“The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be” – Yogi Berra
What’s the future for you and your business? The basic goal for most businesses is to make fundamental changes in how they conduct their business so as to cope with new, more challenging market environments. By definition, change requires creating new systems… and that always demands leadership and an out-of-the-box way of thinking, because management’s usual mandate is to minimize risk and keep the current system running.
Ask yourself, “Am I acting more like a leader or manager in most every day situations?” Both are important. Everyone feels the need to understand and predict the future. However, an innovative leader is not about predicting the future – he/she is about imagining it.
Carl Sandburg said, “Nothing happens without a dream.”
Can you tell me though – in a business group of any size, who is in charge of imagining? Does management provide for that? Not usually, no. There are too many political motives, mental models, old theories, concepts from the past that used to work, notions that are fuzzy and vague in nature, and bureaucracy and in-fighting, all of which can strangle imagination. Also, worrying over the downside possibilities or making mistakes can often dominate a manager’s thinking.
To really succeed, a business must have a leader in place who will work through all the internal constraints and facilitate a common dream for the business and turn it into a well thought out vision. This leader engages everyone in it and the manager makes it happen.
The future (vision) has to look better than the present. Otherwise, why would anyone work hard to get there? It’s the leader’s job to create a coherent picture of the desired state of the business, and a clear view of the current state. Innovative action should come from the contrast between the two. Most organizations don’t have meetings to create possibilities because the vision isn’t an imagined true want and all the problems of the day stop everyone in their tracks. In order to execute we all need to operate from the vision.
When was the last time you had some of your people imagine a dream or you allowed a new business concept to be talked about, let alone let someone run with it? Control is the tool of management. That’s why it is called management. Yet, managers don’t realize how they can inadvertently block the vision innovation action and the creative potential of their team.
Years ago, Jim Mackin, CEO of a past client company in Oakville, turned a building products business into an organization that produced automotive products. He transitioned from dealing with bands of unengaged workers to employing teams who managed themselves. From young employees doing boring, unfulfilling work to creating a place where meaning, team, and serving customers meant something. He was a leader with a vision. At any given time his team could tell you where they were going and what is their current reality and what were the activities, strategies, and plans to get there. Most managers can’t do that. Too often they’re just managing numbers. People loved Jim’s vision and leadership, and they made their expected numbers in the process.
According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania, a 10 percent increase in engaging people in the future of the business, leads people development and an 8.5 percent increase in productivity, but an increase in capital expenditures leads to a 3.5 percent increase in productivity.
Leaders like Jim engage and develop the collective brainpower, ideas, and innovations for the organization. As a leader, you can do it too. Leaders take intellectual capital and turn it into money and results. The by-product is a newly ignited, hopeful, and focused organization.
How would you rate your organization’s ability to innovate and create new wealth on a scale from 1 to 10?
- Is your management ready to create a new desired state which includes changing customers’ lives?
- Are you ready to pay attention to what’s going on with customer trends and their thoughts and ideas?
- Do you have a process that would turn your people loose to transform and ignite your business?
Would you actually consider engaging a team to build new revenue and opportunities?
Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
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