At SXSW there was no shortage of great panels, keynotes, content, insights and sound bites to consumer. With over 1,000 sessions, there was something for everyone. Of all the sessions I attended, the one that still sticks with me was Lawyered: Lessons from Foursquare, Meetup & Etsy. With the General Counsels from fourSquare, Etsy and Meetup, you knew the content was going to be great. They definitely delivered.
Brian Chase, the General Counsel of fourSquare shared a story about his transformation from “dream smasher” to sought out partner. It stuck with me. Days later, I’m still thinking about it. In any organization, there are no shortage of “dream smashers” who are on a mission to marginalize your ideas in the name of some greater good. That greater good is communicated in phrases like: risk management, strategic direction and many others. Regardless of what you call it, these dream smashers exist to slow you down. This would be fine, if their intentions were truly about the greater good. However, it’s clear from talking to many of my peers and reading outstanding articles like this one from Harvard Business Review, that most dream smashers, are more interested in owning the “Decision” and are fearful of the accountability that comes with risk.
I like accountability. Always have. Noting we do is without risk. There’s always the chance you’ll be wrong, even when the insights are right. It happens. I believe my responsibility is to push an organization faster, harder and further than it ever imagined was possible. It’s part of the work ethic that comes with driving change. Driving that change means railing against the dream smashers. It means supporting dreams. It means giving dreams a chance to become real. It’s not easy. I’ve yet to meet anyone who thinks it is. It means, as said on the panel, “as a lawyer you’re better off never saying no. Say yes…if.” This isn’t specific to lawyers. Franky, I think they often get a bad rap. I’ve worked with some fantastic ones, over the years. It’s broader than lawyers. There are dream smashers everywhere.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to be a dream smasher than it is to be a dream driver. It takes more energy to drive a dream than it does to be a dream smasher. That’s unfortunate. It’s also why so many change agents burn out so quickly and leave an organization. As Seth Godin once wrote me:
“often, tribe leaders leave because they won’t sacrifice the tribe to please management
cost of changing the world…”
When you head into the office today, ask yourself, “am I dream smasher?” If you are, you might want to reassess your choice. It’s the quickest way to being cut out of the loop and being seen as the “enemy.” Even when you win, you lose. Crush enough dreams and the dreamers leave. When the dreamers leave, what are you left with, but eventually your own demise. Apple saw it up close and personal when they ousted Jobs…only to turn to him as their savior. If history has taught us anything it’s that dreamers advance this world. Christopher Columbus, Henry Ford, John F. Kennedy, Branch Rickey and so on. You don’t have to be a dreamer, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a dream smasher either. Dream big…or…go home. Simple as that.