“Drive thy business or it will drive thee.” – Benjamin Franklin
A few weeks ago, someone forwarded to me a survey that had been taken of business leaders around the globe. These leaders were asked a lot of different questions about their concerns, priorities, initiatives, etc. One of the interesting things that came out of the survey was that while these leaders were super busy doing things, they weren’t spending much time thinking about what they wanted their businesses to be in the future, and they weren’t spending much time working on a plan for that future.
My experience over the past few years of working with leaders is in line with that survey. Thinking about vision and strategy and planning has always been a challenge. Everything that’s happened over the past three years has seemed to make that challenge a near impossibility.
I’ve heard so many people from 2020 until now say things like, “Well, it’s really crazy right now, we’ve just got to hunker down and get through it.” And that’s not necessarily wrong. A lot of days over the past few years have just been about getting through the day and getting to tomorrow.
The problem is that too many leaders have allowed this to become a permanent condition. They’re in permanent firefighting mode, always just going from one emergency to the next. When you challenge them about it, their response is basically that they’re just going to have to do this until things get “back to normal.”
News flash: this is normal. And you can’t lead an organization for years on end without taking time to think about the future, regardless of what kind of chaos is going on around you. In fact, a big part of your job as leader is to be thinking about the future while chaos is going on around you, because certainly nobody else will.
You have to force yourself to think about what you want your business to be in a year, or two years, or five years. You have to think about what value you will be providing your customers. You have to think about your people. You have to think about your competition. You have to think about all of those things, and then you have to figure out what to do about it.
If that sounds overwhelming, then start small. Take 60 minutes this week and just think about one element of the future. Make notes, write down key words, whatever helps you. Next week do it again, on a different element. Gradually put together that vision of the future.
That may sound elementary, or it may sound daunting. Either way, you have to create a picture of where you’re going or you’ll just go where the world takes you. And you might not like that destination.