In Change, Leaders, Vision

“If your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for ten years, plant trees. If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.” – Chinese Proverb

These days in business a fair amount of attention is given to setting a vision for the organization. Not everyone does a good job, not everyone follows through on attaining it, but vision setting is at least something most business leaders have considered.

Most vision setting I’ve seen done spends a lot of time talking about things like products (innovation, production, etc) or markets (new areas, etc) or even customers (ideal customer, changing demographics, etc). And those are all critical things. But too many vision setting adventures come up short on one critical thing: People.

It isn’t that companies don’t ever spend time talking about people when they’re thinking about vision. It’s that they tend to think about people in terms of numbers, as in “We’ll need 10 more engineers” or “We’ll need to add more salespeople” or the like. And those things might be true. But too seldom do we think about leadership needs.

There are very few things that can have a bigger impact on an organization than a high performing management team. Unfortunately, a lot of management teams are made up of people “who just happen to be there.” In other words, we created an organization to successfully make some product for a group of customers, and whoever we hired to achieve that, well, I guess we better put some of them on the management team. So we pick people who have the nicest sounding title and put them on the team.

Very little thought is given to the skills they need for that role, or if they’re even a fit for that role in the first place. Have you brought people into your organization who think strategically? Have you brought people into your organization who are good with change? We spend a lot of time evaluating technical requirements for jobs but seldom do we really talk about the talents and skill sets we need in our leaders.

So think about your management team. What are you missing? What skills and abilities do you need to add? What behavioral characteristics exemplify what you’re looking for? Of course we need people with those technical skills that help us produce whatever it is we produce. But even with lots of those people, the individuals at the top can still go a long ways towards messing it up. Think about your team. Are you planting for a lifetime?


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