In 2006 Jean Egmon and I wrote The Prepared Mind of a Leader. The book was triggered by Louis Pasteur’s oft-misquoted admonition that “chance favors a prepared mind” and Joseph Schumpeter’s observations about creative destruction.
The book was based on observations and research into people who were, or were not, prepared for their future. We identified eight skills that seemed and still seem obvious and yet some were not consistently used by leaders and their organizations.
The skills are listed below but I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that “we” underutilize the skills of imagining, challenging and reflecting. This observation is based on thousands of businesspeople I’ve talked with over the past fourteen years in workshops I’ve facilitated globally.
So, here we are getting ready to closeout a crummy year and the question of “How should we prepare for the future?” is on everyone’s mind.
My partners and I are in the process of developing a workshop for our Pragmatic Leadership series which we will pilot early in 2021. Here are a couple of tidbits.
The hare will beat the tortoise
Every leader of every organization has four responsibilities that form a cycle we refer to as the Sense-Response Cycle™. You need to:
- Sense the signals of change
- Make sense of these signals considering your vision, values, and goals
- Decide on a course of action
- Execute your decisions effectively and learn.
This four-part cycle must run “fast enough”, or you and your organization become irrelevant! And considering the turmoil in every industry, the cycle will have to be run faster than ever before. Remember, this is a cycle and if you’re slow in addressing any one of the four responsibilities, the whole cycle will suffer.
Use ALL eight skills
Here are a few simple thoughts. More to come.
OBSERVE: Consider your mental radar screen. What’s on the edge and moving in fast? And think in “bigger boxes.” How is the larger world changing?
IMAGINE: Do some purposeful daydreaming and play some “what-if” games. What if some form of social distancing was permanent? What if you had to start your business again with new customers and new suppliers?
REASON: Put ideology and emotion to the side (as much as you can) and try to build conclusions about needed business changes that are based on valid assumptions, good data, and a coherent set of premises that, together, lead you and your team to valid, sound conclusion.
REFLECT: This is the time to be tough on yourself. Avoid playing the victim because you’re not. Business disruption is a fact of life – so why were you so surprised by the pandemic? Seriously, what did you miss and why did you miss it? Sure, you’re not an epidemiologist but did you wait too long to make a move? Be brutally honest here.
CHALLENGE: You and your organization have spent a LOT of time and energy focusing on efficiency over the past decades. What has to change to shift to effectiveness?
DECIDE: It may be time for decision-triage. You’ve been ambushed by the pandemic and you have to move. What decisions do you need to make now and how much risk can you tolerate? Note that risk adverse organizations tend to be slow. Remember, for the time being the hare will win.
LEARN: Play this game with yourself – pretend it’s 2025 and you’re conducting a “Reverse SWOT analysis.” Look back from the imagined future and list the strengths you should have had, the weaknesses you should have overcome, the opportunities you ignored and the threats you should have resolved. This will give you the foundation for a pragmatic learning plan.
ENABLE: You are not alone on this journey into the future. What knowledge, means and opportunities do your teammates need? Help them so they can help you.
As mentioned above, the skills of imagining, reflecting, and challenging are often underutilized. We need them more than ever.
The pilot will be offered at a significant discount. Let me know if you’re interested in participating.