It's easy to harp on mistakes you've made in the past or to dream on about what you'll accomplish down the road. Focus on the present instead. It's the best gift you can give yourself.
You hear it all the time: Leaders need vision. They need to understand where the markets are going, to anticipate cultural changes that affect their business, and to properly lead their team through all the shifts in economy, trends, and people's habits. And naturally they have to understand what the competition's doing.
But leaders have their eyes so rigidly trained on the future that their company isn't where it should be right now. And plenty of leaders get so mired in past mistakes or focus obsessively prior performance that they miss opportunities to take critical new risks that their business needs.
Keep your eye on the street.
In our increasingly global business environment, which literally changes daily, seeing what's right in front of you can be a challenge. But here are three ways to do it--while planning for growth.
One: Listen without reacting.
If you want to see what's happening in your organization right now, try attending a full day of meetings without speaking. Just listen. In his book, Likeable Business, Dave Kerpen tells the story of Michael Dell sitting through a 45-minute meeting without saying a word.
At the end of the meeting, he asked a simple question. The example is elucidating: When you listen without speaking, you observe more than you control. And when you observe, you get a much clearer picture of what's happening in the moment, and therefore what you need to do to create a better future.
Two: Ask yourself five "whys."
My mentor taught me a trick for getting to the root of any present-day problem. It's called "The Five Whys." Look at any situation happening in your business today. Ask yourself or the person who is in that situation why that situation occurred.
When you answer, drill down further with another why. Let's say your sales suffered this quarter. Why? Because you didn't have a big enough sales team focused on growing the business. Why? Because your senior sellers resigned and you were left with two junior sellers. Why? Because the sellers felt negatively about the company. Why? You get the point. By going down to at least five "whys," you can untangle the problem pretty effectively.
Three: Do three things today.
Once you've correctly framed the concerning present-day situation, try thinking about three things you can do today to help impact your business. We're all pretty good at crafting five-year plans, but it's just as important to think about what you can do right away to lead your team or inch closer to whatever goals you've set, financial or others.
Sometimes it's something small, like taking a key employee out to lunch. It can be something much larger, too. But there's always something you can do immediately to help your organization. Ask yourself what that something is. Then be prepared to act on it.
CARRIE KERPEN is the co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, which she grew from a husband-and-wife consulting firm into a global social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency. She led her team to more than $15 million in revenue and landed the agency on the Inc. 500 List in 2011 and 2012. @CarrieKerpen