The following question was asked in a survey of senior citizens: “If you had your life to live over again, what would you do differently?” The dominant theme from all of the answers was: “I would take more time to think about my life, to consider the choices and decisions I was making and reflect on whether they were leading to where I wanted to go in life.”
There is a powerful lesson for both individuals and organizations in the collective wisdom of those who a humorist described as the “chronologically gifted.”
Our clients love “doing.” They are responsible and hard working people. There seems to be almost a guilt complex, however, attached to taking time to think about the purpose or end game of the doing. They tell us that just thinking seems so unproductive when there are things to be fixed and fires to be put out. “What do we need to think about? Let’s just get on with the job!”
At the same time we are told people are stressed out, they have no personal lives, they lack clarity around what all this effort is leading to, and there is a strong sense that there must be a better way. And there is! To have our daily lives gobbled up by fixing problems and putting out fires is the domain of surviving – each day is a struggle and repeating it again the next day is the grand prize.
When an organization wishes to transform itself, whether because of poor performance or the desire to go from being a good company to a great one, there is no more powerful an exercise than thinking about and answering the following questions:
What do we want to create?
What do we want to look like twelve months from now?
What will it feel like to work here?
What do we want our customers to think of us?
What do we want our competitors to think of us?
The answers to these questions define a clear direction or vision for the organization. The purpose of a vision, one that is compelling and inspiring, is to shift the orientation of the organization and those who work in it from doing to “creating.”
Nothing changes, however, without commitment. Is each and every leader willing to commit to the vision? A true commitment is a heartfelt promise to follow through despite the obstacles. Commitment is the fuel that propels energy, creativity and contribution. Leaders and employees are inspired as there is no question as to what they are working toward – the end game is clear.
But, in the game of life, here’s what matters: Being committed to creating a great company, where people are determined to be the best, where continuous innovation is as natural as breathing, and where people are aligned behind a common purpose – that is the domain of thriving.