This is where we’re going; this is why we’re going there

This is where we’re going; this is why we’re going there

A common complaint among CEO’s is that they’ve hired talented people – people with great potential – who won’t or don’t step up the company’s greatest challenges. They expect to be told what to do and how to do it.

A common practice in response is to have a one to one conversation intended to encourage the employee to “think strategically” or to be unafraid to make mistakes. This technique usually has little or no lasting impact.

We all have “tells”. Little quirks in how we communicate that betray our emotions or frustrations. Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, puts it this way:

“Loaded messages come in many guises. At times they arrive courtesy of a person who uses sugary sweet words but who seems to have a malevolent undertone. Our radar picks up something else – some hidden agenda perhaps – that leaves us feeling uneasy and reluctant to trust. It wasn’t anything the person actually said, but rather something in the air around the message that didn’t feel good. Our impeccable radar warns us to obey our instincts and be careful.”

So, the reaction we get is the opposite of what we would like. “Just tell me what to do, boss.”

People need to be inspired before they will blaze a trail. Scott suggests that leaders develop a stump speech “—the speech you must be prepared to give anytime, anywhere, to anyone who asks or who looks the least bit confused. Your stump speech must be powerful, clear, and brief.

“This is where we’re going.
This is why we’re going there.
This is who is going with us.
This is how we’re going to get there.”

Now, your agenda isn’t hidden. It’s out in the open.

The stump speech becomes a yardstick against which all decisions can be measured. If you’ve really hired people with talent and potential, they’ll get it after they’ve heard it a few million times.

And, they’ll step up.


Your personal thousand mile journey

Coming soon.  Book launch scheduled for May 16

Recently, I had lunch with a 30-year-old guy who was seeking advice. He flattered me, saying that he was reaching out to successful people to get the benefit of their wisdom. He told me his goal was to have $10 million in the bank by the time he reached the age of 40.

“How do you plan to achieve that?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’m still working on that.”

“That’s $1 million per year,” I said. “What’s your plan for this year?”

His answer wasn’t any better.

Quoting Confucius is a cliché. But clichés get to be clichés because they resonate. As I was chomping on my romaine, I thought I might offer this Confucian quote:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” *

By the time I swallowed, I had another thought. A single step does one no good if it is not taken in the right direction. And, my lunch companion had no sense of direction.

Better to start with a vision…

“What does your life look like in 10 years?” I asked. “Your bank account is only one part of your life. What does the rest of it look like?”

Once you have that vision, money may not be a major factor.

If your vision includes meaningful, enjoyable work and a loving family with time to enjoy them, having millions of dollars isn’t a factor. About 75 grand a year should do the trick. If you want to add a254a8cd38a0aff147c73d569b2d05f5saving for the kids’ college education and for retirement, about a hundred grand should do.

Defining the vision is the most important first step on your journey of a thousand miles. Then every step you take can be evaluated in terms of whether it takes you toward your vision or away from it.


* It turns out the source of the quote was Lao Tse, founder of Taoism.