring out what to improve. 

So, if you are on the road to being a great leader and you are being hard on yourself in each situation you find yourself in, just remember that so are the best leaders in our world. You are not alone. 

Note: Thank you to Edward Jones for their support of the podcast. I recommend you look at www.successmadetolast.com and Rick’s podcasts.  Plus, www.craftingpersuasion.com has great sources available, if you are interested in analytics, measurement and more. 

By Bob Pearson

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