March 1st, 2016 |
One of our most difficult tasks is figuring out a plan to help us get what we want.
The most difficult task—by far—is figuring out what we want.
About 150 years ago, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a‘why’ can endure any ‘how’.”
Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl echoes Nietzche’s idea of “why” and “how” in his 1959 groundbreaking book Man’s Search For Meaning. Frankl wrote, “It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future…and this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence.”
Frankl described his own methodology for surviving the daily inhuman suffering of Auschwitz: “I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject,” Frankl wrote. “Suddenly, I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp!”
The point is clear: getting through the grind of today requires a very clear picture in our minds of our ideal future state.
For most of us, the greater challenge is not achieving our vision, it’s developing a vision that is worthy of our best efforts.
Two weeks ago I travelled to Houston at the invitation of my friend and fellow Vistage Chair John Younker to speak to his two peer advisory boards.
John trained pilots in Viet Nam and then flew 89 combat missions to observe first-hand the effects of his training. Channeling his inner Clint Eastwood, John told me, “A man’s got to know his limitations, and I learned mine the hard way.”
After flying 88 successful missions, the 89th mission was, as John says, “a bad hair day.” His plane was shot down, two aboard died, and John and the others parachuted to safety.
After John’s honorable discharge, he obtained his Master’s degree and then his doctorate. He co-founded an organizational development firm and worked with some of the biggest companies in the world. He celebrates his 25th year as a Vistage Chair next year.
John and I have known one another for 10 years, but it was not until I saw John in action that I began to more fully appreciate John’s impact on business leaders. John is more than a business coach. He’s a life coach.
Over dinner, John shared his insights as well as several documents he has developed over nearly four decades of working with individuals and teams.
Two documents provide the basis for developing your personal vision statement.
The first document—Effective Personal Vision: Some Criteria—engages your brain around the most vital and powerful elements of any personal vision statement.
The second document—Creating and Living In Your Ideal Future State—provides guidelines to help you unleash your imagination so you can become the best possible version of yourself.
My three Vistage groups are meeting this week.
I will be distributing to the 55 successful men and women leaders who are members of my three groups the two documents John created—and that I have shared here.
The assignment: Take the next six weeks to think about your ideal future state.
Every spring, the men and women of my three groups pack their bags and leave Dallas to get away from their jobs, spend time with each other, and take time to reflect.
This year, we’ll be sharing with one another our personal vision statements.
The idea behind sharing this is that we will learn more about each other. We will learn from each other. And we will then hold one another accountable to the commitments each person is making to themselves…and to their peers.
Accountability has been a cornerstone of the Vistage experience since Bob Nourse gathered a group of non-competing business owners in Milwaukee in the 1950s.
Bob—then an owner of a family business with big decisions he needed to make—brought his issue to a group that resembles today’s Vistage groups worldwide. Once Bob’s issue was processed and he told his peers the action he was committed to taking, his fellow business owners said something like, “Okay, let’s meet again in 30 days and see what’s happened.”
That’s what accountability looks like.
When your purpose, expectations, and rewards are crystal clear, accountability can be embraced as a way to achieve more of what you want.
It’s almost impossible for a person—whether they are a company executive, a Vistage Chair, a spouse or a parent—to hold another person accountable who hasn’t figured out what they want and are committed to the difficult work of getting it.
Bob Nourse knew what he wanted. He held himself accountable. And his group was there to offer support.
Here’s the surprising truth about accountability: Accountability is not punishment. Just the opposite: Accountability is a support system for winners.
Consider investing a bit of time and perhaps even a little bit of money to change your surroundings, isolate yourself, and reflect on what really matters to you. Find solitude to relax and then jot down your initial thoughts about your ideal future state.
Turning your dreams into reality takes more than filling out a form. Any kind of success requires an attitude of commitment, plenty of hard work, and rigorous discipline.
But if you don’t have a dream, discipline soon turns to drudgery.
That’s why successful executives tell me that thinking through what’s significant in their life, articulating those thoughts as a set of measurable goals, and then writing them down is a powerful process. It is a process that drives personal accountability.
I’ve heard story after story from executives who wrote down goals, tucked them away and didn’t look at them for several months only to pull out their list and see that they had accomplished many of their stated objectives. Written goals are burned into our subconscious mind. Those goals are even more powerful when you look at them every day.
Once you’ve completed your list, compare your personal goals with the goals you’ve established for your career. How do these two sets of goals complement one another? Where are they out of alignment? Will your career—on its current trajectory—help you achieve your personal goals? If so, congratulations. Stay the course. If not, ask yourself what changes must occur in order to achieve whatever it is that is significant for you.
Before you can hold others accountable, you first must hold yourself accountable.
And before you can hold yourself accountable, you first must know what matters most to you.
We all have dreams. Some of us dream bigger and are more focused about turning those dreams into reality.
When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
There’s still time.
To dive even deeper into the topic of accountability, I invite you to purchase a copy of my bestselling book, “Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture.”
Business schools teach case studies. Hollywood blockbusters are inspired by true events.
Exceptional leaders are students of history. Decision-making comes with the territory.