(This is the sixth installment in my twelve-part blog series A Leadership Vision for America)
In the past several weeks, I have gone into detail about the first secret our government leaders need to know to improve our system in Washington: Have a compelling vision. For a compelling vision to endure, all three elements—a significant purpose, a picture of the future, and clear values—are needed to guide behavior on a day-to-day basis. A perfect example of this is the way Martin Luther King, Jr. outlined his vision in his “I Have a Dream” speech. By describing a world where his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he created powerful and specific images arising from the values of brotherhood, respect, and freedom for all—values that resonate with those of the founding values of the United States. King’s vision continues to mobilize and guide people beyond his lifetime because it illuminates a significant purpose, provides a picture of the future, and describes values that resonate with people’s hopes and dreams.
Once you have a clear and compelling vision, you can establish goals that help people determine what they should focus on right now. In his book Educating Voters for Rebuilding America, Jack Bowsher suggests six potential national goals that would achieve the picture of the future he proposes:
- Peace with strong defense and Homeland Security systems
- Prosperity and a rising standard of living with high level of employment
- Adequate and affordable health care system for all
- Superior and affordable education systems
- Efficient and affordable government
- Decent retirement for senior citizens
I think Jack is really on to something with these goals. I would love to see each of our presidential candidates identify the key goals he wants to accomplish nationally, and then spell out his plans and programs to achieve those goals. Rather than debates, candidates could participate in goal accomplishment sessions: First they would have to agree on the key goals to accomplish in the country within the next four years, and then each would give his own strategies to achieve each goal.
Wouldn’t you love to hear our candidates lay out their specific goals for America and then clearly explain how they expect to accomplish those goals? Do you think this idea is realistic, unrealistic, optimistic, idealistic, or something else?
Next time, we will move on to the second secret for how our leaders in Washington can turn things around: Treat citizens as their business partners.
It’s time again to think about New Year’s resolutions. I like to picture myself sitting here one year from today, looking back on 2012 and smiling because I’ve accomplished two or three things that I wanted to accomplish over the year. I’m patting myself on the back!
So what would you like to do between now and then? Now you’re going to obviously have some goals in terms of your job and your organization, but what about you personally? What about your weight? Your exercise? Your health? What about learning a new language, like Spanish or Chinese? What about improving your organizational skills? What about writing something that you’ve wanted to write for a long time? What would really make you feel good if you accomplished it by the end of next year?
It’s great to write out your resolutions as SMART goals. Be Specific on what you want so that it’s observable and measurable. M stands for motivational—make sure it’s something that excites you. Is it Attainable? Don’t set some unrealistic goal that there’s no chance you’ll accomplish. Make sure your goal is Relevant and important to you. And have a goal that is Trackable, which means you can chart it over time so you can catch yourself doing things approximately right and see yourself making progress.
I have found that I do best on New Year’s Resolutions if I share them with my wife Margie and people at work, and anybody else who is around me, so they can help and support me. We all need an accountability group to help set ourselves up for success.
So in the next few days I’ll be thinking more about what I would like to accomplish that’s going to make me feel good. What would you like to do? How do you want 2012 to go for you? Let’s see if we can help each other keep our commitment to our commitment. So often New Year’s Resolutions are just announcements. Don’t just announce it; really make it happen! And good on you for 2012!
Lastly, I’ve posted a few of my resolutions for 2012… take a read, and let everyone know a few of your own! http://howwelead.org/resolutions/
Even in these hard times, some people still wonder whether or not leadership really matters. Jim Collins did a good job explaining why leadership matters. He wrote the bestselling book From Good to Great. In that book, Collins talks about how great leaders have two capabilities: One is resolve, or determination to accomplish a goal, and the other is humility. He describes how leaders with resolve and humility can build a good company into a great company. But one of the best ways to appreciate the value of good leadership is when you see how fast a poor leader can take a good organization down. Collins says it takes a lot of people to move a good organization into greatness, but it can take very little time for just one lousy leader to send a great organization downhill.
Leadership is very important. Leaders have a major role in setting the vision to move toward the organization’s goals, and then creating a motivating environment for people so those goals can be reached. But boy, leaders who don’t know what they’re doing, or have big egos, can take a good company and drive it straight into the ground. So don’t kid yourself. Leadership does matter.
A lot of people ask me, “What’s the difference between leadership, management, and supervision?” Most people think it’s about where you are in the hierarchy—if you’re at the top, you’re a leader; if you’re in the middle, you’re a manager; and if you are closest to the people who are actually dealing with the customers, you’re in supervision.
I’d like to break the mold and forget about those labels. I believe all three are leadership roles. No matter whether you’re at the top, in the middle, or supervising people on the front lines, as a leader you first need to make sure that everybody is clear on goals. The first secret of The One Minute Manager is One Minute Goal Setting. All good performance starts with clear goals, which is the vision and direction part of leadership. The next thing you need to do is to help people accomplish those goals. That brings to mind the second and third secrets of The One Minute Manager. The second secret is One Minute Praising. After people are clear on what they are being asked to do, you need to wander around and see if you can catch them doing something right. Accent the positive and praise them. If someone does something wrong, but is a learner, don’t punish the person. Just say, “Maybe it wasn’t clear about what we were working on,” and redirect. However, if you are dealing with an experienced person who for some reason has a lousy attitude, give the person a One Minute Reprimand, which is the third secret of The One Minute Manager. That’s where you make clear what the person did wrong: “You didn’t get your report in on Friday, and I really needed it. Let me tell you how I feel – I’m really upset about it.” Be sure, though, that you always end with a reaffirmation: “The reason I’m upset is that you’re one of my best people and I always count on you for that.”
Every level of leadership starts with clear vision and direction and then moves to implementation. Remember that managers, supervisors, and CEOs are all leaders. Don’t let yourself get hung up on labels.
For the next few blog postings, I want to answer some questions that I’ve received numerous times over the years. Let’s start with the big one: What do I need to do to reach my goal of being a CEO?
Some young people have the goal that they want to run some big operation someday and they ask me how they can get there. I tell them it’s by not worrying about getting there. Be the best at what you’re doing right now. You don’t get promoted because you’re thinking about the next position and what you’re going to do there, you get promoted because you’re doing a tremendous job at what you’re currently being asked to do. People will notice that, and then they’re going to give you opportunities. When you do get the next opportunity, your focus needs to be on that opportunity—how can I be the best at doing this job? And gradually, over time, if you give your best efforts to everything that is asked of you, you’ll be amazed at how steadily you make it up the hierarchy. And someday, you’ll be running the place—not because you’ve got power, but because you’re somebody who’s a good performer. And people will believe in you because, just maybe, you can help other people perform well, too. So there’s nothing wrong with setting goals, but remember—live in the present, not the future. Do the best you can do at the job you have and new opportunities will present themselves.