10 Ways to Outsmart the Saboteurs of Your Vision and Goals

Having an inspiring vision and well-crafted goals are no guarantee your business will achieve them. It is often the norm to put a vision and goals on the shelf so you can get back to work. This frustrates people, especially if they have been part of the process to craft the vision and define the goals. Nothing changes. People you need for your business to succeed lose heart. This is expensive and leaders lose credibility. The root of the problem is people, even smart people, are willing to tolerate the current reality rather than experience change. Asking someone to change, even if it’s beneficial to them and the organization, is losing something. This is scary. When people are afraid, they do what is necessary to return to “normal.” Recently I worked with a division in a large organization. We created a vision and the objectives, goals and strategies to achieve the mission and to move closer to the vision. It is hard to do this important work. The management team and staff did a remarkable job. At the conclusion of our second day together, I asked them to answer the following question, ”In order to move closer to our vision and to achieve the goals we have set, what is it ‘we must do’ and what is it ‘we must not do?’” The following are their responses: WE MUST DO……… 1. Embrace the direction of change with honest display of values 2. Review the goals, objectives and strategies monthly to stay on track 3. Be disciplined and focus on the work and time frames that are set 4. Listen...

Gardening Secrets for Leading a Team

  Regardless of the size, leading an organization is hard work. It is like gardening. You can’t just plant it and forget it and expect to receive a bountiful harvest. If you approach gardening with this mindset, you are in for a big disappointment. Being the leader of an organization and being a gardener have much in common. The results of your efforts can be rewarding but not always, no matter how hard you work. After hours of toiling in the hot sun, my two 4 x 4 raised garden beds were ready for planting. I had visions of summer vegetables just like Monticello. To my dismay, I did not harvest one thing. It did not thrive on neglect. Plus, a hot, dry summer did not help. To assure the best results, here are some guidelines from gardening to leading: 1)      Create an environment that is conducive to what you are growing. Till the soil; remove impediments such as roots, rocks, or construction debris. Make it as easy as possible for your team to work with the right lighting, proper tools whether those are software or jack hammers, and clutter free. 2)      Choose the right plant for your location. An orchid does not thrive in freezing temperatures. Hire the right people. Give them the training and support needed to do their job well. Do not put a shade loving plant in a place getting 12 hours of sun. 3)      Pay close attention. A wilting plant is screaming for water. With the right opportunities, your team can express what it needs to make a contribution to the success of your...

Strategy Confronts a Future with No Guarantees

There is confusion about the difference in a plan and a strategy. Plans are useful. Strategies are scary. When you choose a strategy, you are choosing a direction that requires you to make decisions that eliminate possibilities and options. Think crossing the Rubicon. The future outcomes are unknowable. Planning, on the other hand, is knowable and doable. It is based typically on annual budgets. The plan does not answer the question “why” an organization does what it does. The plan logically lays out the steps to reach an initiative or goal. It is better have a plan than not have a plan. A strategy answers the question of where you want to play and how you want to win playing there. The customer is the focus of a strategy. Who do you intend to serve and how do you intend to win? You must also be clear about where you do not want to play. Simply put, who is your ideal client? A strategy is designed to increase the odds of success. It is not meant to eliminate risks. It is no small feat to assess what you want to achieve and determine how realistic it is to try to achieve it. No guarantees. Until you see the outcome of a strategy, you cannot know if it was a good choice. There is no perfect, predictable strategy. That’s what makes it scary. Also, strategies are long term in nature not quick fix with immediate results. To embark on a strategy, it is important to have a logical basis for the decision. It is also critical to communicate clearly and...

View the Future from the Past

Many dwell on the past to prove that they are victims.  It is easy to cast blame, for instance, on the economy, colleagues, society, and family for your current situation.  There is no shortage of evidence. Looking outside for the rationale or for the solution for your circumstances is common practice.  It reminds me of the story of the drunk looking under the lamp post for his lost keys because the light was better there. The reason many of us look “under the lamp post” is that it is easier.  Going into the dark, hidden spaces requires more effort.  It can be scary, too.  Initially, being the victim and blaming seems easier.  No personal or corporate responsibility for the outcome. The downside of this approach is that you are giving away your ability to create different results.  By playing the victim, you are placing something or someone else in charge.  If something or someone else is in charge, how can you create anything different for yourself or your business? “A Look in the Rear View Mirror” is an exercise that I use to help a leadership team begin planning to create the results they want.  The team reviews the last 12 months and answers these questions: What have been your successes? What did you learn? What can you improve? Some outcomes of the exercise are that the team finds ways to celebrate accomplishments, even the small ones.  It is evident that experience, not theory, is a great teacher.  Phenomenal results can occur by fine-tuning what is already in place. While the past does not dictate the future, it can...

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Many business owners work hard from dawn to dusk. This alone does not guarantee success. However, hard work is part of the equation. There is more. In the words of the African spiritual, “Keep your eye on the prize and your hand on the plow.” What is the prize in your business? It feels great to have a vision of what you want to create. There is more. A vision needs a plan and execution for success. At the annual conference for Women Presidents’ Organization, the CEO of a software company told me that her company was doing very well now, “We are an eighteen year overnight success.” The art of building a successful business depends upon many factors. The ability to balance the creative tension between daily operations and long-term strategy plays a huge role in success and sustainability. Does your business use these principles for success? Fall in love. Passion for the prize keeps you and your team willing to do the work. Despite obstacles that arise, you recognize them as part of doing business. Finding ways to overcome challenges requires courage, creativity, and commitment—great resources for a business. Win-Win-Win. Use the triple bottom line business model: people, profit and planet. Make a profit while doing good for employees and the planet. Map it out. Identify the strategies that are required to achieve your vision. Communicate the vision and the strategies to all levels of the business. If employees understand the big picture and the part they play in it, they help you succeed as they succeed. Peddle hard. Step by step everything counts. The lure of...

Playing to Win Is an Inside Job

When you are focused on safety, your mental energy and attention are distracted from winning. The “not losing” approach to leading fosters contracted visions and fear-based decisions. How many opportunities slip through your fingers? Even in the most challenging business environment, unexpected opportunities emerge. When your attention is on winning, you draw these opportunities to you and are keenly aware when they arise. Friends of mine at a commercial construction company know how to play to win. One of the partners told me that his company listens more closely and intently to the client. Building on the strengths of long time, successful client relationships, his company has expanded its ability to meet and exceed the needs of clients. The prevailing wisdom of planning and finding solutions starts with identifying weaknesses and problems. With a focus on problems, developing a negative culture is likely. Can your business afford this approach? Consider the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) method of change that David Cooperrider launched in 1980. Re-frame the picture of what is happening in your business from “where is the problem” or “what do we need to fix” to “what is working” or “how can we do more of this.” This approach does not ignore or negate problems but shifts the perspective to something new and of what is possible. To learn more about AI, visit http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu Use these guidelines to set your course for the coming year: 1. Assume that more is going right than is going wrong. 2. Look for successes and strengths in people, systems, processes and results. Peter Drucker, said, “The task of organizational leadership is to create...