Issue Number 40: Leadership: How to Create a Winning Vision – Part 1

Some leaders like to play it safe – to keep doing what has always worked. The problem is the world is always changing. We are reminded of this as the seasons change, especially in the Spring as we witness new growth all around us. If we are going to succeed, we have to anticipate the direction and speed of the changes. We need to create a motivating vision that enables us and our organizations to keep pace, or we will fall behind.

There are three steps in create a winning vision. In this newsletter I will share the first step, and in the next newsletter, steps two and three.

The first step is to follow the advice of the first-century Roman historian, Tacitus: “I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence.” Ask your customers what they want from you now, and what they think they will want from you five or ten years from now – and then actually listen to their answers. Do not tell them what you think they will need – let them tell you.

I was asked to help an organization of CEOs in the service industry run their companies more effectively so they could spend more time doing what they did best – growing their businesses. As part of my research, I asked several of their customers what they wanted these CEOs to do for them now, in five years and in ten years.

Before I submitted the final report to the CEOs, I confirmed the results of my research with the customers. They responded enthusiastically: “If they provided those services, I would be a customer for life!”

It took very little time to conduct the survey and to compile and understand the results. I did not need a grant or a team of graduate students or a PhD, and neither do you. Customers were eager to share their opinions, had specific, well-considered, reasonable requests, and were delighted to be asked.

You may not be dealing directly with external customers, but you almost certainly deal with internal customers – people in your organization to whom you provide services. The same logic applies to them. All of your customers will have their own agendas and interests, some might not understand the challenges and limitations you face, but they have one thing in common – they will tell you what you need to do to succeed.

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