I have known and worked with Bill Leider for almost two decades.
We share a common set of values, yet we are nothing alike. When we returned from our recent trip to Philadelphia, where both Bill and I served as advisors to The Social Media Marketing Institute, the photo on the right jumped out at me.
As is his practice, he prints out the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles and brings them with him on trips. The New York Times crossword puzzles are considered some of the trickiest puzzles around. Bill can rip through these crossword puzzles faster than anyone I’ve ever met.
I realized something important as I looked at this photo. The crossword puzzles are the perfect illustration of what makes Bill so good at breaking down business problems and helping companies solve them in ways that produce exceptional results.
Solving a crossword puzzle requires a good understanding of crossword conventions, puzzle logic and a broad general knowledge (vocabulary, literature, culture, art, sciences, geography, etc.). You can learn the conventions and logic relatively quickly, but the general knowledge is what separates the men from the boys. All the tricks and techniques in the world won’t help you solve the puzzles if you’re lacking the general knowledge and the ability to tie them all together.
Bill’s unwillingness to accept the first answer, the answer everyone can see, can be frustrating to some. But first answers often relate to symptoms, not the true, underlying issue or opportunity. I know in our early dealings, I found myself wanting to strangle him. Truth be told, I still do. But what always comes from his ability to see the hidden clues, from his creative approach to asking questions, from his desire to “solve the puzzle,” is a unique perspective on every situation. Even his “wrong” answers and seemingly unrelated questions open your eyes to new possibilities. They help you figure out the clues to solving your own puzzles.
If you’re willing.