Paint the picture, dang it…

“Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art.”

Peter Drucker

There isn’t a single painting, sculpture, photograph, or music composition in the world that has ever been “dreamed into existence.” Sure, the artist had to have the vision and see something that no one else could see, but then the magic has to happen.

The real magic and genius of creation is the unique ability to see the future AND have the necessary discipline to DO THE WORK...

Imagine how masterpieces have died because they could never get out of the mind of their creator. Don’t let this be you. Follow this age-old advice. “Plan your work, work your plan…” If you don’t, you aren’t an artist, you are just a fan of dreaming…

nativity painting of people inside a dome
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The five questions one must answer to enable courage…

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

Peter Drucker

accomplishment action adult adventure
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I have always deeply admired those who have the courage to start something new. Those who possess the ability to see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be. These are the people who dare to spread their wings and fly, knowing they might fall. They do so understanding success isn’t guaranteed, but by leaping, they might be able to impact the world in a bigger and better way.

Courage is needed whether a person is starting a new role or project in their current organization, starting their own company, or simply doing something outside of their comfort zone. This courage, this ability to take on risk and move, despite any fears and doubts, that is what intrigues me so greatly. How does a person come by this? How does one learn courage? Is it genetic? Is it formed during childhood perhaps? Or maybe it comes through the experiences we have as we grow through life? What separates those who have courage from those who don’t?

Regardless of how courage is formed, I believe the formula for demonstrating it consistently comes down to one’s ability to answer these five questions:

  1. What is it that MUST happen? This is the question that frames out the opportunity in your mind and allows you to paint a vivid depiction of a better future. This is where one defines the opportunities and articulates exactly what you want to see happen. Creating a deeply detailed “envisioned future” is the first step in summoning courage.
  2. What am I afraid of? This is where you wrestle with your own demon that will try to hold you back and prevent your successes. Whether it is fear of failure, fear of being seen as a fraud, fear of being wrong, etc. You can’t beat your fears if you haven’t identified them and faced them directly. Fear is a demon, and if you want to beat it, you have to look it squarely in the face.
  3. Am I willing to fail? This is the keystone question. Answering the first two questions enables one to arrive here and wrestle with the knowledge that not every initiative and opportunity seized will be successful. There are no guarantees in life. All the courage in the world could still result in failure. Is this acceptable to you?
  4. What is the worst that can happen? This is where you nail down the absolute worst possible outcomes that could arise from the opportunity you are contemplating taking on. If you can’t think through and anticipate the problems that will invariably rise up, then you can’t make an informed decision about whether or not the risk you are taking on is worth it.
  5. How do I mitigate the worst risks outlined above? When you have defined and understand the worst possible outcomes then you can begin to build solutions to offset those risks. For example, if you are taking on a new project at work outside your area of expertise and the associated risk is that you might lose your job, seeking out expert training, books, or mentors might be a good way to mitigate the risk. Not all risks can, and should, be mitigated. But when you can you have to do so if you want to create success.

This is what separates those who have courage from those who don’t. Those who create success through courageous decisions have an ability to see a better future, define their fears, understand failure, identify worst-case scenarios, and build in success enabling strategies in case the worst happens.

Then comes the moment of truth. Can you make the decision? This is the magic moment where you have to leap and have faith in yourself, those whom you have surrounded yourself with, and trust in a higher purpose and calling.

So go forth and do. Take on that new project. Embrace your new role. Start that new job. Build the company you have been dreaming of. Embark on a journey to create a better world for others. When you show up courageously you will truly feel alive and the world will be better because of it…

Invest wisely…

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

Peter F. Drucker

There are only so many hours in the day. How are you spending them?

I find it useful to think of time as a bank account. You spend your minutes and hours each day as you would your money. What kind of return are you getting for your spend? Do you look back at your days and weeks and wonder where the time went? Are you achieving the goals that you sent for the month the quarter or the year? Do you even have goals?

The bottom line is this. You only have a finite amount of time in each day and week, and none of us know when that time is going to run out. Spend it wisely and intentionally. Make sure that you are getting maximum return for your investment. If you aren’t, stop spending the time on the things that don’t matter and invest in the things that do…

Change much?

“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete … the things that once were productive and no longer are.”

Peter Drucker

Change can be really hard. In some ways it is so much better when it is forced upon you and there isn’t an option to remain the same.

The best part about forced change is that it frees you to truly grow and when you aren’t encumbered by the past you can embrace an entirely new future.

How can you develop an attitude of becoming intentionally obsolete?

Ask the right questions, measure the right things…

“What gets measured gets improved.”

Peter Drucker

My post from yesterday was on my mind as I chose this morning’s quote. To improve (reduce) the dependence I have on digital devices means that I must measure where I am today, even if I might not really want to know the truth.

I’ve been a long believer in the old adage “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Now I know that simply managing something isn’t good enough. You have to find ways to improve and the only way to do that is by knowing exactly where you are coming FROM so that you can make progress towards where you are going TO.

But understanding the measurement of where you are is only as good as your willingness to dig in and ask the right question(s). If you aren’t willing to face the truth, and willing to really see the answers, then you aren’t going to ask the tough questions that will help you discern the truth.

So to truly improve you have to ask the right questions, AND establish the right measurements that will serve to push you out of your comfort zone. Once you know the real truth, you can’t hide from it any more.

Reflection = Learning

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

Peter Drucker

I might amend this quote to say “follow action with quiet reflection.” There is just so much value that comes from taking the time to simply think about what happened and what one can learn from any action, whether it was successful or not.

I had a rare and wonderful privilege today to take time and sit and think about leader ship, growth, and ways to become a more effective leader. It was time that was wonderfully well spent and very enlightening.

I would highly encourage anyone to be very intentional with the practice of active reflection and intentional learning. It will not happen by accident or simply through desire it must be intentional. This means that it must be scheduled and followed through on with the same discipline that one would treat any other meeting.

If you don’t practice reflection then growth and learning is left to chance and circumstance. That doesn’t seem like a very good deal to me.

The conversation in your head…

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

Peter Drucker

Listening to the words that are being said is a hard proposition. All too often I catch myself listening just well enough to create my response. In many cases I, and most people, aren’t really listening at all, the mind is rehearsing its response to whatever is being said.

How do you achieve a higher level of listening which is more than hearing all the words? How do you listen well enough to understand the “why” of what is being said? Once you get to that level only then are you truly listening.

I have found two things that help me move past the natural tendency of my mind to be framing a response prematurely.

First, I remind myself to seek to understand the “why.” I want to do everything I can to be able to understand the why well enough to be able to see the conversation from the other side of the table or from another perspective.

Second, as I quiet my mind and truly listen to the words I remind myself to listen in order to ask questions. Listening to respond versus listening to ask questions takes a very different mindset. If one is focused on asking insightful questions in order to understand you can get closer to understanding the “why.”

Neither of these things are easy, and they are certainly not my natural tendency. Doing it well takes both diligence and intentional effort. In many ways it reminds me of a good meditation practice. When you fail, you catch yourself and simply begin again. Do it often enough, and with enough discipline, perhaps you can find yourself truly listening to the conversation that is going on and not just the one in your head…

If you want to hear the music, do the work…


“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

Peter Drucker

A great symphony isn’t of any value unless there is an orchestra there to bring it to life. To convert the written notes into the music which fills the air takes tremendous effort, collaboration and direction from many people all aiming for the same thing, to bring to life what is essentially just a written plan.

I don’t know anyone who achieved anything without dedicating themselves to the work necessary to turn their plans into a new reality. There are no free rides in life. Do the work, the hard work, or you won’t be able to hear the music…

Create a daily discipline around what matters most!

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

I’ve been guilty of this one more than a few times.  Doing a great job on something, spending time getting it right, but it not being the most important use of my time or energy.  Why does this happen?  

Focusing on the things that matter means you have to be highly intentional at taking the time to understand the problem and thinking through what the most important or impactful solution will be.  Where should the effort be focused?  Sometimes you identify the right thing, but the situation and environment changes and the initiative or effort should be dropped.  That can be hard to do, but it is critical if you want to make real progress.  

Create a daily discipline of asking yourself “what is the most important thing for me to be spending my time on today?” Ideally this should link back to your most important goals, or the “big rocks” as Dr. Stephen Covey calls them.  Otherwise, it is so easy to get off track because we are doing something that is fun or that we particularly enjoy…  

 

Effort versus Effect…

“Efficiency, which is doing things right, is irrelevant until you work on the right things.”

Peter Drucker

How much time do we spend in life working hard versus stepping back to ensure we are working right?  The impact of our effort is really what matters, not just the fact that we worked extremely hard.  Sometimes it can feel way more rewarding to be “busy” than it can to be effective.

For example, is it more important to check something off your list of to do’s than it is to take the time to think through whether the task should be on your list in the first place?  Have you ever completed a task and THEN written it down just so you could check it off?  Sure, you get this nice little dopamine boost than comes from accomplishing a task but did you actually sit back and make sure that the task needed to be done in the first place?  Why do we do this?  (yes, I have been guilty of this too…) 

I have found that because activity gets measured daily it can be easy to become a slave to being busy and lose sight of the desired results. In today’s multi-tasking as a measure of success world we can often justify our worth by being busy and having lots of activities going on at the same time.  However the real measure of effectiveness is whether or not the desired results are being delivered.

If you were to add one thing to your list to improve your effectiveness I would suggest this:  Schedule time weekly to think through what needs to be done in order to achieve your desired results.  Without this, you might have lots of effort but little to show for the work.

One last question.  Does your measure of success at the end of the day come from how many things were checked off your list or whether or not you were checking the right things off your list?

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