Posts Tagged ‘Goals’

Last week, I spent a few days with a group of like-minded, growth-oriented people from across the US and Canada. We were talking about our dreams and what it takes to bring them to fruition (it was a lot more profound than this, but simply put, that was the focus). One recurrent theme was “Dream Big.”

Dream Big!

After all, what’s the point of dreaming if you aren’t going to Dream Big?!

And why wouldn’t we dream big within our organizations, as well? Typically, in organizations, we speak of the BHAG — or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (Thank you, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras), which is a “commitment to challenging, audacious, and often risky goals and projects towards which a visionary company channels its efforts.”

What BHAG would propel your organization forward?

How can you use it to inspire others?

What steps would you need to take to initiate this BHAG?

What will you do, now, to get started?

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We often can learn from the experiences of others, and we should take advantage of those opportunities (do not, however, misinterpret this to mean that you should always wait for someone else to try something new first!). Spend some time reflecting on a time when you observed someone close to you taking initiative in spite of fear.

What was the situation?

How did they handle it?

What was the result?

What did you learn from watching them go through this experience?

Now, think of a situation you are currently faced with in which you need to take initiative and have some fear about moving forward. Get in touch with the person from today’s exercise and tell them the situation you are in. As them for guidance on how they would handle it. Then, spend some time in reflection about what they’ve shared with you. In your journal, note some of the recommendations you think are worth following through on. Consider the risks, implications, consequences, and benefits associated with any of the actions you might take. Then, make a decision about moving forward.

What value did you receive through someone else’s experience? And what value do you place on having them as a trusted confidant?

It’s good to know we have support when faced with significant decisions and challenges, and can deal with them before they grow into something more unmanageable!

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Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader. Don’t fall victim to what I call the ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome. You mist be willing to fire. ~T. Boone Pickens

In the late 1980’s, Paul O’Neill became the first outsider to run Alcoa (aluminum manufacturing). When he took the helm of this highly cyclical manufacturing business, it was having significant difficulty weathering the troughs of its normal cycle.

O’Neill had spent his career up to that point largely as a government civil servant. When he stepped into the CEO role at Alcoa, he did something that seemed totally counterintuitive in business. Rather than focusing on production and finance, as many new CEO’s would do when needing to turn a company around, he focused on what was considered “soft issues”: safety and teamwork.

While Alcoa had the industry’s best safety record at the time, and had been making strides in reducing injury rates each year, O’Neill let his Safety Director know that the only acceptable injury rate was ZERO! His belief was that ”You can’t get safety unless you really understand your processes.” And by diving deep into the work processes in every aspect of the business, the company was able to shed light on all of the behaviors surrounding how people did their work…behaviors that led to high quality and poor quality, behaviors that lead to strong teamwork and no teamwork, behaviors that led to safe work practices and unsafe work practices.

In essence, he set his sights on the one thing that inarguably affected every single person in the operation, and around which everyone shared common ground: Every person should go home from work each night in at least as good of condition as when they arrived for the beginning of their shift. By focusing on this one aspect of their business, they were, in effect, focusing on all aspects of their business. And, by improving performance around safety, the company improved its quality, production times, loss due to waste, financial performance, and customer relations.

The point here is that O’Neill had a vision, strategies to support it, he identified common ground, rallied his employees around the goal, and took initiative not only to set it all in motion, but did it in a very unorthodox manner…and he started down this path on his very first day at work.

The story of Alcoa’s turnaround is used as a case study in many management programs. Here is just one article about it. It’s an interesting read if you have the time.

As we begin our third week of focus on taking initiative, it’s important that we understand this basic concept: Initiative allows a leader to uproot problems before they balloon into crises.* When you are proactive in the short-term, it allows you to also see the big picture.

Think about what’s going on within your team/organization right now. What issue could you deal with now, that will prevent having to put out fires later?

Once you’ve identified the issue(s), think through how you can best approach it, and schedule time to deal with it before it becomes something much bigger.

*From Intentional Leadership booklet, by Giant Impact.

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Get your journal out, and spend some time in reflection today.

Write down a few principles you can apply to build momentum when taking initiative and resolving issues.

Give some thought to the benefits you will enjoy when you take those steps.

What other implications are there for any given action you might take? (Remember: Intent does not equal impact!)

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Today’s a journal day. Block out some time today to journal about yesterday’s conversation with the person you admire, who consistently takes initiative.

What insights did you gain, and what additional thoughts do you have, now that you’ve had a day to think about it?

What two things can you do over the next week or two to move yourself forward in this area?

What benefits will you enjoy as a result of your new behavior?

As we come close to closing out this first week of focus on initiative, I think it’s safe to say you are thinking more about the importance of taking that first step…whatever the endeavor.

Is there something you need to act on?

What is it?

What action do you need to take?

How will you benefit?

Or, what will the consequences be if you fail to act?

What will you do, now?

Take that first step today! Let me know how it goes!

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Get your journal out and spend some time thinking into these questions today:

What do you allow to keep you from taking action?

In what situations do you tend to take initiative?

In what situations do you tend to hold back?

When you do take initiative, how are others impacted — positively or negatively?

In what ways do you show initiative in your team / organization?

What steps do you take if you were to take initiative in solving a problem?

What steps do you take in taking initiative around a new vision?

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Do it afraid!

This is something of a refrain within the John Maxwell Team…”Do it afraid!” Why would we say this? Because, often the scariest part of doing something new, something different, even something we long for with all our being, is taking the first step! And the truth is, you cannot know what the entire path to your destination will look like.

Think of it in terms of going hiking. When you get to the trailhead, you can see a little ways in front of you, but unless the trail is only a few yards, you typically cannot see the whole trail. There will be trees, rocks, curves, hills, valleys along the path, and you will see only what is immediately in front of you. And hikers willingly, with enthusiasm even, step onto these trails daily, all over the world, knowing full well they don’t know everything they will encounter on their adventure, yet excited about the trip and the amazing view they know they will discover at the end. And so, you embark upon your hike, taking a few steps, encountering a curve, a hill, what have you…and after a few steps, you see the next few steps, and so on and so on…and in this way the whole trail is revealed to you.

Life is much like this, if you think about it. It requires a bit of courage to step forward into the unknown. It requires us to take initiative and move forward, for we surely cannot just stay where we are…and certainly not if we are leaders! Our teams and organizations count on us to take that first step.

Are you familiar with the story of Jim Sinegal, the founder of Costco? When he was in college, he went to work with a friend for a day, which turned into a longer term stint at a company where he met one of his mentors, Sol Price, of Price Club. Sinegal stepped into and took advantage of a great opportunity, learning from Price and developing his entrepreneurial drive. He worked hard, paid attention, and notice a lot of opportunities for improvement as he rose through the ranks of the executive team at Price Club.

He shared idea upon idea, and better strategies for improving the organization in a number of ways. Many of his ideas were dismissed or passed over. Eventually, he stepped out of what he was doing; leaving Price Club, he founded Costco with the intent of filling the voids he saw in the Price Club model.

Was it scary? Surely! There was no guarantee he would be successful. He demonstrated his confidence in his strategies, the courage to stick to his convictions, and the initiative to try something new.

It wasn’t long before Costco’s success proved Sinegal’s instincts to be correct. He soon positioned Costco as the premier membership retailer, growing from zero to $3 billion in sales in less than six years; the first company to do this. Eventually, Costco even bought out Price Club, expanded globally, and recent sales have exceeded $64 billion! It’s quite a story. If you’re interested in learning more, click here.

As we begin this month’s focus on initiative, take some time to answer these questions:

When was the last time you delayed making a decision or taking action due to fear or lack of knowledge?

What was the situation, and what caused you to delay?

What were the consequences?

What decision or action are you contemplating today?

What steps can you take to avoid delay due to fear, lack of knowledge, insufficient courage?

Who do you need to become in order to see your goal to fruition?

What will the outcome be when you take the first step and propel yourself forward with this idea?

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What is Initiative?

The power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

It is the drive to make things happen, and it is yet another crucial ingredient in the recipe for creating a strong leader. When leaders have initiative, they make things happen, they create momentum, and they propel their teams/organizations forward, even in the face of resistance and obstacles. Without initiative, one would achieve nothing. Yes, it’s important to have dreams, vision, strategies, action plans…yet, without taking the initiative, nothing would happen.

I find this to be a fairly common stumbling block with some of my coaching and mentoring clients. They know they are stuck. They recognize the need for change. Sometimes, they even know what they need to change…but often feel helpless or unmotivated to take action. The key is to have clarity around the “why” so you then can find your “way” and take intentional action.

Consider the story of Margo, a director in a high-tech company who was feeling somewhat discontent in her work and aware that it would be time for her to make some kind of move to a different position soon, as that was the culture within her company. We worked together for several months and over the course of that time, Margo chose to focus on several areas: improving communication with her team, improving communication with her manager, and understanding what next step she needed to take — within or outside the company — that would allow her to function in her strength zones, continue to grow as a leader, and express herself creatively.

Throughout the course of our engagement, I functioned sometimes as a coach, sometimes as a mentor, and sometimes simply as a sounding board. Margo defined the areas of focus, identified the challenges and obstacles, discovered her own answers, and took action to make the changes she needed to make to move herself and her team forward. She took the initiative and she was consistent in implementing the new practices that would allow her to move forward.

Today, she has a new sense of purpose, greater clarity around her role and future plans with her company, and has discovered a creative outlet that allows her to continue on her path of self-discovery and personal expression.

It’s a process; getting to that point took a few months. Growing into her potential will be a life-long journey, but the point here is that she recognized some needs and took the initiative to learn, think, grow, and move herself — and as a result, her team and organization — forward on a new path.

This month we will focus on initiative and how it plays out in our lives as leaders. It’s one thing to have an idea, it’s an entirely different thing to make it a reality. Without initiative, nothing would happen.

So, before we get started on this month’s study and exercises, I encourage you to spend some time pondering these questions:

Do I proactively take the initiative to get things started, or do I wait until circumstances force me to do something?

If I wait for external forces to move me forward, what is the basis of my hesitation: Fear, lack of knowledge, laziness…?

How have I overcome fear, lack of knowledge, laziness, etc…in the past to enable myself to move forward?

How have I gained momentum by harnessing the power of taking initiative?

Who do I know who frequently, proactively takes initiative to get things moving and what can I learn from them?

I look forward to exploring this month’s topic with you, and hope you will share your thoughts, insights, and feedback as we continue on our Intentional Leadership journey.

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For the past four weeks, we’ve been focused on Strategy, and now it’s time for this month’s wrap-up. Hard to believe! And we have only two months left on this Intentional Leadership Journey.

In an early blog post, I shared the story of my encounter with a young man working at the MAC counter in a mall I was shopping in. We got to talking and I shared that I had moved to the mid-west from Washington State and he talked about how he hoped to live in Seattle one day, soon. My response was that “hope is not a strategy,” which startled him back to reality, I think. He said he’d never thought about it that way. I asked how he thought he would get to Seattle — realize his dream — if he didn’t have a plan and take some action. We talked for a while longer, and as I left the store I could see the gears in his mind turning and turning…

Without a plan, our dreams will vanish. As a leader, we must be able to develop an actionable strategy for our team’s/organization’s vision to become a reality. And while it’s certainly crucial to your future success, having a strategy isn’t enough. Once you’ve cast the vision and engaged your followers, you must develop the strategy and then move forward to the next step: Execution. Great leaders don’t simply have a plan, they make it happen!*

So what does a sound strategy entail? It needs to be clear enough to give direction and flexible enough so you can adapt to changing conditions and unforeseeable events along your journey. As we’ve discussed, the only constant is change. If you aren’t moving forward — and I mean intentionally moving forward with a destination in mind — you are falling behind; in today’s world, that will result in the demise of your organization.

My mentors have told me — and I share it with my clients, as well — that leaders must deliberately and consistently set aside time to work ON their business, not just stay mired in the daily effort of working IN their business. I encourage my clients to schedule in “think time” as often as they need it — some do it daily, some weekly. Whatever the cadence you need, you need to do it and you need to make it a priority. In fact, I have some clients who have told me that when our coaching or mentoring engagement has concluded, they have maintained what they’ve referred to as the “Sacred Laura Time” (meaning our coaching/mentoring sessions were high priority and not to be messed with) as their thinking time, as they were already in the habit and had trained their colleagues and staff that they were engaged in important work during that time.

Be mindful, as you develop your strategies, to take into account the strengths of your team/organization, and work that knowledge into your plans, which will give you and even stronger chance of success down the road. The best strategies exploit an organization’s finest qualities.* In this way, you can prioritize your limited resources and use them to the most advantage for your organization.

As we conclude this month’s focus on strategy, spend a little time with your journal and reflect on what you’ve learned.

How are you thinking about strategy differently?

What steps do you need to take now to fully engage your organization, leverage their strengths, and propel yourself forward?

Are you disciplined enough to develop and stick to your strategy, even in the face of inconvenient circumstances and conditions?

Your answers to these questions will dictate the nature of your influence in the years ahead.

“See” you tomorrow, when I’ll introduce next month’s topic. In the meantime, have an intentional day.


*From the Intentional Leadership book by Giant Impact. 

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Good morning and Happy Friday! It’s been kind of a soothing week here, soft rain…kind of nice, actually. The trees continue to change color, although the rains have caused a lot of leaves to fall, so we have a lot of naked trees, already!

I’ve been thinking about strategy a lot this week, as I suspect we all are, since it’s our area of focus this month. In fact, I spent some time reading about it just yesterday, as I’ve recently completed the StrengthsFinder assessment, and my strongest talent/strength is strategist. The description depicts one who quickly picks up on patterns, envisions the diverse paths one could take, quickly considers the various consequences, culling options all the while, eventually landing on the most effective path to the desired outcome.

It’s a timely concept as I have been working towards a significant transition in my life and it is coming closer…in fact, I’ll be able to share more details with you very soon. As I’m in this “wiggly” space, I am, in fact, very much in a strategizing mind-set. And, as I don’t believe in coincidence, this month’s focus on strategy has been a little more thought provoking for me than some of the other topics we’ve covered to-date.

Having reached this turning point, finally, I intend to “celebrate” this afternoon by treating myself to a scoop of Hershey’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream (it is suspiciously nearly exactly the same as Baskin Robbins’ Peanut Butter and Chocolate…which isn’t available locally!) on my way home…and then we begin the weekend.

As usual, mine will be a mix of work and family time. I need to go back through some bookkeeping (not my strong suit and I’m learning a new system) and make some corrections. We’ve been invited to an “end of summer” party at a friend’s house. Some writing time, some resting time, and yoga. I am also looking more seriously at what’s going on the next couple of months — not just holidays but also end-of-year activities and planning for 2014.

How will you spend your weekend?

What thought have you given to the next 2-1/2 months?

Have you taken an inventory of your accomplishments and your progress-to-date towards your 2013 goals?

What can you do this weekend to prepare yourself for the week and weeks ahead?

What can you do to nurture yourself this weekend?

Who else needs your time and attention?

What have you been putting off that you just finally need to tackle?

However you spend it, I hope it’s intentional!

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