One of the questions we all face when we want to make a change is, “Where do I begin?” That’s exactly the question I received last week when meeting with a group of our leaders. The topic that day was creating a high performance leadership team. However, I think the question has merit anytime we want to move in a new direction – personally or professionally.
I’m a little bit scared my advice on this will sound flippant – that is certainly not my intent. The answer is simply…
Start where you are.
Now, there is a huge assumption underpinning that statement. Before you and I can start where we are, we must know where we are. Again, this may sound obvious. What I’m trying to say is that we must face the facts. We must ruthlessly pursue reality. Sometimes, you’ll need to do what I wrote about earlier this week, and see things for yourself to ascertain where your team or your organization really is on an issue. Other times you can ferret out the truth using other methods. The approach is irrelevant as long as the outcome is the same. Before you can plot a thoughtful and productive course to a preferred future, you’ve got to know where you are today.
Max Dupree said, “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” We could probably debate whether it’s first, second or third. But there’s no disputing the critical importance of being grounded in reality and helping your team/organization do the same.
There are at least four reasons leaders miss this idea of starting where you are…
They are not diligent enough to really determine the truth about their current reality. Leaders are generally optimistic and that trait normally serves them well. But if this optimism blinds them to the truth, the organizations they lead will flounder. We must be willing to pursue reality.
Some leaders don’t want to know the truth about their current reality. This may be due to self-confidence issues, concerns over job security or even low self-esteem. Some leaders are scared of the truth.
Other leaders can’t bear the thought of starting where they are because it is so far from the ideal they’ve envisoned. The task looks too daunting and the journey too treacherous. This may be combined with doubts about their own ability to make change happen. They may question their ability to lead on such a long march.
Finally, some leaders don’t start where they are because they literally don’t know what to do FIRST. My advice is to do an assessment FIRST; assuming you already have a preferred picture of the future in your heart and mind – What are you trying to achieve? What are you trying to become? Once this is clear, begin to build a team to help you get there.
I don’t want to make it sound easy. Most often, it is not. But you cannot steer a parked car. Envision – Assess – Plan – Work.
A final word of encouragement:
You do not have to stay where you are… but you do have to start there.
Enjoy the journey![GLS_Shield]