Forward focus – handling CAVE people

paperIf there is one competency that separates a leader from a manager, it is this one: the ability to maintain a forward focus and organize change to facilitate it. There are a thousand things that compete for our attention (well, maybe not a thousand but it can seem like it).

And there are a thousand problems that need to be solved, phone calls to be returned, people to see, and agenda items to be completed.

But superlative leaders have one focus, even if it must compete for their attention. They maintain a forward focus and evaluate everything, EVERYTHING, against that.

Managers don’t. It is their job to manage day to day numbers. It is their job to make sure processes run smoothly and productively (according to numbers).

But it is the leader’s job to focus ahead. S/he does not measure progress by conformity to systems and processes. S/he measures progress by how well those systems and processes advance the company or organization forward, propelling everyone and everything towards the future.

Not everyone can do that. Some leaders strangely find it comforting and reassuring to be needed and validate that reassurance by being drawn in to problems.

Focus on those tasks and responsibilities uniquely yours (forward moving items) and give everything else away. EVERYTHING!  Problems, problematic people, or broken things. Superlative leaders don’t get caught in those nets. Issues need to be addressed, problems need to be solved, and people need attention but it is not your responsibility to do all of it. Your focus must remain forward and relatively narrow.

Raise up others who will facilitate you and your vision then trust them to extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work. To do that you need to trust your own instincts and abilities to recruit and empower the right people.

Focus efforts on those tasks and people who will make change real. There are those folks called CAVE people – Constantly Against Virtually Everything. They delight in finding something wrong with just about everything and are not shy about vocalizing their opinion. They can, because they make so much noise and stir things up, draw your attention and pull time and energy away from forward movement. Isolate those folks and treat the disease (either cure it or amputate it), but remain forward focus.

When you’re up to your armpits in alligators, remember that alligators are not the objective, draining the swamp is. Stay motivated yourself. Stay focused yourself. Stay encouraged yourself. You have the upper hand and the higher ambition. Don’t let issues and problems appear bigger than they appear. You are bigger than any of them and you will prevail.


6 principles of effectiveness

Wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces into the right placeIf efficiency is the economic use of human, psychological, and material resources, what is effectiveness?

Go ahead. Think about it. I’ll wait…

Like many of you, I find the Business Dictionary online to be a useful and oft utilized resource. Here’s how they define effectiveness:

The degree to which objectives are achieved and the extent to which targeted problems are solved. In contrast to efficiency, effectiveness is determined without reference to costs and, whereas efficiency means “doing the thing right,” effectiveness means “doing the right thing.”

Effectiveness is vision in action.

While managers are concerned with and focused on efficiency (and rightly so), leaders are focused on effectiveness. Yes, I know, all company and organizational systems must be efficient because productivity and profitability are critical to the life of the business or mission. But you have managers for the productivity side of things. They, if they’re doing their job, make certain things are being done right.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you. I risk sounding trite and like a motivational speaker, but I’ll do it anyway. Managers make certain that things are being done right but leaders make certain those managers and the people they manage are doing the right things. (Well, hey, if the Business dictionary can use the term I can, too.) There, I said it. Leaders focus on the target. They fixate on the vision and measure everything, I mean everything, by it. Whether you’re new to the job or a seasoned veteran, the biggest threat to your effectiveness as a leader is the past. The past holds processes that have been in place for a time, contains relationships that have interacted for a while, and carries with it the comfort and reassurance of the familiar.

Here are 6 principles of effectiveness to remember:

  1. You may have done it the way you’ve done it for as long as you’ve done it but you may not need to keep doing it the way you’ve done it. Is the task, report, process, or system vital? Why was it begun? Why has it continued? Why should you continue it?
  2. Effectiveness trumps efficiency when it comes to building morale. Laying bricks is one thing, building a cathedral is another. The effective use of efficiency is a powerful motivator. Let me say that another way. Associates, employees, staff members, and/or volunteers (in a nonprofit organization) just feel better about themselves and your company when they sense they are making progress.
  3. Before you can say, “Now we’re getting somewhere,” you need to actually be going somewhere. The objective is not today, it’s tomorrow.
  4. Busy-ness is not to be equated with business. Activity should never be confused with progress. Never. Productivity should never be measured solely in counting terms unless those counted things can be directly tied in to the vision.
  5. Do not waste resources on unattainable or unrelated goals. Having goals that stretch can be motivating and energizing. Having goals that are just unreasonable cause the onset of malaise because those who must carry them out begin to question your judgment and your connection with reality. If you articulate vision, and your managers understand their role in the structure, they soon become confused if activities and the goals that measure them are unrelated to the vision.
  6. Connect the dots. It may not always be apparent how this process fits with that vision. If you don’t know and if your managers don’t know, who should? You, of course. If a task, report, process, or activity does not fit somewhere in the gears of the vision, do you need to do it any more? Be ready to answer why they should do what. If you don’t know, find out. If there is no justifiable reason, then seriously challenge the need to continue it. This is where effectiveness breeds efficiency.

On Monday, I suggested you evaluate two systems within your company or organization. What did you find out? This is important. Exposure to information has a counter-productive effect unless one acts on it. So, really now, what did you find out? You’re the leader, lead.

Is doing what you do getting you what you really want?

bumpercars with notationsStart-ups are, in many ways, a lot easier than leading a seasoned company or organization. Once systems, methods, and procedures are in place they can become part of the corporate identity. Indeed, they become you and you become identified as them. If they work, okay. If they move your department, company, or organization toward your vision, fine.

But, when was the last time anyone checked to see if that was so. Forms, I mean paper forms or computer resident ones that need to be completed, can become the reason we do what we do. But there is one question that always must be asked…and answered.

Is doing what you do getting you what you really want?

And how do you know if your answer is correct?

This is where the roles of leader sharply contrast with that of manager. Yes, I know that managers lead or at least they should have at least the minimal skills for leading team workers, but by and large managers don’t lead, certainly not to the extent that leaders do. For weeks I’ve been writing about vision, about inspiration, direction, emphasis, values, and mission. It is the unique and rewarding realm of leadership to address those things, to articulate them and incarnate their presence throughout the company.

That’s why I said in the first paragraph that start-ups are easier. When everything is new, when there are no systems in place, you and your team of associates and managers can create them. But somewhere somehow in all you are doing, you need to know if what you do is getting you where you want to go.

There is a tyranny of systems that takes over. The very presence of forms and reports bring bondage. They must be completed. Numbers must be recorded. The act of action itself becomes its own validator. We do things so often for so long that we either lose sight of what they are supposed to accomplish and find the work itself to be its own criteria for success. But leaders can…and must…evaluate the numbers they so diligently collect and process.

In my now famous diagram (below), see how it plots out. Management typically oversees the implementation of strategy. Butbasic diagram leadership monitors all three – tactics which should support the strategy which should lead to the fulfillment of vision. There is a difference between monitoring and managing. Monitoring is to oversee and evaluate. Managing is to fine tune, repair, and keep running.

The evaluation loop must run continuously. Every action, every system, every procedure must be regularly and frankly evaluated. Managers strive for efficiency. Managers make sure things are done and that they are done correctly. Leaders ensure that first and foremost the correct things are done. Making good time is of little use if you’re on the work path. Your goal as leader is to insure efficiency AND effectiveness.

jet drill team with notationsNow for the hard part. I’ll be back on Thursday with another post. Between now and then, schedule time to inspect at least two systems in your organization. Evaluate their effectiveness in implementing strategy through appropriate tactics that move the organization along toward fulfillment of its vision and let managers report to you on their measure of efficiency. Then, decide what your response should be.

7 ways to know the difference between strategies and tactics

normandyThe vision: Liberate Europe, defeat Germany and Italy, then establish a new world order

The strategy: A cross-channel invasion followed by succeeding maneuvers to push the enemy back, destroy their ability and resolve to wage war, bring about their defeat. The strategy was called Operation Overlord.

The tactics: pre-assault aerial bombardment, land troops, fight the way off the beach, capture ports, establish supply lines and methods, secure beachhead, act rather than react.

Vision ->Strategy ->Tactics or, as it works out in real life Tactics implement the strategy that was carefully planned to deliver the vision.

Operation Overlord began 70 years ago tomorrow, June 6, 1944, with Operation Neptune which was the Normandy landings. The overall strategy was logically assembled of several smaller strategies which were in turn implemented by boots on the ground, planes in the air, and ships in the water.

Sometimes used interchangeably in conversation, strategy and tactics are not the same. To make it easier to define, think of strategy as something that happens with the head while tactics happen with the hands.

Bosses think, staff act. Managers and leaders consider, ponder, and create ideas, employees and associates build, assemble, and enact.

Here’s how strategy and tactics fit together:

strategy tactics chart

Seeing over the top of the hill and around the corners – why leaders understand the principle of line of sight

telescopeTwo of my employees were working out of the shop installing components we had made in the shop. Theirs was not a particularly complicated or difficult job, removing old pieces, installing hardware on the new components, reinstalling them, and painting. They were competent, responsible, and hardworking guys. They made my life much easier and my shop more profitable.

Twice the week before, they telephoned me at the end of the day to tell me they needed a small part or tool replaced. They could have seen the need for those things at the beginning of the week or even at the beginning of the day. But no, they saw the need and then asked me for them right at the last minute. So I had to round up the pieces and get them to the job site by the time work started the next day.

I tried to educate them about letting me know as far in advance as possible but I was met with only modest success. I instituted some inventory control procedures that have helped somewhat. But, in reality, I didn’t expect it to improve all that much. Why?

Because, of the principle of line of sight.

The principle of line of sight says that the lower the level of the employee, the shorter his range of vision. Lowest level employees usually have to be monitored and told almost every move, every procedure, every step. They cannot be expected to see very far in the process. The higher the level of employee, the farther they can see. They can be expected to know, in advance, what they are going to need. They can see far enough ahead to prepare for what lies ahead.

The principle is true in geography as it is in leadership – The higher the level, the farther the line of sight.

The guys mentioned in the start of this article with were on the lower side of mid-level employees in this manner. Through training and experience they came to see farther than they used to, but it was still not very far.

In my shop we prepared to build two quite complex projects with a great many component parts. I spent several days creating detailed drawings and parts lists. My experience in building such pieces has yielded the capacity to know what’s coming and prepare for it. The men who will build these items have far less experience and it would be foolish for me to assume they could prepare for the projects with only a summary explanation.

Let me say that again. It would be foolish for me to assume they could prepare for the projects with only a summary explanation.

I spent quite a few hours with the clients gaining an understanding of what they wanted, putting concepts to paper, creating sketches, and verifying that what I saw is what they saw. Then I create the detailed drawings and take-off lists (lists of each and every component part). Next I checked our inventory against the required parts lists. Finally, I sourced the needed components and ordered the parts so they would arrive BEFORE they are needed.

Line of sight cannot be created artificially. You can’t simply promote someone to a higher level and expect that an increased line of sight will automatically come. Actually, an increased line of sight comes BEFORE a promotion to a higher level. This is not the same as driving to a hilltop. If this were a natural capacity, simply climbing to a higher level in an organization would do. While rising in the ranks, so to speak, will almost certainly result in a change in perspective, it will not usually increase a person’s ability to see farther down the road.

But effective and enduring leaders do.

General George W. Casey said that “Leaders need to ‘see around corners’ — to see something significant about the future that others don’t see.” Well, I suggest that they also need to be able to see what lies over the top of a mountain.

Increased line of sight usually increases with experience and knowledge. The longer someone works in a particular field, the greater should be their understanding of what is, and will be, required. This is because their knowledge of the job deepens as well. They know, often by failing to be prepared and having suffered the consequences, what will be needed and how to think ahead. The best higher level employees are most often those who have come up through the ranks. It is their work at ground level that prepares them to see the scope and sequence of the bigger picture.

Conversely, the higher the position one holds, the less likely they will be able to see the smallest details. This is not usually due to anything other than an increased load of work crowding out everything else. You just have too much to do to be able to monitor small details. How does one handle this?

By gathering subordinates and associates who can see them and will tend to them. The task of envisioning the future is grand and glorious but no one can get there alone. Take care of the big picture. Do your best to foresee what will be need by whom and by when. Allow others to fill in the blanks and get it done.

9 things your associates and team absolutely need to make the journey towards vision. What Lewis and Clark shows us about effective leadership and the pursuit of vision.

lewis-and-clark-paintingUndaunted Courage is one of the great stories in American history. When Merriweather Lewis and William Clark departed St. Louis in May, 1804 on what was then called the Corps of Discovery Expedition, they actually failed in their stated purpose. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to find “the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce” their 2 year journey did not find a contiguous water route across the continent.

Nevertheless, their expedition can be regarded as successful because they did find much more and they did extend the sovereignty of the fledgling United States government over the continent. They made the trip to the Pacific Ocean and back, gathered information about the resources included in the Louisiana Purchase, and made notable contributions to science. Their skills as leaders are beyond question and their accomplishments as explorers and emissaries of the President are beyond question.

It is their ability to handle the unknowns of the journey that concern us here. Lewis and Clark were highly competent strategic planners. A close examination of their journals and the testimony of those who accompanied them attest to that. The embarkation into the unknown, to boldly go where no one had gone before, testify of excellence in the entire team, leaders and followers.

The very word “leadership” implies going somewhere, doing something. If vision is the ultimate destination planning is the key to a successful journey. Travelers need the following 9 things.

  1. They need an idea of where they are going and that it makes sense. It must connect in some logical manner with the overall business one is in. A commission from the President helped, but that alone is inadequate. One must connect the dots, to employ a tired phrase from the vocabulary of consultants. The trip must make sense.
  2. They need a reason to make the trip with you, preferably more than one reason. “Because” is not good enough. Neither is “I said so.” This is the first step into buy-in, that intangible bot oh so real element of voluntary cooperation and energetic enthusiasm.
  3. They need to know that the journey is not a trip to fantasy land. Always deal in facts not opinions, in truth not speculation. The unknowns hiding in the future are threatening enough. The assurances found in the familiarity of past patterns and manageable surroundings are sticky. Breaking free of them demands that something desirable and real lay within reach.
  4. They need to know what to expect along the way. Even if you don’t know, they need to feel like you can handle it. Effective leaders never let on they are in the dark or without answers. Their fears will probably be bigger than real life. Fear and anxiety magnifies the unknown and you can bring it down to manageable size.
  5. They need an answer to the question “Are we there yet?” The enthusiasm found in launches of new ventures soon wears off. Celebrate incremental progress. It helps cut the journey into manageable into pieces.
  6. They need sustenance on the journey. Your input here is absolutely critical. Stay connected. Stay communicative. Stay engaged. Stay positive. Stay optimistic and expectant.
  7. They need courage and motivation to continue the trip. See #’s 5 and 6. Weariness sets in. Don’t press too hard or too much. Allow downtime and recreation which “re-creates” the initial feelings of excitement and renews enthusiasm.
  8. They need assurance that the trip is worth the effort. If you’re not sure, if you’re discouraged, and you transmit that to your team, they will be discouraged and uncertain, too. Keep the vision foremost in your thinking.
  9. They need a reasonable expectation that it will be successful. No one likes a lost cause. Participants in suicidal missions are hard to find. Everyone needs to feel significant and that the things to which they give their lives and efforts need to be worthy of their best efforts. If the objective is not, don’t even bother. Give yourself only to things which will make a great deal of significance when you succeed. Don’t ask others to do anything else.
  10. They need to know that you can handle surprises. You do this based on your history with them and, if you’re new, by pulling off wins. If you exaggerate, if you fail early on, the journey will be even more difficult, perhaps even impossible.
  11. They need to know they can meet the milestones set for the itinerary and why they are missed. Don’t be over-optimistic here. Your staff functions in the real world, or at least they should, and so must you. Use your experience to set reasonable and realistic goals remembering that if anything can go wrong, it will.

Lewis and Clark pulled it off. You can too.


Mapquest for your company – the best strategic planning tool around

mapquestYesterday I had to keep an appointment at an office across town. Since I needed to know approximately how long it would take to get there, I logged in to Mapquest. After entering the address of the destination and the origin, it prepared a route map with directions, told me what I would find along the way, and calculated the time it should take.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if such sources were available for our use as leaders? We could plug in the data and an unseen someone from somewhere would tell us what to expect, how to get there, and how long it will take.

But no such devices exist.

There are three things you have to know before you embark on a journey – Where you are now, where you want to be then, and what you might encounter along the way. The vision, once it is focused and articulated, defines where you want to go. Strategic planning will help determine what you might encounter along the way and what you will do about it. But the starting point needs to be examined and defined.

You can rely on your own instincts and insight, which is probably considerable. But there are tools we can use which help organize ans systemize the process.

One of the most familiar is called SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a method originated from research conducted at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960’s. Funded by fortune 500 companies it looked in to the high failure rate of corporate planning. You can read more about this here but, in a nutshell, it found that corporate planning failed because it originated from too few people. True enough the strategic plan is best formulated by the CEO or one major figure. But the planning team must be much larger.

Why? Because buy in is absolutely imperative if it is ever going to work. While this seems obvious to most leaders today, it hasn’t always been so. Therefore, it bears repeating. Do not even think about running the show alone. You cannot see and know everything that you need to see and know. You are best served by the insight, understanding, knowledge, and experience of those you need to make the vision reality.

Often, the planning process is best served by hiring an outside voice. There are at least a dozen reasons why an outsider can best serve your purposes. Sorry, I won’t list them here, but the explanation will be ready in a week or so and I’ll notify you where you can download a free copy.

So, for now, let’s go back to the SWOT model. The SWOT system can be used for more than overall strategic planning (marketing, new business start-up, new product launch, and more) but I will focus here on our topic – overall strategic planning.

It looks like the accompanying illustration. You can download a free PDF copy of this form by clicking on the button. No, you won’t need to subscribe to anything or wait for a confirmation email. Just click and either view it or download it.

[ddownload id=”1436″]

swot picThe headings are deliberately broad. You can apply them wherever and however best serves your purposes. The lower two boxes are labeled “external” but that is only a sort of guideline. There are internal opportunities and threats too, and you might want to consider them.

Your homework now is to use this for your own planning. Strategic or otherwise, the guided logic of the system using data gathered from your team and your own insights help visualize the process and further your capacity to achieve buy in.

7 traits of a great planner

todoIt’s time to become small minded. Visionaries are big thinkers. Planners may make big plans but they think small. They take the grand scheme of things and turn it into smaller steps.

Planners are comprehensive thinkers whose skillset includes the ability to break things up into increments and whose experience has shown them the necessity to be rational and realistic. Fantasy thinkers will soon get themselves into big trouble here so practicality is the keyword.

I want a big thinker to formulate vision and I want that same big thinker to leave the planning process to people who can be real and realistic. Here are the 6 key traits of an effective planner:

First, an effective planner can take a project apart and divide it into realistic tasks, tasks that can be assigned a responsible party and a realistic deadline. They understand that the greatest of structures is put up one piece at a time. And they can install warning points along the way to keep things on track and on schedule.

Second, they function in the “now” and in the “then.” They think and work short-term and long-term. The use whatever tools they need to maintain progress towards the ultimate objective. Daily tasks lists are coordinated with and subordinated to annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly calendars.

Third, they do not wait until deadlines approach to begin. They start early because experience has taught that almost nothing goes off as planned and if anything can go wrong it will.

Fourth, effective planners never work in isolation. They use the considerable skills and insights of others who could be in a position to add insight, understanding, and information.

Fifth, they are good delegators. The larger the plan, the more people needed to fulfill the objectives. Micro-managing will torpedo everything. There will be too much to do. Remember that your circle of concern is always bigger than your circle of ability.

Figure 1
Figure 1


Sixth, effective planners are tenacious but not hardheaded. They know how to focus on target and responsibly pursue it. But they are not so infatuated with their own ideas and plans that they become inflexible and rigid. Plans often need revising so “Plan B” is ready. Effective planners can think on their feet and make revisions as needed without losing sight of the objective or compromising the project.

Seventh, they never promise more than they can deliver. Some workers (and in some cultures) it is considered rude and uncaring to tell a superior or coworker anything except what they think the other person wants to hear. But this is a dangerous practice. Effective leaders never suffer sycophants or yes men. Never! Effective planners never engage in such foolish acts either. Never!

Now, it’s time to be honest. If you meet these 7 criteria, great! If not? Well, you know what you have to do. Find someone who does. The vision is far too precious to risk anything so get the best planner(s) you can find to help you bring it into being.

6 benefits of strategic planning

path-trhough-years-smallI just came from my monthly SCORE meeting. In case you are unfamiliar with SCORE, it is the Service Corps Of Retired Executives, a volunteer division of the Small Business Administration. Some of us aren’t quite retired in the do little else but play golf sense, but it is made up of business men and women with many, many years of experience. In our chapter there are 27 members, each with at least 40 years of real life practice in the business world. That means over a thousand years of street smarts available to help…and we offer mentoring at no charge. (If you want or need free expert advice, check out your local SCORE office. You can find a list at

I was conducting a workshop on Social Media Marketing (which explains why I am a little late posting this blog today – Sorry!). One of the key points most of our mentors focus on is the business plan and it has prompted me that some might be confused when I am writing about planning.

A strategic plan is NOT the same as a business plan. Here are the key differences:

Business Plan

  • Prepare for a specific product or service
  • Identify specific customers for the product or service
  • Used internally and externally

Strategic Plan

  • Engage entire management team/company
  • Clarify overall purpose/mission of the company
  • Determine priorities to achieve
  • Primarily used internally

Both business plans and strategic plans have their place, but this discussion is limited to strategic planning. Here is what strategic planning will do for you:

Determine areas on which you can focus your resources. A strategic plan forces you and your leadership team(s) to think on concrete, specific terms. Because you have developed and articulated vision, you have decided who you are and what you want to be. Therefore some decisions, those things you will not do and not become, have already been made. You can then focus. And the ability to focus is primary to the ability to excel.

Develop a consensus within your management team. I wrote about this already here. Consensus does not mean that everyone accepts and embraces the vision without question. Clarifications are often necessary and it will demand your powers of persuasion and influence to bring everyone on board. Consequently, it may be necessary to eventually encourage disputing partners to find a better place to apply their efforts. Consensus is absolutely imperative. Why? Because two visions is di-vision and no organization can progress when internal struggles for per-eminence of vision drains away energy, effort, and attention that should be applied to forward progress.

Gain a sense of security with employees. An oft quoted axiom is “Where there is no vision the people just wander around.” Strategic planning makes the vision, which can seem distant and fuzzy, concrete and focused. Vision always mean changes and new emphases. A concrete strategic plan has handles on it, handles that employees can grab on to.

Set reasonable and attainable objectives – This is where the rubber hits the road. Strategic planning sessions often fail because they neglect to specify who will do what by when. If those three components are not included, your plan is nothing more than a nice idea.

Establish metrics for the company – The issue, at this point in the development of your company, is not so much getting there, it’s going there. Major American highways have mile-markers which serve as locators along the way. Metrics for the company serve the same purpose. They measure progress (or the lack of it) along the way. It is absolutely imperative that a leader knows precisely what’s going on and it cannot be done if there are no measuring devices along the way.

Gain control and fix operational problems – Even the most highly-engineered motor vehicles require on-going periodic maintenance. People need more. Operational problems always arise. Cows need to be milked in the morning…and again at night…and again the next morning…and again, well you get the idea. Strategic planning results in strategic plans which benefit you by enabling you and your management team to know when something needs attention. Then you can fix it.

In the next article, I’ll address the 6 key components of strategic planning:

  1. Mission and Vision
  2. Strengths -Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats, also known as SWOT
  3. Objectives -Where does the company want to be in 3 years?
  4. Identify & prioritize initiatives or opportunities
  5. Establish metrics and implementation plan (Who Does What –When…)
  6. Monitor progress and hold individuals accountable for implementation

See you Thursday

The magic word – planning

Abracadabra_fullWhat’s the magic word?

The guest speaker was seated on the stage, ready to deliver his keynote address. On his right sat the coordinator of the event, the person responsible for pulling all the many strands together to create a worthwhile encounter for speakers and participants alike. On his left sat one of the other speakers, a man who was known for his mystical, creative nature.

For several minutes the guest speaker engaged in close conversation with the coordinator who, without complaining, detailed the challenges he’d faced as administrator. He listed the many decisions to be made, the many components to secure, the many people to manage. As he concluded, the keynote speaker turned to the man on his left, the mystical sort of fellow.

“Isn’t this just wonderful,” he said, “how these things just magically come together.”

Two entirely different perspectives, one from a leader and manager, the other from, well, from someone who obviously is not a manager or leader.

All who lead, all who work in the trenches, wish there was a magic word, an abracadabra sort of word we could pronounce that would take what we’ve spoken and make it a reality.

The etymology of “abracadabra” is by no means precise, but in the Hebrew rendition of the word, it means “it came to pass as it was spoken.” The Aramaic root is quite similar. So, for the purposes of the topic under discussion today, something in that general meaning will do.

I’ve been writing and emphasizing the leader’s role in defining and articulating vision for the group. It is incumbent upon the person in charge to speak forth what the future will be like. This is the very incarnation of “vision.”

But there is no magic work to suddenly and effortlessly make it “come to pass as it is spoken.”


But there is a magic word to make it happen; one word that will indeed make your vision a reality.

That word is “planning.”

The first in the POTCC mantra – Plan, Organize, Train, Control, Coordinate – planning is the one thing that keeps a vision from being nothing more than a fantasy.

I could compose my own definition of the word, but the one offered by the works very well.

“A basic management function involving formulation of one or more detailed plans to achieve optimum balance of needs or demands with the available resources. The planning process (1) identifies the goals or objectives to be achieved, (2) formulates strategies to achieve them, (3) arranges or creates the means required, and (4) implements, directs, and monitors all steps in their proper sequence.”

Remember this illustration?basic diagram management highlighted

See how the role of leadership takes on the requirements of management in the implementation of strategies and their supporting tactics in order to reach the vision. So it is with your job. Leaders lead but they manage too.

To believe that “these things just magically come together” is to lapse into the world of illusion, delusion, fantasy, and to be negligent of your duty and responsibility to yourself, your company, its customers and constituents. It won’t just magically occur because you say so.

But it will magically occur because you do so.

I once told my son that consultants and coaches are often regarded as wizards because they know things that mere mortals don’t. Often we look for magic formulas or shortcuts but in truth the “secrets” are as old as life itself. So, what are they? What do I need to do to make my vision a reality?

Those secrets come on my next post. Okay, maybe those secrets are not so secret, but they are processes most successful leaders do intuitively. I’ll list, define, explain, and review them next. See you Monday.