Roger Bannister set out to become the first athlete to break the four-minute mile. “Experts” told him it was impossible. Some even suggested he was risking death; doctors told him his heart would explode! Not only did Bannister not die, but the week after he broke the barrier another runner followed in his footsteps, followed shortly thereafter by several more.
Clearly, the sub-four-minute mile wasn’t impossible; someone just had to envision doing it. When asked how he accomplished the feat, Bannister replied, “Physiologically impossible or not, I just saw myself doing it.” Today, most Olympic athletes use this type of success visioning to achieve their goals. The skill differential at premier levels is often not discernible. What is different is the mindset, the clarity of vision on what winning looks like.
Leaders and managers rarely employ this approach in strategic planning or even in simple delegation. Most of us are running so fast, we don’t take the time to get clear on winning, we just run hoping we are on the right track, running the right race. In a world of ongoing, unexpected change, it is harder than ever to not fall into the bad habit of just responding vs. slowing down enough to pause, think, focus, and then run.
Unexpected change keep us in cycles of shock, denial, and frustration often leading to emotional reactions, and anxiety. Our brain likes what it already knows and gets great comfort from the things it is most familiar with. Even in unexpected change, we can create whole new, more positive and helpful pathways, structures, and frameworks. This neuroplasticity requires two crucial ingredients: time and intention.
Act with Intention
You can’t just wish and hope, you must intentionally slow down to visit your brain and think. Pause and consider what you do know (even if it is only small, simple things):
- Be crystal clear on what is clear
- Note it and keep it in front of you
- Update as necessary
- Discuss it with your team and uncover what they believe is clear
Define your win or destination in whatever timeframe works right now – a month, a quarter, or a year. World-class athletes have long known if you can picture the destination and get clear on what winning looks like, your chances of getting there dramatically increase. And when things change again, reset. Refocus on winning. Refresh your brain on what you will do to get there.
Envision the Win
One tool for painting a vivid picture of where your organization needs to go is destination modeling. Designed to create powerful visions in the mind of each and every employee, destination statements provide cohesion, direction, and behavioral guidance. They tell people what you are doing, what you are not doing, and what you will be doing when you get to where you want to go. Even if it is just for the next week. Constantly bombarded by negative news and unexpected change, we can lose focus on what is possible. You have to communicate winning more often and with more passion now more than ever.
Some companies develop one over-arching destination statement. I find it more useful to develop a number of statements, or destination points, for each critical area of the organization. Use these statements as starting points. How many should you use? As many as you need.
Here are a few examples:
- Key operating achievements (the big three or four).
- How the workplace culture will be, including attitudes, beliefs, values, and operating principles.
- What skills, knowledge, and abilities will exist in the organization? In each business unit?
- What organizational structures will be in place, company-wide and at each business unit?
- What work processes and metrics will be used?
- What tools, systems. and technologies will be necessary, both internally and externally?
- What products will be in the market? What products will be in development?
- Who will our customers be? How many will we have?
- Who will our competitors be? What type of companies will we compete against?
- What will be our greatest competitive advantage? Our biggest threat?
- How will we be known?
- What will our brand represent?
Bring it to Life With Teams
Once the destination is clear at the organization-wide level, create it at the team level. How will the team know it has done a phenomenal job at designated check points? What does excellence look like in deliverables, interactions, communications, innovation…?
Your goal as a leader or manager is to paint a vivid and rich picture of success or winning.
To create your company’s destination points, draw a vertical line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On the left side, put all the categories listed above and any others you come up with. On the right side, describe for each category what it will look like when you get to where you want to go.Once you have identified your destination points, measure each one against the following criteria:
- Consistency Is it consistent with the mission statement (the why you exist)?
- Clarity Is it easy to understand? Is it easy to tell what is in and what is out? Does it tell you what you need to do (directionally)?
- Specific Does it provide enough details to initiate a level of measurement? Does it paint a picture employees can relate to and a place they can envision?
- Flexibility Is it flexible enough to include evolving business needs?
- Pride Does it make you feel proud to be part of the effort?
- Inspiration Does it compel you to want to go there?
Maintain focus and energy on moving forward successfully. Discuss winning at every opportunity. Our brains need constant resetting to focus on the positive and the possibilities vs. all the negative noise around us.
Create a vivid picture of your destination. It will make it easier and much more likely your organization will achieve its goals and break its own four-minute mile. A big bonus: Winning is a LOT more fun than losing!