Welcoming the New Year

The New Year naturally lends itself to thoughts of what you want for the year and possibly years ahead.

Without a doubt the person who’s had the most influence on me when it comes to visioning is Robert Fritz. Fritz argues that most people limit themselves when it comes to visioning. They focus on what they believe is possible, rather than what they really want. When we do this we leave our dreams behind. We settle for compromise and usually create more of the same.

When we dare to dream of what we really want – we activate dynamic forces in our lives. The gap between our vision and what we currently experience sets up a creative tension.  It brings into stark relieve our choices.  We start to notice what we do and don’t act on.

I’ve written previously on the importance of taking time out from our busy work. Christmas and New Year’s celebrations interrupt our usual routine, helping us to let go of what pre-occupies us unnecessarily.  Hopefully you’ve entered the New Year unencumbered.

The next task is to connect with what you care about.  A vision will have no energy or momentum unless it’s important to you.  So the question is how do you connect deeply to what you care about?  For me it’s through writing.  I was asked to write a feature article for a professional journal this month.  I found myself writing (again) about the use of power in organisations and society.  The more I wrote the more I realised that changing the way we understand and use power is my priority.  The future of the planet, as far as I can see, depends our ability to make this shift.  It’s not just important, it’s urgent.

When we know what we want to achieve, our priorities and course of action become much clearer. When we stay steadfastly committed to our vision we soon find ourselves recognising and addressing any beliefs that undermine it. Our vision, our values and our comfort zone jostle with each other until they work it out.

And that’s why visions need to be compelling. We have to care enough to act on them, enough to make changes for them.

The immense costs of failing to dream or establish a compelling vision was brought home to me last year, when I worked closely with several organisations facing drastic budget cuts. Without a doubt it was and still is a tough time for the leaders and staff in those organisations. My heart goes out to them.

I was surprised by what by what impacted staff the most in these environment. It wasn’t as you might expect job insecurity or resource limitations.  These employees understood their organisations’ financial positions and the necessity for hard decisions. Even more than the risk of cuts or service reductions, staff despaired at what they saw as a failure by their leaders to articulate a forward facing vision. Time and time again employees said that what left them feeling hopeless was the lack of a positive vision. All the signs indiciated to employees that their leadership teams had fallen into a state of reactivity. Managers complained that they were unable to make decisions because they had no guiding sense of direction. As one person pointed out ‘cutting expenditure isn’t a vision or even a strategy, it’s a measure’.

What these experiences really taught me is the value of vision.  Having a compelling vision is fundamental for morale.  It is a form of hard currency.  Even when times are tough, in fact especially when times are tough, having a vision and staying close to your core mission is important. Leaders need to speak about it loud and often, as a way of countering the knocks.

Fritz warns against confusing the what (your vision) with how you will get there.  In my clients’ cases, their old hows were in need of radical revision. In the face of several harsh knocks, their sense of mission had slipped. In the midst of budget and staffing discussions, little attention was being paid to what had brought staff to work each day, for years.  I believe that the majority of their staff are capable of discovering a new how together, but only if the vision is held clearly, front and centre for them.

These clients are like many organisations and individuals. The how remains unclear, it is a work in progress. According to Fritz it is important to decide what you want and THEN address the question of how. Allow the creative tension your vision creates to work for you.

Our vision at CLE for the next year is twofold: We’re passionate about developing highly skilled leaders, coaches, mediators and OD professionals. How will we do it? By providing exceptional learning experiences in Australia and in our Retreats in Provence.

And as we’ve already mentioned we’re committed to developing a language and literacy about comparative power. How? To achieve this we’ll be working alongside leaders to help them navigate the demands of their roles and use their influence skilfully.

What’s your vision?

Is it compelling?   Do you believe in it?  Have you compromised your vision in any way?

Does it hold emotional power for you and your staff?

What changes does your vision ask of you?  How does it stretch you?

As you enter the dragon’s lair, what must you be ready to encounter …. in the environment …. and in yourself?

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