I spent this past weekend at a college reunion. It had been 28 years since I graduated with my Masters Degree from Ohio University and left the campus. This weekend was my first trip back as an alum returning for Homecoming Weekend.
I had a great time reconnecting with old colleagues and seeing the path each of us has taken after having shared similar aspirations.
During one discussion with one of my closer college buddies, a former roommate, I came to a huge realization. After hearing some intimate details of the decisions I made along the way, including the one that took me on the path to my own consulting/coaching practice 9 years ago, he said to me,
“You know I was never that forward thinking about my career, I just took things as they came.”
In my consulting with business leaders I’ve come to realize that few are very forward thinking and they too often are too immersed in the moment, both in good times and bad.
In good times they ride the wave thinking it will always be this way, and in bad times they hunker down thinking they just have to hold on to get through.
Either approach is damaging to long-term success and causes the business to always be at the affect of environmental factors.
For some reason I’ve always been forward thinking.
But, at the same time I was thinking ahead to my next opportunity in my professional evolution and further career moves, I seemed able to search for that next opportunity without sacrificing the present. I was always also able to maintain focus on maximizing the present so that my present employer, client, etc. received maximum value.
From my earliest intern days in professional baseball I set a goal to be a general manager of my own team within 5 years. I was named general manager heading into my fifth season.
Once having achieved that goal, I set another goal to become a franchise owner within 5 years and heading into my 10th season I was provided an opportunity to both buy into and earn equity in the franchise for which I was working.
Then, I began looking to an exit strategy that evolved over the next 10 years.
The key to the successful balance between both looking ahead and maximizing the present is to use the former to leverage the latter.
This approach works, you see, because knowing what you want and where you need to go in the future gives you tremendous insight into the things you need to succeed and/or do well in so that it sets you up for taking those next steps.
For example, when I looked ahead to become a general manager of my own team I knew I had to improve my sales skills and learn the best way to create and maximize revenue/profit centers for a professional baseball team, so I put my energies in learning, development and practical experience there.
This focus forced me to apply myself to areas that created tremendous value for the position in which I was working.
Later on when I was looking to transition out of the game I knew I wanted to coach other business leaders to create a positive work environment and motivate their employees. So, the work I did allowed me to create a much better work environment for my present situation.
In any business, knowing where you want to go in the future allows you to focus on strengthening areas that will make things better in the present.
I guess one of my talents/skills that came natural to me. I’ve found it vital for my success and believe you can develop it as well.
It’s basicall about strategic planning. At its essence strategic planning is about maximizing present opportunities and setting sights on what’s coming next and assertively taking steps to maximize that future. But, it also has tremendous residual benefits in the present.
Now’s the time, as we head to the final two months of the year, to begin stratecally planning for 2011.
How good are you at balancing the scale between maximizing your present situation while looking ahead to what’s coming next?