Tag Archives: Leadership Vision; Strategic Path; Vision

5 Leadership Lessons I Learnt From My Family Driving Holiday

The summer holidays are almost over and most of us are slowly getting back to work with resolutions, goals and a rejuvenated personal drive to make 2017 a great year.   As leaders, we try do this by inspiring the workforce, engaging the teams and setting clear objectives/ milestones.  After one of the family holidays involving a long drive, I realised that there were five distinct steps that got us to the destination safely and on time.  The same five steps could be used to develop a great road-map (pun intended) to successfully navigate any business to a great position.

These five steps form the acronym DRIVE (Destination, Route, Individual Alignment, Verification checks, Endurance) and you may feel that you have all or some of these elements in your business already.  However,  the effectiveness and the detail to which these steps are embedded in the business make a significant difference to whether you have a team performing at their peak or not.

“If you can successfully organise and DRIVE your family to a holiday destination, you can set goals and easily DRIVE  your business to a great position.”

 

Let’s explore the five steps of the DRIVE process:

  1. Destination: Planning the destination before you drive-off on a holiday with your family can remove a lot of stress, frustration and headaches  – especially with young children.  You need to plan out exactly where you want to go taking into account your family’s liking, budget, distance the kids can tolerate in the car etc.  Unsurprisingly, a trip with a well-planned destination is more likely to succeed, though you can sometime get lucky without much planning.

Similarly, at the core of leading a business successfully requires having clear goals.  This is not a new discovery at all.  However, there are two common traps that businesses tend to fall into when setting goals – not communicating widely enough across the business and setting goals that are difficult to track/measure.  Having a set of clear goals for the next 3 years that are communicated and displayed in pictorial format with a catch-cry that describes the end point well, is a proven format that has worked for many businesses.

 

  1. Route: Once the business goals (destination) have been finalised, we need to explore how to get there.  It is one thing knowing where you want to go, but if you haven’t explored all  the options you have, your journey may not be the most efficient one.  This is the case both from a business point of view as well as for our family holiday.  It is important that you lay out a roadmap with milestones to achieve at various stages.  Breakdown the 3 year goals into strategic macro steps which helps employees understand how you are planning to arrive at your destination.  This is similar to getting your family to agree on (in advance) the route you are planning to take which can sometimes eliminate the need to defend your decision later on.

 

  1. Individual Alignment: This is the critical step where you get the individuals of your business engaged and involved. The idea of this step is to align tactical tasks for each individual in such a way that they could relate their contribution towards each of the strategic macro steps developed in the second step above.  This will help you get buy-in from many employees.  Continuing with our family holiday example, would you pack the car, get the snacks organised, select all the toys/books, fold the clothes & pack the suitcases for everyone all by yourself, or would you rather allocate tasks to each family member?  Lessen your load and  get everyone to contribute.  You don’t have to be the one doing all the work!

 

  1. Verification Checks: So far you have got yourself ready for a fantastic holiday.  There are certain things you can verify to ensure that your trip is as smooth as possible and importantly, that you actually arrive at the destination safely and on time.  For example, ensuring the car is serviced prior to the trip; re-fuelling the day before; checking the spare tyre etc.  While driving you regularly glance at the dashboard to ensure the vehicle is performing as expected – the engine temperature and fuel level.  You might wash the windscreen to get a clearer view of the road  ahead, check the mirrors to see what’s around you including the blind spots to ensure that there are no nasty surprises.  In business, all of this is applicable – metaphorically.  Do you have an up-to-date business dashboard that tells you exactly how your  business is running?  Do you check your blind spots?  Do you have a process in place that systemises all this so that all the critical checks get done at the right time?

 

  1. Endurance: Your best laid plans and preparation may not get you to your destination on time if there’s a major accident on the way. You may experience a flat tyre or someone may suddenly need to answer a nature’s call.  How major or trivial these unexpected challenges may be, your task as a leader is to face these challenges and get to your planned destination with minimal disruption.  How well are you and your team prepared to deal with business situations that might get you off-track?  Developing  capabilities within the business to effectively solve problems (root cause analysis)  will increase your success rate.

 

Even if you don’t have any unexpected issues, do you have a way of reducing the burden (i.e. costs) in a strategic way to identify initiatives to make your journey lighter?  You need a process to continually question and challenge the status quo and implement a few key trasnforamational initiatives effectively with the limited resources you have.  This will help you to arrive at the destination ahead of time – no one got hurt, you didn’t forget anything, everyone is happy about the journey and the destination, you used less fuel and you are not stressed!  Now you have enough time to enjoy your holiday.

 

Once rejuvenated we can plan for your next journey.  What is your desired next destination?

Most companies have a vision for the next 2-3 years, but the strategic path to get there may not be well articulated.  Due to this lack of clarity, it is easy to get distracted and before you blink, the course of the ship could be changed without your knowledge.  So, how do you stay focused and get to your intended destination (vision) without getting distracted?

I had just arrived near the Wynyard station a few days ago around 9:40am when I noticed a number of emergency response vehicles and a police motorcycle – certainly drawing attention of people.  A crowd was gathering around to see what was going on.  A bus was stopped in the middle of the bus lane on York street and the police officer was talking to the driver.  I then noticed that it was an accident scene involving two busses and a silver service taxi.  The taxi was between the two busses, with both the front and the back severely damaged.  Fortunately, it didn’t look like anyone had been injured.  So, what does this got to do with companies and staying focused, I hear you ask?

I’m not sure who was at fault with that incident.  However, as I was walking down Martin Place, I thought that this incident (metaphorically & literally) highlights two points: one has to stay focused ahead; at the same time, need to be aware of the dangers around.  Isn’t this similar to leading an organisation?  So, let’s analyse the first point – stay focused.

 

Stay Focused – the two components within the first point, stay focused, are vision and strategic path.

Vision

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, most companies have a 2-3yr vision.  However, when was the last time you stopped to think if this vision is well understood within the company?   I have seen companies spend an enormous amount of time and effort to get this message across to the workforce, not realising that the leadership team is not aligned to begin with.  Sometimes it can happen easily as one could assume that the leadership team is naturally on board.  True, they could be on board, but not necessarily aligned.  Tip: just take turns in leadership meetings to get each member to try and explain the vision in his/her own words in 1min or less, without a script.  Also, if you are developing a vision, Simon Sinek’s Start with Why TED talk will certainly give you some ideas on how to structure it.

Strategic Path

So we have a vision – great!  Where to from here?  This is where the rubber hits road.  The concept of having to breakdown your vision into annual strategies and then to develop a tactical roadmap for the immediate 12 months is certainly not going to raise any heads in this day and age.  One would say that it is almost common sense.  What’s surprising though is how this well accepted common sense concept is not a common practice!  The strategy and the road map provides two distinctive advantages (amongst many). Firstly, it helps to engage the workforce based on the fact that there is plan to achieve the vision and that the vision is not something that has been stringed together in single 30min meeting.  Secondly, it helps you to prioritise your actives, which is probably the part that is not well practiced.  This is important as it helps to sort out what “not to do” which is sometimes more important than trying to figure out what to do.  This is what helps you to stay focused.  Tip: check with your team on what tactics they are working on right now and how they are aligned to the current strategies.  Ask them, what activities have been filtered out and why.  Can your team members explain how the initiatives they are executing are related to the current strategies?  If not, they are working on the wrong priorities.

These two strategies will ensure that you stay focused.  The modern world we live is clearly full of distractions.  I’m sure you’ve been tempted to watch yet another short cat-video before you started that important task; or perhaps check for messages on your phone, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. before asking yourself where did the day go?  Similar to personally getting distracted, it is just as easy to get distracted with the company activities.

So, as an organisation if you put the blinkers on (i.e. setting the boundaries of strategies & tactics) it is much easier for everyone in the organisation to focus their efforts.  You would have an aligned and an engaged workforce that not only know what they must do, but why they are doing it…..

There are tools and processes that can be implemented to systemise all this within an organisation, that keeps everything in check at different intervals – i.e. 30day, 90day annual etc.  However, the two points mentioned above, vision and strategic path is the starting point.

Now that we’ve explored how to stay focused, in the next article I will explore the second point – how to be aware of the dangers around you.  Stay tuned.

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About Ishan

Ishan is passionate about helping organisations to improve productivity/efficiency and build high performing teams/individuals.  Ishan has a distinct advantage to deliver transformational change with his experience in multi-national companies, working with teams in six different countries,  productivity improvement for nearly two decades.  His expertise is in the following areas:

  • Strategy:  aligning vision, strategies and tactics, all the way to individual initiatives.
  • Workplace Culture:  leadership coaching to bring out the best in individuals/teams.
  • Productivity: processes/capability to effectively harness the most from your team (limited resources) to deliver extraordinary results.

The above is achieved by applying change management principles, lean/sigma methodologies and working closely with your team to deliver transformational change.   Contact Ishan at [email protected] to find out more.