This weekend I made the drive across the mountains to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As we crossed into Virginia near the Blue Ridge Parkway, a gorgeous vista of the valley below us came into view. As my daughter and her friends headed off to dance class each morning, I headed to a nearby estate to enjoy my ritualistic woodland, morning walk. Bluebird houses studded the Reynolda Estate, and their inhabitants flitted among the trees and shrubs along my path.
It was during this time of reflection that the idea of changing elevation to gain insight and clarity occurred to me. It struck me that in sharing my Vision Casting tool last week, I left an opportunity on the table to share a richer context. And that context, my friends, is this idea of breaking free from the mental models that constrict you. Here are four ideas to get you started.
I work with small businesses, and many of them have just moved from their initial start-up phase. They are now successful entities, and their success is mainly due to their all-hands-on-deck methods. No matter rank or role, everyone rolls up their sleeves and pitches in to get the job done, including the founder/CEO. The good news is that the CEO knows the business inside and out. The bad news is that the CEO is so enmeshed in the details that s/he can't think or act beyond this daily grind. A process like the Vision Casting tool reconnects these leaders with their purpose and gives sight to the enormous potential before them.
While start-up leaders are enmeshed in every part of their business by necessity, CEO's of established companies often become disengaged from the day-to-day operations. They are out-of-touch with the struggles and frustrations of their team and fail to bring the organization together to develop solutions to real problems and perceived issues. At its worst, these CEOs unknowingly contribute to disruption and dysfunction, which can erode their company's culture and the commitment of the team. One of my favorite books, How The Way We Talk Can Change The Way We Work (Kegan and Lahey, 2001), proposes that complaint is a sign of passion. "Beneath the surface torrent of our complaining lies a hidden river of our caring, that which we most prize or to which we are most committed" (p. 20).
Stand In New Shoes
All successful companies and leaders develop a playbook. It is a way operating that is their path to success. It shapes and is shaped by your view of the customer and competitive landscape. Typically, the more successful your playbook, the more unconsciously you operate within its parameters. This is why big companies can fail. The buggy whip market became obsolete when the Model-T became the new standard for transportation. The Palm Pilot was usurped by the Blackberry, who saw it's market decimated by the introduction of the smartphone.
My point is simple. The speed of change brought by market disrupters is escalating. Becoming insular, or worse arrogant can cause you to miss important tides of change. The best CEOs understand that their success is predicated on strong relationships with a variety of stakeholders - customers, governing agencies, partners, service providers, investors, employees, etc. They give priority to connecting with these stakeholders, listening to their needs and concerns, and then adapting business practices to maintain alignment with these shifting sands.
No man is an island (John Donne's Devotions (1624)). As humans, we are innately social creatures looking to make genuine connections. The old models of doing business are insufficient because technology has enabled us to connect and create in new and more powerful ways. To learn more, watch Seth Godin describes this idea in his humorous and inspiring Ted Talk.
Wherever you are in your personal leadership journey, I hope that one or more of these ideas will ignite your imagination and set you on your path to Claim Your Extraordinary in 2020.