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.
It’s what happens when cool insights occur. Let’s reset shall we? Real quick. Here we go.
In the first installment of part 2 of the leadership series, we discussed thinking and feeling, and why understanding how we think and feel matters to our development as a leader.
And, then in the second installment of part 2 of the leadership series, we discussed speaking and acting, and why understanding how we speak and act is also important to our development as a leader.
In this, yes, promise, the final installment of part 2?
We will discuss hearing and seeing. How we hear, and how we see, are just as important as how we think, feel, speak, and act. And, that was the insight I had a couple of weeks ago. So, let’s go.
As we develop ourselves as a leader, we hear more things. Things we would not have heard before. Subtleties in someone’s voice for example, the tone and affect, their word choices, how they use them, and the words they didn’t choose to use.
Factually, we all have different vocabularies. Meaning, no two people know all of the exact same words, or how to use them, or use them in the same way. However, listening for how people use their language is important. How people use language, will provide you more information about that person.
What are some strategies you can employ to hear, or listen more intently and retain that information? Sure. Here are a couple.
Be present – one of the most important tools a leader, nay, any human being, can develop is learning how to be present. Being present means that all of your attention is on whatever context you find yourself in. For instance, you are not multitasking, or thinking about other things that need your attention. Being present is a gift to ourselves first, and then to everyone we know. In the article, What Does Being Present Really Mean, and Why Does it Matter?, I write about some of the strategies I use to ensure I stay present.
Listen – active listening is a learned skill. Meaning, it takes practice, just like all things. When we are actively listening we are present, and are engaged with the information the person is sharing. Of course, this means we are not planning a response in advance. We are rather, just being with that person and what they are sharing, providing them meaningful feedback and questions so we can learn all they have to share with us.
Take notes – I always take notes when I am in a meeting, or have someone that does. I only take down those things I need to remember. It is important to not get lost in note taking, which can happen. You need to capture important aspects of the conversation, dates or definitions maybe, or, maybe a question arises, which is usually the case with me, and it’s not an appropriate time to ask it. You can write it down real quick, and then ask the question at the appropriate time.
There we go. There are many other strategies you can employ to ensure you are hearing as much as possible. Yet these three I use daily, all day in fact, and they work well.
Okay, now let’s talk a little about seeing.
What can I write about sight? Well, that as we develop as leaders, nay, as human beings, we develop more sight. Just like we feel, think, speak, act, and hear, we see more, see differently. It is a wonder, really.
Because I am a hyper-visual learner, I see a lot more, and then? Well, I always document it somehow, and then sometimes what I see is used, and sometimes it’s not. It matters less that what you are seeing is utilized, than it is that the possibility is created to utilize this new information in meaningful ways.
Here are some strategies I use to capture what I see.
Whiteboards – as I’ve written about before, whiteboards are a highly effective tool, especially for visual learners. I have three whiteboards at home, and many at work, including two white board walls in my office. Here is my simple whiteboard process.
Write out, sometimes it is linear, sometimes nonlinear, that which I’ve seen recently. Whatever insight that might be.
Let it sit for a day or two and reflect upon it. Sometimes I will add to the insight, sometimes not.
Take a picture of the whiteboard for later use.
If the insight is usable, put it into action in my life.
Journaling – a very effective strategy for capturing new ideas. Developing a pattern for your journaling is super helpful. I usually journal at the end of the day. Some people, however, like to do so in the morning. Timing matters less, than creating the time to journal when you can.
Post-its – as crazy as it may seem, post-its work very well when you are busy. I use them all the time, and then transfer them into my other organizational tools.
Graphics software – I’ve also been recently using venngage to take the new insight’s I’ve had, and transfer them into a cool visual for myself and the team. Super useful.
Alright, there are a few strategies I use to capture all that I see. And, I do capture just about all of it. There are times when an insight I’ve seen slips through my fingers, yet, when that occurs, I know that if it was needed, it will come back.
Closing Part 2
In closing part 2 of the leadership series, I would like to leave you with the consideration that both leadership psychology and sociology, as we’ve discussed them here, are both needed as we develop ourselves as leaders.
Understanding how we feel, think, speak, act, hear, and see, starts with us. Being more self-aware of who we are as, yes, a leader, and more importantly, as a human being.
The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand the people around us, both at work and at home.
And, when we are intune with ourselves and the people around us, we can create the possibility of more movement for ourselves, yes, and our teams and families. And, then? Well, with movement, comes traction.
When we get to traction with ourselves, and our teams and families, we get back so much more. It is quite amazing actually to reflect upon all that I get back. Absolutely amazing and quite beautiful.
Remember, it all starts with us. All that we think, feel, speak, act, hear, and see.
Well, this past week, I had an insight about writing. An insight that was derived from some of the blogs I follow. Yes, some of you, so thank you. The insight? Sure.
Namely, to write and schedule posts in advance. I’ve not done something like this on a regular basis, yet I can definitely see the utility, especially when during normal work times, of which this particular time period is not. So?
Well, I’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s take a look at this week’s writing. Here we go.
As I was writing about above, I already have two posts scheduled for next weekend. An article on leadership, and one on vulnerability. It’s nice to have those written and scheduled, which will allow me to get back to work on the leadership series, the reflection series, and the social construction series next week. Excited.
I’m present to goal-setting today, as I’ve created a new vision for some of my upcoming engagement on LinkedIn, and have set new goals within that vision. Of course, I’ve also created priorities that are connected to both the long-term, and short-term goals.
And, when you have goals that live within your vision, whether that is personal or professional, you need a system to put it into. I’ve written a couple articles about creating systems, and will share my LinkedIn system with you here.
There we go. That was fun. I do love venngage. Anyway, here we can see the department priorities, and then one way that I will take action next quarter to create more engagement through LinkedIn (LI). You will see there are some blog series listed, which are not actually a reality yet, however, that’s how goal-setting works.
First you create the vision, then the objectives, then the priorities, and then? Well, you get to work. I am excited about the opportunity to discuss the new series with you in the future.
Okay, let’s turn to holidays, shall we? Good. Here we go.
Wow, what a lovely time of year. I do love the holiday, as I’ve written about before. It’s more the time of year, when we are heading into deeper winter, and I can start to see the spring not far off.
Well, it’s still a ways off at this point, however, in the Pac Northwest, the days start to get noticeably longer in January. And, I do love longer days, and the possibility of more sun as we head towards March.
Though, we had a gorgeously sunny day today. Beautiful.
Though I didn’t travel this holiday, we did Zoom calls, like lots of people, and that was nice. I also spent time with my oldest son, playing frisbee golf in the rain and cold, yet it was so nice to spend time with him. We made a sweet potato and butternut squash chili, and had dark chocolate cranberry bread for dessert.
Yes, of course I made the bread from scratch! I love to cook and bake, which I don’t know that I’ve written about before. Anyway, the bread was delicious.
Alright, that’s all for this entry.
As we approach the New Year, I want to wish you all the best in the coming week, and in the coming year. I am so excited about this next year. Seriously. I am excited to continue to create and write, and continue to engage with your beautiful creations.
A 3-minute Reflection on 4 Things Every Leader Can Do to Create Safety on Teams
Well, we are 9-months into a pandemic, actually much more than 9-months, yet, here locally, 9-months ago was when the restrictions started. And?
I’ve been thinking about and reflecting upon just how important creating safety on teams is all the time; and, now? Even more important.
Developing safety within a team creates a context where possibilities abound. Meaning, when people feel safe, there is trust, and where there is trust, well, anything is possible. Seriously. Anything. And, now?
Living inside the pandemic for the past 9-months has been unsettling in many ways. Though I’ve written about, and we’ve discussed many times before, how much more there is to know and learn, than is known.
It is equally true that when the foundation of someone’s belief system is shaken, it can be really hard, and can make people begin to question what they thought they knew about how the world works.
Meaning that for some people, they already know there is much more to know than they know, and now what they thought they knew has been up-ended. Hard.
Right, so what can we do? How can we make sure to continue to create safety on teams so people feel like they have solid ground to stand on? Good questions. Let’s take a look at 4 ways we can do just that.
Have you ever heard about managing the real and ideal? Yes, no? Either way, it simply means that when in a leadership role it is important to always strive for an ideal, think vision, while being very clear on the current reality.
Basically you are managing the tension between what is and what you are creating. Super important. Why?
Because even though the current reality might be hard to hear, people need confirmation that what they are seeing, thinking, and feeling is accurate. The very last thing they need is false hope. Nope. They need reality.
When you stand in the current reality, there is workability. Why? Because when you are clear and the team is clear, you can continue to create the ideal free from the distraction, what if.
You will get more focus, concentration, and organization when you are clear on the current reality while continuing to create the ideal future state. More focus, concentration, and organization from yourself and the team.
We all know how important it is to listen. Very important. There might not be a more important leadership skill. Seriously. This is especially true when times are stressful.
People need someone they can come to, someone they can depend upon. Someone that is going to be present, listen, and give honest feedback. They need that, their team members need that, and, as the leader, you need that. From? From each of them. Yep.
There is immense power in being present and being an active listener.
Active listening simply means being mindful in your conversations. Be present, pay attention, empathize, and use your conversational skills to really understand, take in, and respond in kind to the person you are talking to. Important.
You will get much more back when you practice and coach people to practice active listening. More for yourself, for your teammates, and the entire team. When people really listen, they know what’s going on with their teammates, which makes for a much more productive work environment.
When the team understands the current reality and the ideal state you are creating, is practicing active listening, the likelihood for collaboration increases. Why?
Because when people feel comfortable, are able to focus, and know how their teammates feel and what they think, they are immediately more approachable. And, when we are more approachable, collaboration is just easier.
And, what do you get when your team is able to collaborate more effectively? Yep. Innovation.
When your team works together, there is a synergy that occurs, and inside of that synergy, you get ideas that take the team further. You don’t get these types of synergistic innovations from silos. Just doesn’t happen.
Of course, you cannot create an ideal reality from a very clearly defined current reality without taking action. Nope. Not possible.
Actually, the coolest thing about creating an ideal, and generating all of the innovative ideas, is seeing them executed upon. Amazing. It is one of the things I love the most about working on teams.
Yep, it is so much fun to create, and, yes, I am very creative. Yet, it is equally beautiful and fun to watch the transformation of what can be months of innovative work into a new system, process, program, training, or class. Really.
Wow, that was fun.
Alright, remember, creating safety on teams is a powerful leadership skill. Truly.
As we discussed, creating safety ensures that people can feel comfortable in the current reality, even a very stressful one, while continuing to strive for the ideal reality.
Practicing and modeling active listening also fosters safety by creating a context of respect and mindfulness, while collaboration and taking action ensures that the bridge between innovation and execution is clearly articulated and navigated.
And, when the bridge between innovation and execution is clear and ideas are being executed upon, the team will feel a sense of accomplishment, which increases the team’s morale and feelings of security and safety.
Creating safety on teams may be one of the most important things a leader can do, especially during times that are more stressful and unknown. The ability for everyone to feel safe is that important.
I am always thinking about, learning about, and practicing leadership. Really. Always. It is such an important concept and practice. Yes, professionally, and even more importantly, for me, in every aspect of my life.
Well, that’s what we’ll look at in this new series. There are so many questions to look at and discuss when it comes to leadership. Seriously. So many. Here are just a couple.
Why is leadership such an important concept?
Why is it so important to practice?
Why is it important to understand?
What are the types of leadership?
Why are there so many types?
What’s the right type for me?
How do I become a leader?
And? Oh, there are so many more.
Alright, in this first article, we are going to unpack leadership as a concept and practice. Ready? Great. Let’s get started by defining leadership. Yep. here we go.
Alright, we now have an additional concept in this new definition. Leadership in this definition is also associated with a particular set of characteristics. Yet, which ones? Hm. Confusing.
Well, let’s assuage some of our confusion by unpacking these definitions, shall we? Good. Here we go.
Leadership as Leading People
Right, so leading people. Yes, yes, that is a part of leadership. Or, as I usually like to write, one piece of a whole. The whole you ask? Good question.
The whole of leadership as a principle and practice is a system. And, like all systems, it starts with each of us. The way we think and feel about leadership; our hopes, dreams, goals, and objectives. Yep, all of them.
In fact, all leadership starts with leading oneself. What does that mean?
It means that the way we treat ourselves, the principles and values we believe in, and the way we practice those principles and values are exactly how we lead.
Some people think that you can lead your life at home one way, and then lead your life at work in another way. Not so. Believe me, I’ve tried it. It just doesn’t work.
How you lead at home is the same as the way you lead at work. They are one.
Some of you right now might be thinking, as I once did, that’s not true; I have a set of values at home and a different set of values at work.
However, I am inviting you to consider that, in fact, believing that we hold different values at home than we hold at work is mere confusion. And?
That confusion will seep out into all that we do.
We can call that discord. And, that discord will confuse you, yes, and everyone else around you. Really. And, with confusion comes tension, disagreement, and disengagement.
Well, getting clear on your principles and values is a start. As is understanding why you treat yourself as you do; meaning, creating an awareness of yourself for yourself. Important. Then?
Let go of the principles and values that no longer serve you, and create new ones. We are creative beings first, and leaders second. All of us. Create symmetry between the self you are at home and the self you are at work.
You are one person after all. Create the leader you know yourself to be. One step at a time. Then?
Creating leadership symmetry
What are your hopes, dreams, and aspirations?
What do you value and why?
Why are you the person you are today?
Why do you do what you do?
Create symmetry between your personal life and your professional life. As was aforementioned, they are one and the same anyway. Time to connect the two. There is tremendous power in this conceptual and practical example. And, then?
Well, with symmetry and practice, you will lead people. And, you will lead them from a space that is centered and clear on what you intend to create.
Leadership as a Position
Leadership is not a position. Director, supervisor, and manager are a position, or even better yet, are a title.
Leadership is a philosophy and a practical way you live your life. Every aspect of your life in fact. If you think about leadership as a position, then?
You will create separateness between leadership and other aspects of your life. And, as we’ve just discussed, that leads to confusion and disengagement. You from yourself, and your team from you.
It is inevitable. People know when we are genuine and authentic. They can feel it, they can see it, and they can hear it. Simple.
One of the reasons people struggle in leadership is they are not clear on who they are as a human being. Listen, it’s not a demerit. I once had this same issue, and?
It’s hard. Very hard.
When you are not clear on who you are, how can you be clear on who your team is? You cannot. It’s just not possible. What is possible?
Get clear on you
Why are you a leader?
What do you value in leadership?
What types of leadership do you associate yourself with?
What kinds of impact do you want to make in this world?
What change do you want to create?
I could go on. Well, and we will, in future posts. For now, know that there are two things at this stage that are critical.
Understanding your leadership style.
And, we will cover both of these topics in the next two articles. Now, let’s take a look at leadership as characteristics.
Leadership as Characteristics
There are many places to look for and find lists, articles, even whole books on leadership characteristics. And?
Well, it is important to understand these characteristics, yet it is just as important to understand that these characteristics are a product of what leaders believe and think, and how they act.
Meaning, that understanding characteristics are only as good as actually developing a relationship with yourself, and understanding how that relationship will translate into your personal leadership style.
Here are a few leadership characteristics I think are pretty important.
Know there are many more. These are the ones I’m most present to now, and the ones that I’m always present to actually.
Leadership as Life
I prefer to think about and practice leadership as another part of my life. A very important part of my life. Really.
If we think about leadership in regard to taking care of and leading ourselves through life, and then expand that to include the other people in our lives, it’s very important.
Let’s close this first installment with a few quotes, shall we? Good. Here we go.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
Inspiration is an important part of leadership. And? Well, the leader must first find their inspiration, as we’ve discussed, and, then? It will go out to everyone else. Fun.
Ah, yes, collaboration is such an important leadership characteristic. Difficult, and yet so much fun and so worth the process.
I am fond of saying to the team I work on something like, you know we chose to institute the collaborative model we use today. It’s not the easiest way to do things, yet we believe it is the best way.
Lao Tzu makes a lovely point here about influence. When a team is rallied around a common purpose or goal, it is infectious, and it is as if the leader simply disappears. In fact, each person on the team, in their own way, becomes a leader. Beautiful.
Alright, we’ve made it to the conclusion of the first entry into this new series on leadership. And, I am excited about continuing it with you.
In the next installment, we will take a look at leadership from the perspective of the self. It is, as we’ve discussed, where everything starts.
And, it is exactly where we will start again next time.
Have you ever thought about why you do what you do? Maybe you already know, and maybe not. Either way, know that knowing why you do what you do is very important.
You can think about your why as the part of you that drives you to be the person you are today. It is something emotional, not intellectual. It lives deep within us, gives us our sense of purpose, and it also gives people that we know the knowing of who we are as human beings.
Here is a great Ted Talk by Simon Sinek about why your why is so important.
Though Simon’s Ted Talk is framed as a leadership principle, it’s applicable to all human beings. To anyone interested in connecting with other human beings on a deeper level.
As I was thinking more about my why this past week, it occured to me that creating alignment with our why, connecting it to those we know, teams we lead or work on, organizations we work within, and communities we belong to is also very important. Why?
There are three main reasons.
When we connect our why to those closest to us, we create and have a deeper connection with them. We are able to better understand their why through the connection we see in our why.
And, the converse is also true. People can better understand our why through the connection they see in their why. And, this holds true even if they don’t know their why, or we don’t know ours. Really.
Further, we can also deepen our connections with people that know us very little by creating alignment with our why. Why? Because inside our why, they can see aspects of themselves. Really. Think about a time when you were moved emotionally. What happened?
Chances are you felt a deep connection with the person, company, movie, insert here whatever you were engaging with. When we are moved deeply, we can see aspects of ourselves in that which we are engaging with. Powerful.
Creating alignment with our why creates more relatability with those closest to us. And, when we connect our why through all of our relationships, the relatability connects us on a deeper level to everyone in our lives, including our teams, organizations, and community.
We instantly become more relatable as a human being. Again, this is so because people can see aspects of their own humanity in your why, or your story.
These deep connections keep us coming back for more. Really. Think about all the people in your life. Think about their why, even those that are unspoken, or unrealized. What do you see? Still thinking? That’s okay. Here is what I see.
I see that we are pulled closer to those we can relate to and understand. We are also pulled closer to those that move us, inspire us, and touch us in some way. Why’s are powerful.
Simply, when we create alignment with our why through all of our relationships, our connection is deeper, there is more relativity and relatability, and we also create alignment with our purpose, or vision.
When you share your why with others, and intentionally create alignment with your why, you create a very special context. A context that welcomes a shared vision of a future that you are creating together. Whether that is within a relationship, a team, an organization, or a community. It works the same way.
Working within a vision is a much different experience than working without one. Truly. Visions are powerful. Visions are created from why’s.
3 Simple Steps to Create Your Why
If you’ve already created your why, awesome. If not, create one. It’s not difficult. Really. How, you ask? Here are 3 simple steps you can follow to create your why.
Write down why you do what you do.
Now, I’m not talking about pay, benefits, or some other intellectual reason why you do what you do. I’m talking about your emotional-self. The part of you that is inspired to create change in the world. Now, with this frame, answer why do you do what you do, and write down all the ideas that come into your head and heart. All of them
Pick your top 3 reasons from the list
Pick your tops 3 reasons from the list that resonate most with you. You know, the ones that send tingles up your arms and through your body. The ones that make you smile really big, giggle even, as you think about creating that outcome, or result. Yep, that’s it. Those are the ones.
Create your why statement
Now take those three reasons and fashion a statement. Sometimes it will be a single sentence, sometimes it will be a paragraph. Depends. There are no rules here, except that it needs to move you, inspire you, touch you in some way. If it does, it will move, touch, and inspire others. Trust me.
There you go, nice work.
Alright, that’s 3 reasons why creating alignment with your why is important; and, 3 simple steps to creating your why. Pretty simply, yet very powerful.
Next time we will take a look at 5 simple steps you can take to create alignment with your why.
Until then, keep creating. Creating your why, aligning your why with other why’s, and keep inspiring others to do the same.
It occurred to me that I’ve used multiple strategies the past three years to accomplish this balance, some have worked well, some not as much. What’s most important, however, is not that some didn’t work, rather, it is important that some did.
Trying new strategies is part of leadership development. Actually, it is development itself. Try something new. If it works, keep it, if not get rid of it.
Well, then, let’s take a look at 7 keys you can use to balance strategy with day-to-day operations. And, if you choose to incorporate one, great. If you already do these things, wonderful. And, if they are new to you, give one or two a try and see what happens.
7 Keys to Balancing Strategy with Day-to-Day Operations
Persistence – being persistent is an important leadership trait; as is knowing that not everything that you implement will work. It just won’t. There is nothing wrong with that, and you do not get a demerit if something doesn’t work. All that means is that you need to be persistent in your actions to find that process, or system that will work. Stick to it, and you will find it.
Prioritization – we are all inundated with multiple competing priorities. It is very important, however, to get clear on how those competing priorities should be prioritized. Very important. Otherwise, all of your priorities will have the same level of importance, and chances are many of them will not move forward.
Patience – very important to have patience with yourself. When you develop patience with yourself, you will also have more patience with the people on your team, or in your business, or organization. Trust me when I write that patience will win over force any day. Patience is sustainable, force, not so much. Be patient, and give yourself the time you need to breathe.
Determination – when one is determined, they are moving forward, and do not let obstacles stand in their way. Important for every leader everywhere. Why? Because the nature of leadership ensures that obstacles will often present themselves before us. Often. Being resolute and steadfast, while also being flexible in your approach is key. You will be challenged regularly. You will also be drawn to the day-to-day operations. Normal. Yet be steadfast, and determined to incorporate strategy into your daily workflow. It is possible.
Organization – understanding an organizational system that works for you is essential. It does not have to make sense to anyone else. Just you. Important, as people often think that their organization system must be understandable to others. Not so. You need to understand it, period. Also know that how you organize yourself will change as the business changes. It is supposed to.
Time Management – a difficult skill set to develop for me, yet one that I have made progress on in the past few years. What I’ve learned, similar to learning to organize myself, is that there is no one way to manage time effectively. Important to understand. When you understand this, you will actively seek out new ways to manage your time, until you find the system that works for you. And, time management should also change as the business changes. It must.
Vision Clarity – you must be very clear on your vision. If you are not clear, you will continue to do day-to-day tasks that are not moving you closer to achieving the goals associated with your vision. Being clear on your vision, ensures that you are moving your vision forward when you are working on the day-to-day operations. You are then always working on your strategy, even when you are working in the “weeds.”
There we go. 7 keys to creating balance between strategy and the day-to-day operations of your team, business, or organization. Are there other keys, you ask? Of course. These are simply the ones that I am most present to now.
There are many meaningful ways to balance strategy and day-to-day operations. How many there are matters less, than, as leaders, we try new things, and incorporate new strategies into our workflow often. Be open and flexible to new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new ways of being.
Teams, businesses, and organizations change often. And, with change comes the need to be open to changing as the need changes. A must.
If you’ve tried the keys outlined in this post, awesome. If you’ve not tried them all, try a new one, try two. If you already do them all, wonderful, you’re ahead.
If you’re not sure how to incorporate these keys into your workflow, here are a couple of quick suggestions before I close.
Persistence – continue to try new things. Get your best ideas out, and invite others to collaborate. Your ideas + their ideas =.even better ideas. Continue to persist, you will find the process, system, or vision you are looking for.
Prioritization – how do you prioritize your work? Know that however you prioritize your work today, there are a million other ways to prioritize. If what you are doing is not working, try something new. Remember, as the team, business or organization iterates, the way you prioritize yourself will also have to iterate.
Patience – a big one. Though being persistent and determined are very important. Being patient is equally important. Give yourself the time to breath and think. A must. Schedule the time into your calendar. Make time, and let your team know this is your time to just be. Go for a walk, or just sit. Doesn’t matter. What matters is doing it daily. For a time, I had a recurring appointment on my calendar for myself. It read, breathing. And, I did just that.
Determination – yep, important. Things will happen and “go wrong.” It is the nature of leadership, especially when leading innovative teams, businesses, or organizations. Stay the course. Remember, that “failure” is part and parcel of the creative process. You cannot have breakthroughs without breakdowns. They go together.
Organization – similar to prioritization, trying new organizational strategies is important, and needed. Example – when I started my current job, I organized myself in an “old school” way. File folders, and lots of paper. Then I went completely digital, then back to files, and folders. Now, a combination. Again, what matters is continuing to try new things. When something’s not working, do it differently. You may be surprised how that will open up more thinking space for you.
Time Management – phew, time management is so important today. I am much better at it today; yet I would say the first two years on the job, I really struggled in this area. How did I begin to improve? Continually trying new things; and, asking for help. The department administrative assistant, to this day, goes through my calendar with me, and asks this question – why do you have this meeting? Hm. And, if the meeting on my calendar is not connected to the vision, I cancel it.
Vision Clarity – yep. Once you’ve become skilled in the aforementioned areas, you will have more time to work on strategy. And, once you are clear on your vision, the aforementioned keys will also become easier. Why? Because the clearer you are on the vision, the more you understand the work you really need to be doing. You begin to see other work you’ve been doing in a new light. And, you will begin to let that other work go. If the daily work is not connecting to the vision, let it go.
Alright, we’ve discussed 7 keys to balancing strategy and day-to-day operations; and, we’ve also looked at a few ways you can incorporate these keys into your workflow.
Remember, the most important thing about creating balance in your work, is to always be present to the reality that trying, and doing things in new ways is necessary and needed.
When you are unsure of what to try next, try something new, stand back and see what happens. If it works well, keep it. If not, let it go; and, then, try something else. Whatever you do, keep moving. Be and lead well.
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.
Alright, phew, what a busy couple of weeks. So much change. As I continue to prepare for the merger of my two websites, I am going to continue to post new material to this site, which was originally created for servantleadershipcoaching.com.
I am excited about the merger, and about reformatting this website. 🙂
Hopefully, you will enjoy these new additions! Here then is:
Creating a Big Hairy Audacious Goal: The Creation of the BHAG
What in the world is a BHAG, and why does it matter? A BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a way to get out of the weeds, and create a distinction between working in the business and working on the business. Creating a BHAG is also a way to take all of the smaller goals you have and connect them to a higher level mega-goal – the BHAG. Not sure if a BHAG is for you? That’s okay. I invite you to read the following list before making a choice.
Do any of these sound like a day you’ve experienced recently?
Working in the business more often than working on the business – this is an important distinction, and means that you are working on the day-to-day operations of the business more than you are the long-range planning and vision for the business.
Reacting to the daily business needs, more often than working purposefully, and wondering if those reactions are in any way connected to the vision of the business.
Spending more time at a computer screen than a whiteboard.
Feel like you are going in multiple directions all at the same time, while wondering if these multiple directions are connected to each other, and your other long-term goals.
You have multiple competing goals, and are unsure how to connect them.
You are unsure how to connect your metrics to the day-to-day business operations,AND, your long-term goals.
If you experienced any of the above, then creating a BHAG is for you. Where did the term BHAG come from? Here is an excerpt from Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras.
Boeing Corporation is an excellent example of how highly Visionary companies often use bold missions – or what we prefer to call BHAGs (pronounced bee-hag, short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”)– as a particularly powerful mechanism to stimulate progress.
One of the coolest things about creating a BHAG, outside of the progress that lives inside of that creative experience, is that you can create them for your personal and professional lives.
Let’s look at the creation of a BHAG through a real life example – mine.
After 6 months in my current position, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, in Albany, Oregon, I was wondering exactly what I had committed to. Has that happened to you before? It happens to all of us.
Anyway, I was working hard, very hard. And, most of that work was focused on working inthe business, not on the business. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this post, and in other posts, if all you do is work in the business, you will simply get the same result you got the day before – the same thing, everyday. Why? Because you are doing the same tasks everyday. Simple. It’s not that you don’t desire to grow, and do more, however, you are effectively stuck in yesterday.
However, if you can shift to working both in the business, and on the business, watch out.
After over a year of working in the business, I went to a strategic thinking training, led by Terri Houde, which was where I first experienced the BHAG. I believe we were first asked to work through some of our goals, to identify them, and write them out. Then we were asked to go out on a ledge, and create a goal that was at the limits of what is possible – the BHAG.
Here is the one I created.
Becoming the State recognized leader in noncredit education
Creating a BHAG is a life changing experience, because in one moment you create in language a goal that is so big, it is visionary. And, what do we know about working inside of a vision, rather than working outside of a vision?
“Having a vision provides a sense of purpose and direction for the business. Your vision will help you define your short and long-term goals, and guide the decisions you make along the way. A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved…” ~ Ralph Lauren
Okay. I’ve created a BHAG, now what? Don’t know. I didn’t either. Here, however, is what happened.
Once the BHAG was created, it was time to inform the staff about the vision. I created a very simple presentation, which I delivered at a team building training at the end of 2018. Why is standing before your team and delivering a vision needed and necessary? It is important, so they can see you, AND themselves inside of the vision. When we can see ourselves as part of a vision, we are going to act in accordance with that vision.
In fact, I told the team often then that the BHAG came through me, however, it was a part of everyone of them. I can see each of them in the vision.
I should also mention that when the vision was created, we were also implementing Traction, which is a way to systematize your business operations (Wickman, 2012). The timing was perfect, because we were able to make connections to the 10-year vision (BHAG). We then created the following.
5-year priorities and goals
3-year priorities and goals
Yearly goals and priorities
Quarterly goals and priorities
Weekly and monthly next actions
All of which were connected to the 10-year BHAG!
Working inside of a vision the past two years has been a wonderful learning experience. We’ve achieved some of the goals we’ve set out to accomplish, and have many more to achieve. However, we are all pointed in the same direction, focusing on the same things, and have a shared language around a vision that was created from a one-day training experience where a BHAG was created.
Now we find ourselves in a very new situation – COVID-19. Well, in the next post, we will discuss what you do when your BHAG is severely disrupted. Can you guess? Yes, no?
You create another BHAG!
Yep, that’s right. You can have a BHAG that lives inside of another BHAG. I’d share that one with you, however, it is very new, and the team hasn’t even seen it yet. Next time, promise.
Remember, when you are interested in taking your business, organization, team, self, to the next level, create a BHAG. Then work backwards and connect that vision to this year, quarter, month, week, and day. Then you’ll know that every action you take is moving you closer to your ultimate vision, mega-goal, or BHAG!
Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperBusiness, 1997.
Wickman, Gino. Traction Get a Grip on Your Business. Publisher: New York : BenBella Books, Inc., 2012. URL.
You can reach Jeff Flesch at firstname.lastname@example.org and Terri Houde at email@example.com.