There is nothing like the approach of something new, like a new year, to get us thinking about what we’d like it to look like. This is the time of year to take a moment to regroup. Whether you’re an individual planning your future or a business executive setting the course for the company, planning makes good sense because it gives us an opportunity to look and think ahead.
Plans can be extremely detailed and specific or they can be only high level and directional. Regardless of the format or outline we follow, there are 3 essentials to consider in creating a plan:
Get Real – As we look over the past year we should be able to see a pretty clear wake that we’ve created to get us to now. To go from here it’s important that we see the true reality of our situation. Are we better off or not than a year ago, happier, smarter, stronger, wealthier, more secure, successful etc. As an individual we might gravitate to happiness as a barometer whereas a company may look at the sales report. The main goal of this exercise is to be honest with the results of our efforts and to take responsibility for what brought us to here and then simply ask ourselves if we’re happy where we are.
What could be improved, changed, subtracted, nurtured, reinvigorated, or created etc. to make our future brighter given our current reality? The answer(s) become the elements of the plan.
Think Possible – Most of us tend to think in terms of the big picture, but live and act amidst the details. Companies and organizations that immerse themselves in the process tend to be very successful at repeating what works, but sometimes hold on too long to what is familiar and safe. This is true for individuals as well. We might have a grand plan and vision, but get hung up on how we’re going to get there.
In planning we can consider anything we choose in terms of goals or vision. What separates a dream from a plan is that the plan should include some way to measure the success. In business without a specific milestone or result to monitor, it would be impossible to project sales and earnings and the same is true for the individual – with one important exception. For a company, setting a goal is always within the context of the competitive landscape. For individuals however we can operate independently and thus have the ability to transform what we imagine into reality.
In short, a plan should include both a clear goal and some methods/ideas/ways to achieve it. The added and sometimes random element of the plan is the belief in its success.
Go Boldly – “Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.” Is a quote from American writer Agnes Allen. In the first essential of planning, Get Real we asked some questions and determined the elements of our plan.. And then in Think Possible, we gave ourselves permission to dream. This final essential consideration requires we confirm our intention to our vision of success and then commit the energy and action to see it through. Often the first step to beginning something new requires we end what used to be. In business this can be complicated because systems and habits are difficult to change easily. This is when leadership is most critical.
The key to creating positive change in an organization is to be clear on “why” change is needed, but also to explain the team’s role is achieving the goal, and then sharing with them how to enjoy the fruits of that success. The leader’s mission is to help align the company’s goals with the goals of the people that make it go. Understanding “why” helps everyone take ownership of the process.
As individuals, to Go Boldly means to embrace a new beginning. To appreciate that to begin is a source of joy and like any leader we also need to understand the “why” of what makes us go. And the answer to “why” is that it’s different for each of us. To find our raison d’etre we must first trust that we are worthy of our dreams. We must believe that we deserve whatever success and abundance we seek. We must be clear on the “why” of our venture. And we must move in the direction of our dream, even if we must go alone. Joseph Campbell said: “follow your bliss,” and Vincent Van Gogh said: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
As the year draws to a close and thoughts of plans and resolutions emerge, it’s important to reflect on the power we all have as leaders of companies or of ourselves to change the world. If we begin with a simple reality check, then consider all of the possibilities, even the far-reaching ones, and then move boldly toward the goal, we’ll be surprised at how much progress we can make and who might want to join us on the journey.
“The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world.” —Malcolm Gladwell.
Best wishes for a successful enactment of your plan and dreams. Thanks for listening.