Vision, Big Red Car?
Big Red Car here on a gloomy and threatening Texas morning in the ATX, which is still a great place to be even if there is thunder on the horizon. On Earth as it is in Heaven. [Haha, On Earth as it is in TEXAS! Were you paying attention?]
The Boss has been at this CEO coaching thing for about five years now. During that time period, he’s worked with a lot of CEOs and C suite potentates. Like all things, folks approach life and the business of CEOing in different ways and have different outcomes.
The Boss has told a very small number of CEOs — “This doesn’t look like it’s going to work.”
There has never been a single CEO with whom The Boss has had that conversation who has been surprised. Most of them came to him with their bags packed and The Boss told them they were right and discussed how to wind things up correctly.
The Boss is likely to be more optimistic than a troubled CEO because he has seen CEOs turn things around. When you have seen lead made into gold, you begin to think anyone can do it.
That is, unfortunately, not true. But, there is a common denominator amongst those who do and today we talk about that.
What is the common denominator, Big Red Car?
The common denominator amongst those who successfully turn things around is a re-tooled vision. It is really that simple. They do the work to formulate and articulate a killer vision and then they sell it.
You have heard me pontificate about the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture, business engine canvas, business process graphic, pitches (taxi, elevator, boardroom, company), and dollar weighted org charts.
You don’t like listening, but you have heard it, haven’t you?
What you have heard is it sounds like a lot of damn work when all you really want to do is focus on product. Doing this work ensures that the product comes into the world in an orderly manner — like delivering a baby in a hospital rather than under a bridge in a snowstorm. Bridge Baby is still a pretty baby, but much higher chance of survival if it’s delivered in a controlled environment.
When your company is struggling — or you are going through the normal throes of a changing senior management — you go back to basics and check, doublecheck, and re-check ………………………………………… everything.
This happens all the time. Your challenges are not unique. Your generation did not invent either sex or business.
Vision? How do you do it, Big Red Car?
The first thing you do is tell yourself you are going to do it and then you do it. It requires you to think as to what you really want to be when you grow up. It is one of those things so simple that it is complex.
Vision is like trying to write a short letter to explain a complex issue. Its brevity is its clarity.
So, you get a notebook and a pen and a stack of index cards and you just do it.
This is like getting back to jogging after a long stint away. You put your shorts on, you put your jogging shoes on, you smooth your hair, and you step outside, stretch, and begin to jog.
Like Stonewall Jackson said, “You may be whatever you resolve to be.”
Who do you sell first, Big Red Car?
The first person you sell is yourself.
You finish your brainstorming, you write the vision down, you read it. You clean up your work space, you have a cup of coffee, and when you finish you read it again and say, “Do I believe this?”
You keep doing this until you believe it. It may not happen at first and it may have some guardrails painted with “IF,” but you sell yourself first.
And, then, you go sell your team.
Sell the vision to my team?
Yes, dear CEO, you present your vision to your team and you discuss it with them. We use the word “discuss” but we really know you are selling it to them by not selling it to them.
Some tough love this morning: You are the leader and they are looking for a leader to follow. Somebody told you that you have to develop some big consensus, but that’s bullshit. A leader cannot be a leader unless she has followers. No followers, no leader.
So, you present your vision and drag questions from them. At first, it feels a little uncomfortable as if someone is going through your dirty laundry. But, it gets better.
You tell them, “Tell me what you think. We’re not leaving her until I have six good questions.”
You do this because you know something they will not admit — They are afraid and the first job of a leader is to acknowledge that fear, harness it, and ride it like a bucking bronco. To tap into that energy and organize it into a straight line which is constantly advancing the vision. You know this. It is all, initially, about fear.
This is your team after they buy into the vision.
This is your team before they buy into the vision.
Then, someone asks you, “Who do you think is going to win the Final Four?”
You say, “North Carolina Tarheels, but that doesn’t count as a question.”
Once you break the ice, the fears come out onto the ice and you begin to answer their questions. You know the answers, because you have sold the vision to yourself and sometimes you say, “Don’t know, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” They realize you have the same fears, but, somehow, you have come to grips with them and they want some of that and that is why they are followers and you are their leader.
In life, we do not receive power — we seize power. You seize the power in that room and you work it.
People like to follow — people will follow — people who are not afraid to be afraid, but who will continue to act. Courage is the ability to act in the face of fear. You try a little courage and it doesn’t feel so bad, so you double down.
In the end, they sign up for your vision. And when they do, the Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture, business engine canvas, business process graphic, pitches (taxi, elevator, boardroom, company), and dollar weighted org charts all become easier.
They become easier because they have bought your vision. They have put their fingerprints on your murder weapon and they will follow you because you demonstrated you are the leader.
A leader takes a group of people to a place they would never get to by themselves by driving the enterprise with a vision. It all starts with the vision. Everything else flows from your vision.
There is a risk.
The risk is that if you fail to fashion and articulate a vision, you will be a herd mistress, but you will not be a leader. You still get the title and you get the ego nourishment and self-esteem enrichment, but the company? The company fails because companies require leaders and leaders provide the vision.
And, the secret of the world is that you will get better as you lead.
As you lead, as you do the stuff that makes your heart race, makes your hands sweat — you will get better and you will look back and say, “Why was I scared about that?”
And that is the second that you go from being a novitiate to a journeyman and you set your eyes on becoming a master craftsperson.
It is just that easy.
So, if you’re not sure — go back and re-tool that vision. Sell it to yourself. Sell it to your team. Listen to their fears, acknowledge them, and overcome them. Lead. Seize power.
The Boss has been doing this long enough, he has worked with some incredibly successful CEOs. Folks who have built companies and taken them to the pay window. It works.
The common denominator?
In their own unique way, they grappled with and overcame the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture, business engine canvas, business process graphic, pitches (taxi, elevator, boardroom, company), and dollar weighted org charts stuff.
In their own way. Many very similar, but in their own way.
You can also, dear CEO. You may be whatever you resolve to be.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car looking forward to Easter and all those dyed eggs and chocolate bunnies. Be kind to someone today. Somebody who doesn’t expect it. Happy Easter!