How To Avoid Being The SAME OLD, Type of Leader?

Since, we live in an evolving, and changing world, with constantly, differing, needs, goals, perceptions, and priorities, wouldn’t it make sense, for a true leader, to proceed, a relevant, sustainable, strategic plan, instead of, merely, making empty promises, relying on rhetoric, and fond memories, and, only, considering, the SAME OLD possibilities, options, ideas, etc? After, over four decades, of involvement, in, nearly, all areas of leadership, from identifying, and qualifying potential leaders, training, and developing them, and consulting to thousands of actual, and potential leaders, I have come to realize, all – too – often, the biggest obstacle to being a quality leader, may be, this unwillingness, to, think, outside – the – box, and proceed, without any type of viable, strategic and action plan. With that in mind, this article will attempt to, briefly, consider, examine, review, and discuss, using the mnemonic approach, what this means, and represents, and why it matters.

1. Strategic planning; solutions; service; stronger: Since, times change, groups benefit, when leaders, effectively, use, true, strategic planning, in order to consider options and alternatives, the relevant, and future needs, and emphasize quality service! They only make their organizations stronger, when/ if, they introduce viable solutions, for the greater good!

2. Action plans; attitude; aptitude: Once, there is a meaningful strategy, action plans, combined with a positive, can – do, attitude, and a well – developed, skill – set, and aptitude, usually makes his leadership, better, and more effective!

3. Make mark; motivate: Shouldn’t one try to make his mark, for the better, for the group, and constituents, he serves, and represents? When one does, it generally, motivates others, towards seeking a meeting – of – the – minds, for the greater good!

4. Empathy; excellence; emphasis; endurance: It’s essential to effectively, listen, and learn, from every conversation, and experience, in order to proceed, with genuine empathy! This must direct one’s emphasis, and, it’s important, for a leader, to demand his utmost degree of personal excellence, instead of merely, accepting, good – enough! Since, there are often, obstacles, when these are viewed, as challenges, to overcome, instead of problems, and one proceeds, with the endurance, to keep – going, forward, when others, often, quit, it differentiates the best ones, from the rest, of the pack!

5. Options; opportunities; open – mind: When, one considers, various options and alternatives, with an open – minded, he becomes better positioned, to recognize, and take advantage of the finest opportunities!

6. Listen; learn; leading: Since, no one, has all the answers, or, expertise, one must be ready, willing, and able, to effectively listen, and learn, if he wishes, to be leading, in a meaningful manner!

7. Delve deeply; discover; deliver: Go, beyond, the surface, and simplistic reasoning, in order, to deliver, the finest leadership, and, truly, deliver, for your organization, and stakeholders!

The SAME OLD, same – old, rarely creates the best approach, etc! Are you ready, willing, and able, to become a meaningful, quality leader?

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3 Questions to Identify Roadblocks to Business Growth (and How Strategy Can Clear Them)

What challenges you most about your management and leadership role as business owner? Do you think about it? Our observations suggest too many business owners work according to learned practices which they do not renew. The result is company financial performance staying well below potential. Good and reasonable performance can become a hindrance to excellent and exceptional results. It’s easy to think ‘we are doing OK, there’s no need to change.’ Consider your response to any of the following questions:

• Please explain your marketing strategy and how all the methods tie together.

• How does your business use strategic planning?

• Describe your long-term strategic plan.

• Do you have an effective written business plan or marketing plan?

• What are the key elements of your staff training and development program?

The first step to facing uncertainty and challenges is to admit there are potential roadblocks to creating business growth. The second is perhaps admitting ‘I need help to remove the roadblocks’. If you take the second step to seek help, you are in the top 25% of business owners. Most resist help. A recent classroom experience at a prominent Australian University highlights this. A working student from India observed Australian business owners seem to be very independent and commonly have the view it will all work out in the end. ‘She’ll be right mate’ still prevails. This attitude may cost your business significant profit performance.

There is a key understanding every business owner needs to grasp if consistent growth is to become normal. We all have blind spots and beliefs we hold onto and thereby restrict success, breakthrough and improvement.

Will we confront and remedy our blind spots? Gaps in vision, strategy planning, marketing plans, leadership and management practice, our experience and even how we view our own industry or product groupings can form craters of restriction.

Let me suggest 3 questions every business owner could answer to start to identify gaps and reveal blind spots. You may find the questions confronting. None of the answers are necessarily easy to find, let alone the solutions simple to implement and establish in your business. Don’t put aside the questions if you are overwhelmed by the multi-faceted specifics required to instigate change and create growth. Consider the exacting specifics of research and change required in industries such as airlines, development technology, communications, security, automation, medical practice and more, where blind spots or neglecting systems can cost lives.

Q1. What time, energy and money are you prepared to invest in research, relationships and skill acquisition to begin or accelerate business growth?

Any change or adjustment will upset routines, historical practices, processes and systems, or the current lack of them. This is often the reason change and improvement is avoided. It disturbs routines, the status quo and demands careful change management. The easier part is usually discovering what is required but the high level challenge is in execution and implementation of the business plans to be introduced.

We’ve observed so many businesses try to create a strategic plan using basic goal-setting practices, but the day-to-day pressures pull staff back to operational and more urgent matters. There is no overriding business plan in place to maintain accountability and ensure target achievement. Strategic planning is not only the realm of large companies.

Q2. How will the required changes be achieved and what process will be used to advance all facets of a new business plan?

A Harvard Business School study found that 70 to 80 per cent of small businesses fail to see the projected return on investments due to the inflexibility or lack of strategy. Many small to medium business owners ignore or resist strategic planning for growth because it’s too hard or perceived as irrelevant. Hence, there is no certainty of business practices or clarity of company purpose beyond basic revenue generation and continued existence.

A successful business plan begins where we are and moves us towards where we want to be. Strong implementation and execution must articulate how we are going to move there. Clarifying goals and expectations is part of the process and ideally should be in light of relevant product and market life cycles. Plans start with small, deliberate steps for what’s important now and then create projects with longer-term specific action plans. Maintaining team focus on the desired outcome will then happen.

Q3. When was the last occasion your senior team members spent dedicated time with you as business owner to grapple with the high level thinking, leadership and creativity needed to see a breakthrough into new ways of running the business?

We worked with a company that supplied and installed a hi-tech product with increasing demand. The company had a staff of 10 people and the business was growing quickly. The director of this company argued in an elevated tone that he needed no one’s help, he was self-sufficient and no person can change how they operate. He was certainly right about himself. Discussions with staff showed he was blind to the true needs in the business and most staff were cruising well below capacity. A strategic plan would have accelerated the business into exceptional growth.

Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, authors of The Strategy-Focused Organization, identified in larger businesses, 85 per cent of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing business strategy. Too many SMEs never even mention a strategic plan. To lead a business into high-level thinking, leadership and creativity the key team must be reading, studying and keeping up to date with what is happening in their industry and business at large.

“Pay special attention to evidence that contradicts your beliefs” – Charles Darwin

Decide to push through those long-held beliefs screaming at you ‘it’s the only way something can work’. Remove the roadblocks, fill in the gaps and move forwards with certainty and clarity.

Strategic Foresight – Understanding the Negative Future – Nu Leadership Series

“It is not how long you live that counts but what you do in your life that is important. You got to learn how to deal with the storms of life.”

Rev. Richard Brown, Jr.

Do we really want to pry into the future? Some people do not want to consider it. Clearly, the future is a highway with varying lanes, but do humans have the capacity to accept unhappy endings? In general, it is my position that humans are incapable of accepting unhappy endings. In fact, futurist Edward Cornish argues that it is easier for people to sustain a long-term perspective when they have a clear vision. Futurists utilize many techniques to anticipate the future. For example, strategic foresight can provide an avenue where organizations can strategically analyze short, mid-range, and long-term planning. Thus, it ‘s a glance into the future. This concept is easily seen on the Big Screen. Hollywood blockbusters are the chronology of happy endings. People want to believe that all stories have positive endings. This concept is derived from childlike innocence as Americans. Unfortunately, the future may include unpleasant outcomes.

However, life doesn’t always provide a nice story. For example, globalization can provide many job opportunities, but the outcome isn’t always positive. In fact, the future prediction for the full-time worker is bleak. It is evident that technology and outsourcing are now making the part-time worker a reality of today, not tomorrow. In fact, Charles Handy theorized that unemployed or spare workers will create their own new work in the future. Therefore, individuals will control their own destiny and become entrepreneurs. However, this runs counter to our American culture. Grandma taught us “go work for a good company and get a good job with benefits.”

In fact, Bruce Sterling, author of Tomorrow Now, further argues that simple, predictable, and solvable jobs will go to the poorly educated and unprepared or to intelligent machines. However, high-paying jobs will go to the highly prepared, teachable, and creative individuals. In the future, good jobs will be the apex of human difficulty. Technology and understanding of complex systems will require a well-grounded person. However, futurist James Canton argues that American youth, our future workers, will be unprepared in math/science and may be locked out of future opportunities.

Based on many observations, organizations and individuals don’t want to hear negative scenarios for future generations. This reality reaffirms that people don’t want to think negatively about their future. Therefore, they often operate in denial or ignore the future. Clearly, organizational leaders need to develop a strategy to deal with negative consequences. Many people don’t have the patience to look beyond short-term gains. Therefore, effective leaders need to know how to deal with the possibilities of negative futures.

References:

Canton, J. (2006). The Extreme Future. New York: Dutton.

Cornish, E. (2002). Futuring: The Exploration of the Future. Bethesda, MD: World Future Society.

Handy, C. (1997). The Age of Paradox. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Sterling, B. (2002). Tomorrow Now. New York: Random House Publishers.

© 2008 by Daryl D. Green