Every day, we participate in meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Add a ton of e-mail and constant phone messages that need responding to, and you have the current life of most people in leadership positions. Surrounded by details begging for more time and attention, most leaders are constantly working just to keep up.
So, why are so many leaders wanting to talk about how to think and act strategically?
The answer is simple. They have realized that completing the big “To Do List” does not mean that they or their organization will be successful in the next 3-5 years. Operational excellence without strategic clarity and direction does not create a sustainable business model.
When we explore the subject of strategic thinking in executive coaching sessions, I often refer people to the following quote by Dee Hock, Founder & CEO Emeritus of Visa International: “Change is not about understanding new things or having new eyes; it’s about seeing old things with new eyes - from different perspectives.”
It reminds me of the old joke about the shoes salesman who travels to a third world country and reports back to the home office that sales are miserable because no one is wearing shoes. After being recalled due to poor performance, a new salesman is sent to the same area and has amazing success. When asked how this happened, he responded, “No one was wearing shoes. It was a wide open market.” Same place, same potential customers, and the same shoes to sell. Just a different perspective.
In the beginning, moving from an operational leadership mindset to a strategic leadership mindset requires all of us to re-examine our assumptions and our expectations. As the late Stephen Covey pointed out, “The way we see (our paradigm) leads to what we do (our attitudes and behaviors); and what we do leads to the results we get in our lives. So if we want to create significant change in the results, we can’t just change attitudes and behaviors, methods or techniques; we have to change the basic paradigms out of which they grow.”
This week, reflect on your leadership paradigm. Is time to see “old things with new eyes - from different perspectives”?