Current Reality, Future Reality, and Gaining Traction
Alright, it’s been a while since I’ve created a My One Thing post. As I considered this this past week, it occurred to me to write a post about creating a Vision Traction Organizer (VTO). The VTO is taken from the book Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business, by Gino Wickman.
I’ve written about the book Traction before, and highly recommend it for anyone working in the business world, both private and public, no matter the size of your business. It is a very practical and implemtable book.
Alright, so here is what the VTO for the Extended Learning Department at Linn-Benton Community College looked like in year 2.
As you can see, it begins on the left side with the department values and vision and then works all the way to the right displaying the department goals, and issues the department is facing. Hence, traction. Why?
Well, as I’ve written about before, the only way to make a vision a reality, personal or professional, is to actually tie that vision to day-to-day life in the form of smaller goals. When you have your day-to-day activities tied to the vision of who you want to be, or where you want your organization or business to be in, say, 3 years, you will develop traction.
Meaning, you will move toward and likely manifest that reality for yourself, or your team.
Now, since the department’s second year together, well, we’ve had some, let’s say, unexpected things occur, such as the pandemic. Yep, so now that we’ve been living inside of this pandemic for a full year, it was time to start to sketch out the next 3 years.
Here is what it looks like on my white board wall.
If you compare the two, you will see that the revenue goals are much lower than they were expected to be when the original VTO was created in our second year together. That, however, is the reality. And, as I’ve written about before, being clear on the current reality is necessary and needed in leadership.
We may not want to look at the current reality, we may want to instead run and hide from it, yet, it will only follow us if we do. And, in refusing to acknowledge the current reality, just as it is, the people that work in your organization or business, will be confused. Confused because they are not getting honest communication from leadership. Not helpful.
Further, when we don’t stand in and accept our current reality, we cannot create new realities. The only way to create a vision for the future, is to accept reality as it is. Just as it is now. Then work from there. Simple. Yet, this can be hard for people in new leadership roles. Trust me, I know how that feels.
However, you will find that your team, organization, or business, will be grateful when leadership stands in and actively communicates the current reality. For it gives everyone a real starting point.
Alright, that’s My One Thing for this week. The next step will be to take the “whiteboard wall VTO” and put it into a graphics design software package. Once I’ve done that, I will create another post and walk you through some of my thinking about Extended Learning’s next three years. That will be fun.
3 Reasons Why Vulnerability is A Key Ingredient to Creating Movement and Traction for Ourselves and the World
I’ve written about vulnerability often this past year. Why? Well, I do believe that vulnerability is one of the most important gateways to our own development. Pretty simple really.
Vulnerability conceptually is simple, as most things conceptually are. However, practicing vulnerability, well, that’s a whole different experience.
We can talk about concepts often and at length, however, when we put those concepts, like vulnerability, into practice in our lives, they can often feel very uncomfortable. And, vulnerability is no exception.
Yet, it is so important for each of us to find new ways, which are safe, to put vulnerability into practice in our lives. Safe? Meaning, where we are with people we trust and can rely upon. Important, as when we are vulnerable, we are bearing a side of ourselves that is, for lack of a better way to explain it, raw.
Raw, meaning, that these sides of ourselves have not been exposed to, what can sometimes be harsh conditions in the world, so we must take care when we practice our vulnerability.
Now, when we find those spaces and places where we can be the vulnerable-selves we know ourselves to be, so that we can grow and learn, there are many things we will get back from our environments, and ourselves, which makes practicing vulnerability quite the exquisite experience. What, prey are those things?
Right. Well, in this article we will explore three of them. Three reasons, as I think about it, why it is important for us to practice vulnerability regularly, so that we may grow into the next iteration of ourselves.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
Wow, how important is learning? Pretty important, right? Yep, I agree. Well, to learn more about the world, and the people in it, we must first, learn about ourselves. And, being actively vulnerable is key. Why?
Because we get to learn about aspects of ourselves that were previously unavailable. For instance, if you are nervous about public speaking, as I once was, and you always resist public speaking, well, you will never learn about the experience of public speaking. And?
That’s perfectly okay. However, if you are interested in tapping into a reservoir of untapped potential, then being vulnerable in the area of public speaking will be a gateway to your learning more about yourself as a public speaker.
The only way to become a public speaker is to do public speaking. You can read every book that was ever written on the topic, and still never become a public speaker. Whereas book knowledge is helpful, it is in the vulnerable practice of public speaking, for example, where we create the possibility of becoming a public speaker.
Now, as we practice vulnerability, and venture into environments that we previously resisted, we learn more about the experience of, staying with the previous example, being a public speaker. And?
Then, we get the experience of knowing what it is like to be a public speaker. Again, the only way to know what it’s like to be a public speaker is to become one. Meaning, to take one step, or one action, toward the realization of your goal to become a public speaker.
And, guess what? You get to control how big those steps are. When we actively participate in being vulnerable, we set the pace. It’s iterative. It takes time.
There was a time when I was terrified of public speaking. And, I mean terrified. Then when I was about 28, I wanted to become a leader in the company I was working for at the time. Well, there is lots of public speaking in leadership. Lots of it. And? I took one small step at a time. One step, led to the next, and so on.
And, the steps I just wrote about? That is growth. That’s what it looks like. You set a goal outside of your comfort zone, knowing you will have to be vulnerable to get there, and you take a step each day, or every other day, or once a week, or month.
Again, you control the pace.
Growth is an experience. It happens in the world by taking actions that we’ve not taken before. And, to take actions we’ve not taken before, especially when we are fearful or anxious, requires courage, yes, and it requires vulnerability.
Courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand. In fact, there is a super cool quote I’ve drawn upon a few times from Brené Brown that speaks to this truth. Here it is.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” -Brené Brown
Powerful. And, it’s been my experience that vulnerability and courage are linked. In fact, I believe they are one and the same. You cannot be courageous without being vulnerable, and you cannot be vulnerable without being courageous. They are one.
Movement and Traction
Now, as you learn more about yourself, and begin to tap into your vulnerable areas, you also begin to know more and grow more. These three, learning, knowing, and growing are also linked. And, the concept that lies behind them? Yep. It is an experience.
When we are in action, and experiencing life, living our life in vulnerable ways, we are creating movement. Movement for ourselves, yes, and for those around us. Meaning, when we move our own development forward, we move the development forward of the people around us.
It’s the way it works.
And, when we continue this pattern? Well, traction will inevitably follow. Meaning, that as we continue to grow, and those around us grow, we create contexts never seen before. Seriously. It’s not possible that they’ve been seen, because you are doing things you’ve never done before. Beautiful.
It’s inside of this movement and traction, and these new contexts, where the possibility to change the world lives. And, I mean this literally. The world is always moved forward from contexts that contain both courage and vulnerability.
And, remember you do have the power to change the world. We all do. What does it take?
Learning more, knowing more, and growing more in contexts that were previously unavailable to us. And, creating these contexts takes courage, yes, and vulnerability. So?
Be courageous, embrace your vulnerability, and change the world for the better. One action at a time.
As I was creating a 3-minute video, some time ago now, on creating movement on teams, I uttered the phrase, strategy plus action, equals traction. And, this is so true. Why? Well, before we look at why, here is that video.
Okay, why. Because in order to move a team, business, or organization forward, you must have both strategy and action. If you only have strategy, you are only talking about doing things; and, if you only have action, you are onlydoing that which was done yesterday. And, that is not traction.
How can you create strategy, action, and traction? Let’s take a quick look.
Strategy + Action = Traction
The key to creating traction is movement with vision. The first full year in my current position we moved, yet we did not move as a team, and we didn’t have a vision. No traction.
There is a distinction here that is important. You cannot gain traction until you move as a team and are clear on where you are going.
In that first year, we were focused on understanding each other and building relationships. Additionally, we learned the business, and got clear on the strengths and weaknesses in the business model.
In effect, we were focused on each other, and the day-to-day operations of the business, which is totally understandable. You can only move a team forward, once you are in relationship and have created safety, understand the business model, and understand where you are going. That was created in year 2.
Developing a vision, which I’ve written about in other posts, was creating where we were going with intention. Once that vision was created, we had the ingredients to move into traction.
Build relationships and create safety.
Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the current business model.
Develop a vision to pull you into the future you are creating.
There are other components, which are also important to creating traction, such as developing processes and systems that work together in your business model. In our first year, we did a lot of process upgrades; and in year 2 we started to work on the systems.
In year 3, in the time we had pre-COVID-19, we were continuing to work on those systems; and, even during COVID-19, we have continued this work, though the work has been focused on new processes and systems to support remote and online learning.
Now, in our just-about-to-begin year 4, which we are calling reset to zero, we are going back to creating, building, and maintaining relationships. However, this year it is about creating, building, and maintaining relationships in the community; with our partner organizations, and business clients. Wonderfully exciting work.
For those that learn best audio-visually, here is a very short video on creating strategy, action, and traction. The culmination of which, I have termed the traction zone. Take a look.
Balancing the day-to-day operations with strategic thinking is also very important to creating strategy, action, and traction, and getting your team, business, and organization into the traction zone.
More to come on how to create this balance, as I am currently working on a new post to discuss 7 keys to creating balance between the day-to-day operations and strategic thinking. Until then, be well and lead well.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote Three Transformational Leadership Skills; and, creating safety was on of the three. This week, let’s take a deeper look at creating safety among those you work with, and lead. What does it take to create safety? And, how important is creating safety? I believe it is always important, and is even more so now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to be in the next few years, as we all learn about our new realities.
What does it mean to work in a safe environment, where you feel like you can act and be who you really are, without fear of reprisal? Well, it means exactly that. That those on the team, in the work office, or that are a part of the organization, can be who they are. Meaning, they can act and say what is needed about the direction of the team, without fear of someone lashing out at them, and defending or justifying why their opinion is more important than theirs. The latter, doesn’t work well.
What works well? Creating an environment where people can actively question each other, even be critical of each other, yet know that they are safe. It is a big deal. If you are on a team that can act in this way, you will gain more traction on your goals and objectives.
Because you are actively talking about the issues that matter most. And, when you are talking about, and creating action plans to resolve those issues, you are creating movement. And, movement is needed and necessary to create traction.
Step 1: Understand the keys to creating safety
I’m sure there are many ways to create safety on a team, or within an organization, yet I can only speak to the ones that have worked in the contexts in which I’ve worked. And, these keys, I think, can be utilized across multiple contexts, across different teams, and across many organizations.
Three keys to creating safety
Building relationships – developing high-quality relationships is important to creating safety on any team. Making the time to get to know each person on the team, their hopes and dreams, as well as their strengths and opportunities. Knowing each of them well is necessary to understand their perspective, and to build trust. Trust is akin to safety.
Fostering individual perspectives – when people have a say in how things work, and how the team moves forward, more comfort and more safety is created. People want to participate, to collaborate, to draw upon their talent, and to provide their individual perspectives on issues the team faces. Foster these perspectives.
Creating support systems – think safety net. People need to understand how they will get the support they need. Support can be delivered many different ways. What is important is that there is a support system in place, and that the team knows how it works.
Step 2: Understand the keys to your role
As I’ve discussed in other posts, everything you do within your team and organization starts with you. The way that you develop yourself, and lead from within, will determine how you lead without. Same. Taking the time to develop skills that will move yourself forward, hence, the team, is important.
Three keys to your role
Being open – one thing that helps foster a safe environment is being open and available. When the team knows you are open, meaning open to new suggestions and ways of doing things, they will feel more appreciated, and more safe.
Being available – will also signal the team, that spending time with them is of utmost importance. I’ve always found that open environments foster the most innovation and safety.
Being authentic – leading with authenticity creates the possibility that the people on the team will also demonstrate authenticity. And, authentic environments foster contexts where people can give candid and honest feedback about how the team is doing, and what they see as necessary improvements.
Step 3: Understand the keys to the team’s role
Once you are clear on your role, you will have developed the ability to understand the team’s role. And, understanding the team’s role, including each person’s role on the team is important to foster momentum, movement, and traction.
Three keys to the team’s role
Individual engagement – creating ways to engage each individual team member at their developmental stage is important to their growth both personally and professionally. And, opportunities for developmental growth is critical to moving teams forward.
Team engagement – developing ways to engage the team, and for the team to engage with each other is important to creating safety. People that don’t know each other well, don’t general trust each other, nor will they feel safe with each other.
Connecting the individual to the team – fostering individual development while also building the team’s development is a very important component to creating a team that knows how to move, develop, and gain traction in their work every day.
Movement and Traction
Implementing the aforementioned strategies within your team will increase the possibility of creating movement, and gaining traction. And, as the team moves forward, finding new ways to ensure that the safe environment you’ve fostered, and the team has created, is continuously redeveloped is important. Contexts change, organizations grow, they shrink, and they move forward. The ability to develop new strategies to create safety as things change is critical.
The COVID-19 pandemic is, unfortunately, a great example of a change that no one saw coming that has increased anxiety and decreased safety throughout the workforce. Now is the time to create, and recreate safety. Creating safety is an essential leadership skill, and it is also essential to growing, moving, and gaining traction on teams.