by Paul Casey

Clean Your Leadership Lenses to See the Future

Leaders can’t get myopic, otherwise known as navel-gazing. When you spend all your time thinking about what is right in front of you in your organization and what the next day will bring, you lose sight of the big picture. While I’m not encouraging you to “chase squirrels” when you are trying to set a culture or firm up your staffing needs or increase your process efficiencies, I am encouraging you to look beyond the day-to-day busywork to how you can expand your influence.

Effective leaders must look through a variety of lenses every week. Remember that before decision-making, look through the “view of 5”, or at least more lenses that you typically would, so that you can see different perspectives that will be impacted by your actions and decisions.

  1. The Lens of the Team. You might have once been in their shoes. But even if not, you can make the choice to “put on their glasses” and show empathy for the challenges your team is having. Create mechanisms to allow your employees to vent. Get better at approachability and receiving feedback and you’ll get better feedback—and model to the team how they can better receive feedback. Seek to understand what they are feeling before just dismissing or fixing what you think is their problem. Their feelings have a direct impact on their behavior and results, which is ultimately your bottom line. For some, their job with you will be their best job ever, because of how you treated them and grew them. Relish that opportunity!

2. The Lens of Vendors and Clients.  You may be making a difference in people’s lives. Listen to those who keep you in business. The customer is NOT always right, however. Oftentimes, their perspective is totally tweaked! But be known for listening, for hearing people out, and then making the best call possible.  Tell people when you take their suggestions. Watch what is moving off the shelves and find out why, which will impact your future purchasing decisions. Watch your vendors interacting with your inventory staff to see how the relationship is going and how it can be improved—even 1%!

3. The Lens of the Industry/Peers. Look to be more of a catalyst in the industry. Catalysts have genuine interactions with hundreds of people and are constantly and eagerly meeting new people to add to their contact list. Link up to them through social media or make connections at conferences or go with your core team on a road trip in another area of your state or region.

Search for those who are at the place where you want to be and make an appointment with them. They have learned lessons and have made mistakes that you can benefit from. If you are fairly established in your business, you can turn around and mentor others in other communities who are just getting started, passing on what you have learned just like others have poured into you.

You can also benefit from attending business events and reading leadership/entrepreneurial literature that are unrelated to your specific industry. So many leadership principles apply across all industries, and a bright idea may just spring up while you are there, or during a break when chatting with another growth-oriented attendee. Put yourself in situations where you have to look at your business from a different perspective.

4. The Lens of the Community. You have fans and detractors in your local community. Be nice to all of them! Change their perception by changing their reality when you interact with them. Some have changed their opinion due to good deeds done or educated responses. Find ways to add value and give back to your community; it’s your social responsibility. Be creative in your sponsorships. Take a day to volunteer for a non-profit cause that the employees support. Learn the political landscape of your city, and make relationships that might come in handy in the future. Be at the table when community planning is happening; again, your participation blasts away at any negative perceptions.

5. The Lens of the Future. If you have a growth mindset, your trajectory is always going up. You need to spend more time in the future to envision the future. I’m not talking time travel, but I am talking about taking more quiet time to reflect on the future, read about it, and talk to other futurists about it. Trends come and go, and you must keep your eye on both them, and what might be emerging on the edge of this current trend. You know that opportunities abound to take advantage of, and you can scan the environment like a ninja, watching closely for the right one to jump on, or to modify and align to your current vision. Getting ahead of the next wave puts you in the most relevant position to grow your business. You may take some “first-in” lumps as you figure out the new reality, but your organization will be top of mind for customers in your area and beyond.

Some good advice here can be remembered by the acrostic OODA:

  • First you Observe what is going on in the industry and community.
  • Then you Orient to what that means to your business’s future.
  • Then you and your core team Decide what you are going to do with that information.
  • And then you pull the trigger and Act, putting it on your to-do list with a deadline.

Leaders swing the odds in their favor by being well-informed and well-connected. Get your best sense of the situation, listen to your intuition and instincts, and then act decisively to make greater impact.

Effective leaders know that they are dangerous when blinded by their own point of view all the time. Don’t get stuck in HERE, when there is so much impact you can do over THERE.  And, speaking of vision, my new book is out and it’s specifically written to leaders who want to craft, cast, and carry a compelling vision for their team or organization. Order a copy of Leading with Super-Vision today.


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