If your people don’t know where you’re taking them, they’re likely following you out of curiosity to see what’s going to happen or out of pure laziness. As the leader of an entrepreneurial venture, it is critical for you to lay out a compelling picture of the future, constantly innovate, and ultimately drive action.
Unfortunately you can get sucked into the day-to-day details of running the business and fail to take these critical steps. The best suggestion I can make is that you dedicate some “think time” to laying these things out and sharing them with your team.
If you can clearly answer three questions and create a set of rules that force you to regularly reconsider vision, innovation, and action you will find your business will grow and thrive.
1. Where are you taking your people?
This needs to be your vision statement. Paul Saffo said, “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.” In other words, your responsibility as the leader is to look over the horizon and paint a picture of a compelling future state. No buzzwords and no B.S. It needs to clearly define who you serve, what you do/make, why it’s different than your competitors, and what matters to you as an organization. Invest the time in creating this compelling vision and your people will always be clear about the objective they’re trying to achieve.
2. How will you foresee the future?
You must constantly be on the lookout for new threats and opportunities. If you can spot them early enough (and before your competitors) you reduce risk and find new sources of growth. Find a phrase or image that reminds you to look into the future on a regular basis. One I’ve always used is simply asking “So what?” seven times. If I look at an event in the market and repeatedly ask the implications of it (“So what?”), it forces me to identify possible future outcomes I can then act upon.
3. After all that thinking, how will you drive action?
I don’t care how great your ideas and insights are. If you don’t act on them, they’re worthless. You must force action within your organization. It sounds easy, but it’s extremely difficult. Make a bad decision as an entrepreneur and it might be the last decision you make for your company. That said, make no decisions and you’re guaranteed to destroy your company. Identify a reminder to act and be decisive and use that reminder on a daily basis. One I love to use is a quote from General George S. Patton: “In case of doubt – ATTACK!”
As an entrepreneur and a leader, you have a weighty responsibility to your team. They’re looking to you to set direction, come up with new ideas, protect them from future risks, and make the tough calls. If you invest the time defining personal rules of behavior that will help you consistently do these things, you’re well on your way to being a visionary, an innovator, and a decisive leader.
If you know where you’re going and where the risks/opportunities are, then you can go (=make decisions) in a direction that helps you grow. I’m not one for cutesy rhymes but this is an occasion where remembering three simple steps will help you achieve some audacious and impressive goals.