Posts Tagged ‘Vision’

Good morning and Happy Friday! I hope this day finds you well and happy, after enjoying a delightful Thanksgiving with friends and family.

I have been working on a major transition in my life for a while now, and more intensely over the past few weeks. Finally, I have stepped through a doorway, so to speak, largely because of my belief in myself, my purpose, and my calling. In a lot of ways, what’s happening in my life was inevitable, I believe. I have a vision; I have the support and encouragement I need; I have knowledge, some level of wisdom, and experience to carry me forward; and I have a strategy to bring my dream into reality. Finally, and maybe most important, I believe I will be a success in my endeavor. So, this month’s topic is particularly relevant to me these days.

How about you? How important is what you believe, right now with where you are in your life today? What does it mean for where you are headed tomorrow?

And speaking of tomorrow…what plans do you have? How will you spend your time this weekend?

What thought are you giving to preparation for next week, as it brings with it a new month and the beginning of the end of 2013?

What thoughts, by chance, are you giving to preparation for 2014? It will be here before we know it!

I am actually taking a bit of a different approach to this weekend; it will be all about family, fun, and relaxation. It’s truly time for a short break…to reflect, regroup, adjust my view of the world, get comfortable with my new priorities…and celebrate a couple of birthdays. Delightfully, my Monday will truly be my own for the first time in a long time.

Whatever you choose for your weekend, I hope you are intentional about it. Remember…as each moment passes, it is gone.

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How will you reach your vision if you don’t believe?

Belief leads to confidence and you need confidence in order to strive towards achieving any goal.

Think about the people who had such strong beliefs in what they set out to do, ignoring those who said it was a ridiculous idea or could not be done.

Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Many thought him foolish for thinking he could build a successful online bookseller.

Steve Jobs and Apple. Many thought him foolish for thinking he could get any market share against the PC sellers.

Thomas Edison and the light bulb. Many thought him foolish for continuing to try to develop the light bulb after thousands of what others considered failures.

The list could go on and on…in fact, I’m sure you could add stories of your successes and breakthroughs in the face of opposition and adversity. I’m certain you could share countless other stories of people you’ve known who have done the same.

As a leader, it’s critical that you believe in your vision and your ability to achieve it.

Today, give some thought to how that has worked for you. Have your beliefs moved you forward to success or have they held you back?

And, how does that affect your team/organization?

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Well faithful readers, we are on the home stretch, as they say. Tomorrow we will begin the 12th, and final, month of our Intentional Leadership* journey. Over the next four weeks, we will focus on, think about, and take action in the area of Belief! It’s a fitting time of year for that — with the holidays coming up — don’t you think?

I believe each and every one of us is born with tremendous potential, and all the resources we need to reach it.

I believe each and every one of us can do all that we dream of and more.

I believe each and every one of us needs the support, insight, encouragement, and objectivity that is available to us only through a close friend or confidante…they see us as we cannot, and can provide us with new perspectives around how we interact in the world.

I also believe that too many of us fall short of our potential because our belief in ourself is not strong enough, and, as a result, we languish in our comfort zone, shackled with fear and doubt, and when we fail to live into our potential, we diminish others because we fail to share what we were meant to share with the world.

As Henry Ford said,

Whether you think (believe) you can or can’t, you are right.

Think of belief this way: It is the ignition switch that will launch you off the pad, if only you will hit the button!

Before we jump into the next four weeks, spend some time with your journal today and answer these questions:

What do I believe to be true about myself?

What do I believe is my potential as a leader?

What do I believe I am here to accomplish on earth?

What beliefs about myself do I need to accomplish my vision?

How have my beliefs about myself limited my ability to achieve what I have set out to do in the past?

What results can I attribute to my current self-beliefs?

*From the Intentional Leadership booklet by Giant Impact.

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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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I recently looked at a book called Essential Questions. It’s focused on school-aged children, and how we can teach them the essential questions that drive them to do deeper exploration of ideas, concepts, and lessons; the questions that get them in the critical thinking mode. I appreciate this approach, as I believe one of the best things we can do for our children is teach them how to think and to understand that there are many ways of arriving at a workable solution for any given problem. I think we do them a disservice when we teach them there is only one path to an answer and only one way to solve a problem. I think we fail them when we teach them to merely memorize material, as opposed to seeking a fuller understanding of the context, the issues, the players involved.

So it is with strategy and running a business. Asking the right questions can be critical to the success of an endeavor. Good questions cause us to think. Good questions hold us accountable, as they don’t allow us to take the path of least resistance. Good questions feed effective strategic planning.

Today, I encourage you to spend some time developing a dozen or so key questions you can you in strategic planning to help your team / organization stay focused and in alignment with your vision and goals. When you have them written down, share them with a few respected colleagues and ask them to edit or add to your work. Then, use them the next time you do any strategic planning.

Here are some examples to help you get started:

What are we trying to accomplish?

Are our current efforts allowing us to achieve the results we desire?

How would our replacements approach our future?

Who (or what organization) is achieving the results we want? What are they doing that is driving them to success?

What ideas / actions will move us closer to our vision?

What are our core competencies and how do we master them?

Use any or all of these as your base, or develop an entirely unique set, specific to your business. As you do your strategic planning over the next couple of years, continue to fine-tune your list, keeping the ones that work well and eliminating the ones that are not helpful, then add new questions that will better serve you?

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The best strategies are simple; make them too complex and they will fail because no one will follow them.

To begin, you need to define a clear destination; what are you trying to accomplish and where will you be when you arrive? The strategic plan will help you identify the significant milestones you will achieve along the way to your final destination. Knowing your final destination has been defined, and key milestones identified along the way allows you to focus on shorter-term goals and keeps you from over-planning.

This is the point from which to start. As you reach the first milestone, you can take stock and assess your progress and review your end destination. This is when you can make necessary adjustments based on progress to-date and any changes in the dynamics related to our goals.

As you develop your strategies, keep in mind your organization’s and team’s strengths, identify the resources you will need that you don’t already possess, and prepare accordingly. You might look at it this way, using a “quadrant” view…draw a box on a flip chart or white board, with four break-out areas.

Top left: What are your organization’s vision, goals, and values?

Top right: What are your organization’s strengths?

Bottom left: What problem or opportunity is your organization currently facing?

Bottom right: What assets (time, capital, and talent) are you willing to commit to your pursuit of the goal?

For this particular opportunity, develop a clear objective, answer the questions, and map out three to five mile markers that you will hit along the journey.

Now, schedule the first step towards reaching the first milestone.

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Dear Faithful readers: Please forgive me for missing my usual blog post on Friday, which would have been D5 of W4, of this 8th month of our Intentional Leadership journey, focused on change. Something that one couldn’t have anticipated happened early Friday morning that demanded my attention and kept me otherwise fully engaged all day. I apologize for missing a step in our process.

However, I’m confident that by now, at the end of our 8th month on this journey, that you are in the swing of our Friday routine and would likely be on track with taking  a proactive approach to planning your weekend, without my weekly reminder.

My Friday was supposed to be spent immersed in a full-day off-site team-building and vision-defining meeting. Again, something unexpected happened to derail that plan. Saturday required some follow-up to the Friday events, and some quality time, alone, with my husband. It was delightful!

Today, I spent some time with my son and mother-in-law at the WV State Honey Festival! Now, I am catching up with you and preparing for the week ahead. I will be traveling, again (have had a lot of opportunities to travel these past six weeks) this week, to The Greenbrier Resort for the WV State Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Business Summit. This is a great event each year, as it allows me to catch up with friends and associates from around the state whom I don’t have the opportunity to see very often, and to meet new people I’m not yet aware of. It will be a time of reminiscing, learning, and divine appointments. Have to say, I had some amazing meetings, conversations, and connections with a few folks last year; I trust this year will be just as rewarding.

I also need to prepare for this week’s Empowerment Mentoring lesson on Comfort Zone — and how being in our comfort zone isn’t always a good thing.

I hope you don’t mind my taking this space to do my usual month-end wrap-up on Change.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the only constant in today’s world is change; it is an unavoidable reality of life. As a leader, we must take responsibility for anticipating change, understanding its implications, and guiding our people through it. This requires a blend of qualities and skills…bravery, flexibility, determination, casting a clear vision, providing frequent communication, and consistent behavior.

As you know — and maybe you feel this way, as well — many people abhor change, would rather go through all kinds of other unpleasantries, or even give up on their potential to avoid it. You will be tested in this arena, needing to put forth all of your abilities and talents to overcome the resistance of the status quo. This can be a grueling, thankless journey, but if you are driven to be a leader, it’s the path you have chosen.

Change and growth go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t growing, you aren’t going anywhere. If you stay the same, you will become stagnant, and we all know, nothing grows in stagnant pools.

I encourage you to embrace change. Plunge forward with courage. Help others see the possibilities in the future, through the path of change. Remember, if you are going through change and you have some level of confusion, it’s a good thing! Yes, a good thing. If you are going through change and you aren’t confused, it means you already know what you need to or have given up trying to understand it. If you are confused, it means you are going through a growth process.

Embrace change! If you don’t, won’t, or can’t…give up on leadership — you can’t lead if you can’t navigate change.

Now, having said that, I trust that since you’ve made it through this 8th month of our journey so far, you won’t give in to complacency. So, I’ll “see” you on Monday, as we move into our 9th month, focused on Attitude.

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What is the change you need to bring to your team or organization?

What would the benefit be, if you can bring your vision to fruition?

Is it worth the work, investment, and sacrifice?

Spend some time with your team, or appropriate peers, today to cast your vision about the change and get their feedback. Be open to responding to questions, hearing their input, and be willing to fine-tune your vision based on what you receive. Together, create a strategy and implementation plan for moving forward.

Remember, casting a vision is big stuff, and getting all your peers / teammates on the same page may take some time and effort, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get through it all in one meeting. But, if you don’t start today, when will you?

Write it out:

What change would you like to make?

How will it benefit your team/organization?

What steps do you think you need to make to implement your plan?

Schedule meetings with the people who will be affected and begin to communicate and promote the change. Be sure to let them know what role they will play, and how important they are to the success of your endeavor.

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How strong is your self-confidence when it comes to changing the future?

The Steve Jobs movie has just been released. Have you seen it? I have not, yet. However, I think it’s safe to say Steve Jobs is well known as a game-changer in the computing industry to be sure. In fact, he has had tremendous influence over how we work and play…personal computing, iPod, iPad, iPhone, computer animation. Regardless of what some might say about his leadership style, the man had a vision and the drive to move it to reality. And, as a result, the way we live, connect, and interact with a variety of media has been forever changed.

When he was younger, he dreamed of a creating a home computer, but didn’t know how. He persuaded a friend to help him. Together, they created the first compact personal computer. Unfortunately, no one knew about it! They were unknowns, with almost no money and not reputation or credibility in their industry. Jobs sold his Volkswagen to finance Apple Computers. It wasn’t an overnight transformation, but it was a success, and I think most of us know  a lot of the rest of the story.

Are you aware that Jobs was inspired by a calligraphy course he took, and this is why, today, we have so many fonts to choose from with our Apple computers? He didn’t want people’s creativity to be limited to the old, boring, sans-serif fonts…and we benefited from that vision, as well.

Jobs and Wozniak were pioneers in their field. They envisioned change and made it happen. As they began to have some early successes, their confidence grew and they (eventually just Jobs) moved on to bigger challenges, enacting more and more change in how we compute, connect, listen to music, view other kinds of media, and create.

It’s my opinion that Steve Jobs will forever be remembered as a world-renowned leader.

Today, spend some time in reflection — think back to a time when you successfully brought about change. What gave you the courage to move forward?

What did you need to do to stay on track?

How did it give you confidence for other changes in your future?

What can you learn from the experience that will propel you even further in the days, months, and years ahead?

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In his book, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell tells the story of Henry Ford and his leadership style. Truth be told, he wasn’t an effective leader, because he needed to be in control, thrived on keeping his staff uncomfortable and on-edge, and actively worked to undermine them and cause disruptions between members of his leadership team. Be that as it may, he did develop an automotive company that was, at one time, the dominant automaker in the US.

Well, Mr. Ford pioneered the assembly line, thus streamlining automotive manufacturing, significantly cutting the amount of time it took to build a car, which also lowered costs. He made the automobile an affordable transportation option for the masses, rather than a luxury item only a few could afford. However, as his competitors began to copy his assembly line and mass produced their own cars, Ford made a mis-step. You probably all remember one of the famous quotes attributed to him about one of his cars, something to the effect of: You can have it in any color you like, as long as it’s black! This was in response to the growing demand of his customers who wanted cars in different colors.

His thinking was sound in one respect: black paint dried the fastest and could be used more efficiently than other colors. He missed the boat in understanding and acknowledging what his customers wanted: variety! Other manufacturers were more than willing to paint their cars other colors, and consumers bought those instead of a Ford.

This is a clear example of having tunnel vision; Ford was so focused on moving towards efficiency, changing the way cars would be built even today, but he couldn’t move back to a less efficient process, a different direction if you will, even when doing so would have been very profitable for his business. This is the danger of becoming complacent.

Sometimes, when we have outpaced, out performed our competitors and tasted some level of success, it’s tempting to think that it’s “good enough” and we don’t have to continue striving to get better; this is an extremely dangerous mind-set and will surely lead to one’s downfall.

As they say, if we don’t learn from our mistakes we are doomed to repeat them. We should all be so wise as to study Ford’s leap to success and later to the back of the pack. It’s a lesson we shouldn’t repeat.

As a leader, it’s critical that we are in tune with what’s going on the marketplace, what’s changing in the minds of our customers and potential customers, to changes in technology, and especially to changes in thinking. If not, we will soon find ourselves at the back of the pack, and sometimes…it’s just not possible to recover from that position.

Take some time to think about a time when you ignored a necessary change and missed an opportunity. What was the situation? What signs did you ignore? What did you miss? How has that affected where you are today?

There is an assessment called the Kirton Adaptive-Innovative measure; it is designed to identify whether you are an innovator and maintainer (prefer the status quo, thank you very much!) or somewhere in between. It’s a revealing exercise to be sure. In the absence of having the opportunity to do this assessment right now, how would you honestly rank yourself in terms of your tendency to embrace change?

We’ll spend a lot more time with these thoughts this month.

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