Archive for the ‘Winning’ Category

The Art of Influencing Others Positively

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Making a mark with people means being able to influence people positively. Everything we accomplish with people happens because of our efforts to influence them positively. The key to doing this is to master the art of positive influence. The art of positive influence centers very much on your ability to meet with people where they are and inspire them to a higher level. This happens through our perfection of the skill of encouraging people to go to the next level.

To make a mark, we all need the support and encouragement of others. When we positively inspire them through our interaction with them, a desire is birthed within them to want to work with us. This is a key competence for anyone in a leadership position; but it is also an essential competence for anyone, regardless of leadership position or title. Influencing people means appreciating them. It means listening to people. It means sharing ideas with them and equipping them to be better people. If you master the art of influencing others posititvely, you will make a mark worth remembering.

DESTINY – Seven Keys to Making Your Destiny a Reality

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Every single human being has a special and particular destiny that they were born to make a reality. In my book, Battling for Your Prophetic Desiny, I have written at length about specific strategies that can be utilized in making one’s destiny come alive. I recently developed an acronym that captures seven essential things that we can all do to make our destinies a reality. These thoughts form the acronym DESTINY:

Determine your true passions

You have to find out exactly what makes you tick. Many people stop pursuing their true passions when they get a job. A job is your pre-occupation while your true passions are your true occupation. What gets you excited? Perhaps one of the hindrances to finding our true passions is limited imagination. Edmund Burke once said, “There is a boundary to men’s passions when they act from feelings; but none when they are under the influence of imagination”. Allow your imagination to unveil new passions that will enable you to stretch yourself.

Embrace your assignment

Your true passions will reveal to you your assignment. Your assignment is that which you are meant to accomplish with your life that few others will be able to do as well as you could. Every human being has the capability of expertise. What are your talents? Your talents are the key to your potential and purpose. Use your talents to unleash all you can be, do and have. What do you enjoy doing most? That could be your assignment. Knowing your assignment in life is more important than finding a job.

Start right NOW!

Life is lived in the now. Most people’s undoing is that they live either in the past or in the future and experience very little of the now. The company that you’ve always dreamt of starting, start it right now! That song that you always wanted to compose, write it right now! Myles Munroe once said, “The richest place in the world is the cemetery, because there are people there who died with books that were never written, songs that were never sung and companies that were never started.” You’ve got to commit to living in the now! That incident that’s been lingering in your mind for months, let it go right now! Move on and experience the fullness of what life has for you.

Transform your thinking

Your thinking sets the pace for your doing. Thinking makes a great difference. You can’t experience greatness if you continue to think in the same manner that you have always thought. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the rut of bad or poor thinking. Elevate your thinking by associating with good thinkers. This can be accomplished in many different ways – through reading their books, face-to-face contact with people that spur your thinking, listening to audio-books or watching educational video or TV.

Identify your strengths

Winners play to their strengths. If you are going to be massively successful in life you have to start that journey of identifying your strengths. This will not only expose you to your potential but it will also aid in constructing your character. As you identify your strengths, you will definitely uncover some opportunities for improvement in many areas of your life. Strengthen your areas that need improvement and you are well on your way to a great destiny. Don’t play safe, play to your strengths. That is the key to having great outcomes in life.

Notify key personnel

You need a circle of support around you that will motivate, support and keep you accountable. Share your dreams with them. Allow them to challenge you towards realizing your full potential. They may be the key to your ability to move to the next level. Find trusted people who will become your inner circle of confidence. Build a team of people around you who will encourage you to expand your sights. Never under-estimate the power of your close associates. People who achieve greatly in life have mastered the art of notifying key people around them what they are working on and allowing these people to be encouragers of their pursuits.

Yoke with thought leaders

Someone once said that who you become five years from today is determined by the books you read and the company you keep. You have to be strategic about the environment that you invest your time in. Last month I had a post here in which I explored different dimensions of bad company and good company. I think it’s worth revisiting and really taking a good look at. Associate with thought leaders and your life will improve greatly. You can make that destiny that you dream of a reality!  

Thinking Makes A Difference

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Human beings are so designed such that they move forward based on the quality of their thinking. If our thinking is stagnant then our growth will be stunted! One of the things that keeps many people at the same level is herd-think – they go with the masses instead of using their quality of thinking to chart out a path that is truly theirs. A few years ago I enjoyed reading John C. Maxwell’s book, Thinking for a Change, which helps in developing that ability to think efficiently and correctly. I had already been practicing some of the concepts he developed in the book but he added superb insight to my understanding of the essence of good thinking. Three of his ideas stood out:

1. Good Thinking Creates the Foundation for Good Results

What do you want to achieve in life? The key to that will be in developing a reservoir of good thoughts that are well implemented. Your progress in life is directly proportional to the quality of your thoughts.

2. Good Thinking Increases Your Potential

Many of the thought leaders I have come to respect have been great proponents of the need to understand and pursue one’s full potential in life. Potential is simply the capacity that a person has for effectiveness in life. We can all attain our potential as we begin to elevate our thinking. Good thinking increases the level of results one can expect in life.

3. Good Thinking Produces More Good Thinking IF . . . You Make It a Habit

Nothing dominates life more than a habit. As you practice good thinking, you develop a foundation from which you can continue to harvest even better thinking. Internationally respected leadership authority, Stephen Covey, explains that we cannot face the challenges of today with the responses of yesterday. We have to continually raise our response – it takes a habit of good thinking to do that.

Will you climb out of the pile or will you stay rooted in it? As you climb out of the pile, remember the story of the crabs in a bucket. As one tries to climb out, the others will, without question, try to pull it back in. But know this one thing, there are encourager who will make themselves available to push you out of the pile and I’m one of them.

Saying No Can Enable You to Make a Mark

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Many times we get involved in situations where we are tempted to engage in so many trivial things that may not necessarily be beneficial to our passions in life. Sometimes these temptations can come from people who want you to join them in projects, activities or events that may not add value to who you are and what you are accomplishing with your life. Making a mark in life sometimes depends on being good at saying no to these distractions.

You have to get to a place whereby you clearly understand what your passions are and will not be sidetracked by tempting distractions that do not add value to your purpose. You cannot get ahead with your own goals if you are always saying yes to distractions, yes to tempting events, yes to someone else’s projects or yes to activities that have no value. You have to get to a place whereby you can say no to all these things (and more) without feeling guilty. Saying no can enable you to make a mark.

High Self-Esteem – the Secret Key to Making a Mark

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Many people fail to realize that self-esteem determines the quality of personal performance and the impact that one can have in the lives of those around him or her. We all have certain degrees of ‘mini-self-esteems’ that govern each and every one of our activities. We have a self-esteem for relationships, a self-esteem for finances, a self-esteem for work ethic, a self-esteem for public speaking, a self-esteem for exercising, a self-esteem for social interaction, a self-esteem for spirituality, a self-esteem for recreation, a self-esteem for friendships, and a self-esteem for many other areas of our lives. Our self-esteem really means how we see ourselves. More than likely, you will always perform in a manner consistent with how you see yourself. High self-esteem is the secret key to making a mark.

Nurturing Your Seeds of Potential and Promise

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I once read a quote that I’ve enjoyed requoting over the years. I don’t know who gave us the quote (might have been some wise wag like Socrates, or something) but here it is: “A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”Ideas are seeds of potential and promise. Careful nurturing of ideas leads to breakthroughs and success. Poor nurturing results in a failure of not knowing what might have been. I grew up on a farm in the Western region of Kenya. We had lots of chicken and one of my favorite tasks was collecting eggs after they had been laid. Eggs for me have always symbolized ideas – you drop them and they are gone. It’s very hard to salvage a dropped egg. I’ve seen some people scoop it up and still use it but by that time it’s already a mess that not worth saving.

Well after the eggs had been laid, I would go around and collect them into a nice padded bucket. Some of the eggs would go to the market right away and others would be carefully selected and put aside so that the hen can brood on them at the opportune moment. There are some eggs that are usually ready to go to the market soon after they are generated. These eggs don’t last long in the market. After a short while they get cooked and eaten. But there are those eggs which are brooded on by the mother hen. These eggs usually hatch into beautiful chicks which become the hope of the future of poultry population.

Now, think about your ideas. Are you sending them to the market too early or brooding on them? Do you want to add value or to multiply value? Which one is more preferable to you: making profits or reaching pure potential? Learn to nurture your ideas and your ”brooded on” idea will become the seed of pure potential. 

Making a Mark in Your Niche Area

Monday, June 1st, 2009

When I was a student in college, one of my favorite subjects was marketing. One of the main concepts that I learnt was that businesses succeed when they find a niche area in which they can concentrate their efforts. A niche area is simply a focused and targeted area of the market. Finding a niche enables a business to custom-tailor it’s marketing programs and products so that it can adequately serve the market for maximum gain. This concept can easily apply to our personal lives and the idea of making a mark.

If you will make a solid mark in life, you must find your niche. Your niche is that ‘sweet spot’ that enables you to be your very best and operate at the highest level of performance and service. Your niche may also be referred to as your calling. If you have no idea what your calling is, spend some time in personal reflection. What are your strengths? Where do you enjoy serving? Talk to people around you about your strengths and weaknesses. Ask them for feedback regarding your performance. This will enable you to learn the things you do well. There are also many valuable tests that you can take to discover what your strengths are. Two that have been particularly useful to me are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) personality inventory and the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. Find your niche area and you will make a solid mark.

Your Potential and Capacity is Unlimited!

Friday, March 20th, 2009

We have a saying in Kenya that “A granary cannot be pushed into a hut”. This saying has been upper-most in my thoughts this week as I looked at the idea of personal potential in the light of current capacity and the limitations that surround it. We all face moments when our ability to perform is limited by current structures that pose immense threat to the vision within us. What is one to do in those situations?

A granary is a storehouse for grain. It symbolizes the fruit of one’s labor, or the yield of one’s hard work. A hut on the other hand is a dwelling of simple construction that is the common living area for many in African rural areas. Most huts are usually made of mud and have grass thatched roofs. Granaries on the other hand are made of wood and have tin/aluminium roofs.

Let us think of organizations. Robert Schuller once said that “You can’t fire a missile from a canoe”. A leader’s vision for his organization may sometimes be limited by current structures in the organization. There are also times when vision may be limited by structures that are not present within the organization. The organization’s objectives too play a great role in determining the results that will be yielded. There must be a solid foundation that ensures that any goals pursued will be achieved satisfactorily. A granary cannot be pushed into a hut.

How then do we ensure that our output will be measurable to our input without having to demolishing our present structures? How do we develop a system that allows us to fire missiles from canoes without toppling over into the water?

Every vision needs to be strengthened by the underlying philosophies and values that guide the organization. You can’t expect to achieve a big vision when the guiding philosophies do not match up to the vision. You cannot expect to accomplish great things when your strategy is flawed. Here are some ideas that can enable you to secure an output that is worthy of your input:

1. Have a Mission that matches your Vision

A company’s daily undertakings need to fit into the bigger picture of it’s ultimate objectives. Many organizations have dropped the ball by engaging in activities that are outside the range of the company vision. Vision is guarded by staying on the key path that is aligned with the company mission. Do this and you will be able to fire missiles from your canoe. I guarantee it!

2. Develop Goals that align with your Philosophy

Company philosophy is crucial to the outcomes and output of an organization. Your goals should align with the values that the company holds dearest. Every organization needs to clarify what it is that it holds as fundamental to it’s existence. Enron failed because the leader’s activities veered off the course of the company’s core values. Your have to hold onto your core values. Do this and your granary may be able to fit into your hut.

3. Create a Strategy that builds on your Accomplishments

Strategy is the key to building value in an organization. Value is measured by an organization’s accomplishments. The more a company accomplishes, the more it acquires a competitive advantage over other companies within that industry. Strategy therefore is key to the long-term existence of a company.

These three keys, applied in an orderly manner, will not only ensure that you fire missiles from your canoe but also that your granary fits into your hut.

To Till the Land is to Love Oneself

Monday, February 16th, 2009

There’s an old African saying that “To till the land is to love oneself”. When I was a kid I heard this saying a lot. I come from a community that tilled the land using very rudimentary tools. It wasn’t easy but it was rewarding. I remember being in the village and tilling the land for upto six or seven hours a day. Work works wonders. In today’s blog, I would like to share a few thoughts on work.

1. Work should be driven by purpose

Work is supposed to be meaningful. The key to this is for the work to be driven by a vision that is guided by purpose. This means that you have to know what your purpose is first. Work that is done outside of purpose is activity without productivity. This leads to sweat and waste. You want your work to be sweet. This begins by having a solid vision that is founded in your purpose. In an organization, leadership has to clarify to employees what the purpose is. Once they clearly understand what the main objective is, then they will have joy as they work.

2. Work should add value

The beauty of giving time to work is that you have an opportunity to add value. Value is the prime motivator for the expenditure of energy. People enjoy putting in the hours when they know that they are adding value. True reward does not come for the time put in at work but for the value added during that time. Adding value means being able to see a measurable change. When I tilled the land back home in Kenya, I would always look at what I had done with immense satisfaction and joy. Nothing brings more fulfillment than work that adds value.

3. Work should be fun and exciting

When I was in High School I used to enjoy playing soccer and rugby. It was always fun to score in any of these games. It was even more exciting just to be part of a winning team. Most people enjoy sports because of these two reasons: scoring and winning. Work should be fun and exciting too. The key to this is to create an environment when scoring and winning is possible at work. People need to be able to celebrate these moments too. That’s what brings spirit to work. It’s unfortunate that too many people think of work as burdensome and boring when it can be exciting.

Work does work wonders! May this be an enjoyable day of work for you!

Capture your dreams and let your vision soar!

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

We live in a day when many people are being inspired to reach for the greatness that is within them. A lot of credit goes to the self-improvement industry which has done a lot to expose people to their true potential. People are dreaming more and dreaming often. But still there are many who have not come to the point of making their dreams come true. How can dreams be pursued and realized?

In my book, The Road to Arrival, I have defined a dream as a strongly desired goal. Dreams can easily be realized when they are broken down into specific achievable goals. In The Road to Arrival, I discussed ten empowering principles for actualizing dreams: faith, associations, detachment, perseverance, faithfulness, character and integrity, diligence, the tongue, puruit and connection. In addition to this, I outlined nine key principles that identified the steps, levels, conditions, essentials, keys, phases, rules, laws and stages of actualization.

What’s your dream? Are you pursuing it? We are all waiting for your arrival in the land of your dreams. Capture your dreams and let your vision soar!

TALENT is Key to a Productive Life

Monday, January 19th, 2009

One of the basic things that you must understand is that talent is never enough. I know that’s a shocking statement given the title of this treatise. Let me clarify: talent is powerful but it’s not enough. To gain the full power of talent you must understand the magic of TALENT. Here is what I mean:

Thinking cultivates talent – It’s one thing to have talent and it’s quite another to know how to exploit that talent. It’s the quality of thinking that separents talented achievers from talented underachievers. Learning how to think at a higher level is key to maximizing your talent.

Attitude sustains talent – Denis Waitley is fond of saying that the winner’s edge is in his attitude. Attitude shines and it is the key to maintaining a successful pursuit of one’s real talents. A great attitude will enable you to achieve so much more than you ever dreamt possible.

Leadership elevates talent – Talent can enable you to soar from obscurity into the limelight but it takes leadership to keep you in the limelight. Having a leadership bent and a mind for what it takes to stay at the top is key to utilizing talent efficiently. Your leadership skills will elevate your talent.

Excellence magnifies talent – A solid commitment to pure excellence is the foundation for the magnification of one’s talents. Doing everything with excellence creates room for you to extend your talents. Excellence also sets you apart from the crowd because most people are used to mediocrity.

Nature nurtures talents – Nothing is more natural than a person’s talents. The key to being able to develop your talent is to stay natural. Don’t be a cheap copy when you can be original! Your nature actually sets you apart and makes you a winner. You’ve got to stay connected to the essence of who you are as a person.

Trustworthiness secures talent – A lasting legacy comes from lasting qualities. Developing a reputation for trustworthiness enables you to secure the use of your talents. People want to be able to trust that you will deliver. The key to that is in being truthful and honest with them.

Talent is never enough. It takes TALENT to realize the fulness of talent!

Achieving Purpose and Potential: The Magic Power of Dreams and Vision

Monday, January 5th, 2009

One of the most impactful lessons I have come to learn is that most people are inspired by other’s dreams but it’s only a few who can be connected to a vision. All men have dreams but very few have vision. For dreams to have a chance at being a part of destiny they must be backed up with a solid vision that can be executed effectively. Dreams are born of hopes and desires while vision comes from foresight and passion. It is essential to have both because they work together in the manifestation of personal purpose and potential.Two Key Questions:

1. What is your dream?

What is your greatest hope or aspiration? What do you yearn for earnestly? What do you secretly wish for yourself and those around you?

Dreams are the cornerstone of life. Without dreams, life is meaningless. Dreams give substance to existence. They allow us to go beyond mediocre living to living with a zest for life. Dreams activate within us a willingness to embrace higher ideals worth striving for. Dreams are the bedrock of life.

2. What is your vision?

What do you imagine when you think about the future? What do you see yourself capable of achieving? If you had all the resources you wanted in the world, what would you do?

Visions give structure to life. They give form to dreams. Without vision life lacks power. Visions provide us with a framework for accomplishment. They enable us to go beyond living with zest to having a zealous pursuit that delivers results. Visions allow us to go from activity to productivity. 

The Marriage of Dreams and Vision … is the birth of purpose!!

Dreams + Vision = Purpose!!

What’s your purpose in life? What is the reason for your existence? Can you clearly define that which you would give your all in order to realize in life?

The Offspring of Dreams and Vision … is pure potential!!

Dreams X Vision = Potential!!

Every human being has the potential for greatness. In order to uncover your true potential, you have to allow your dreams to flourish and pursue a solid vision with purpose. You can do it!  

There Are Two “i”s in Winning

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Michael Jordan once said that “there’s no “i” in team but there is in win”. Let us consider an extension of that – the word winning. There are two “i”s in winning. For you to win as a leader in 2009 you will need to discover and develop the two “i”s that will produce a winning combination. No single initiative, quality, person, idea or other factor will bring you the ultimate level of success you are destined for in 2009. You’ve got to find the winning combinations that will guarantee you victory. Start thinking outside the box. You’ve got to find a way of aligning any competing ideas, people or resources into one unit that fits and works together.The key to winning therefore is in having an arsenal of ideas, initiatives, strategies and resources and then knowing when to use which. You’ve got to have a bag of tricks up your sleeve, so to speak. You have to build your organization or business around a solid vision, have a driving mission (winning) and execute both the vision and the mission flawlessly. In between doing all of this, you will continue with the planning process we have been talking about in my recent blogs. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. You were born to win. Find your “i”s and develop them! 

How to Be A Master of Greatness and An Architects of Achievement

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

It’s a common quote: we are the masters of our own destiny and the architects of our own fortune. But the real situation is that very few people are actualizing the truth of that statement. What makes some people masters of greatness and architects of achievement while others languish in the obscurity of mediocrity? My thinking is that the main thing that separates between those who soar and those who flop in life is vision. It has been said that where there is no vision, people perish. Vision is the primary ingredient of success, the seed of greatness and the foundation of accomplishment.

The Mastery of Vision

Superb winners always show a mastery of their vision way before their competence at a task is demonstrated.  As a young teen in the late ’80s I used to enjoy watching heaveyweight boxing fights. Those were the days of men like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman and Lennox Lewis. What enabled me to understand each fighter’s vision for a match-up was the press conferences right before a fight. I liked it even more when it was between the heavyweight champion and a contender. The boxers would vividly describe what they would do in the ring and then it was up to them to go out and show that they could back-up their words with action in the ring.

Winners in life have a mastery of vision that is undisputable. Mastery is defined as the command, grasp or control of a subject. We love sports because we can readily see mastery demonstrated before us. Look at a bike rider like Lance Armstrong. I’ve enjoyed watching him compete in the Tour-de-France year after year and I missed him in last year’s race following his retirement. Lance was a master at teaching us the art of vision. He would train seriously in the off-season and then come out every July in-front of the world’s cameras and show that he had what it takes to win a grueling 21-day race.  

The Architecture of Vision

Architecture is simply the structure of anything. In construction circles, it is the act or process of building. The architecture of vision is therefore the act of giving structure to that which has been intangible – your vision of the future. Going back to our opening quote, we are the architects of our own fortune. Fortune is a child of vision. When it is said that where there is no vision people perish, what that really means is that where people lack hope in the future, there are no fortunes for them to reach for.

Let us briefly look at the work of an architect. An architect takes a user’s vision and brings it to life. He plans and designs that which had been conceived in the mind. Many architects are great visionaries.

One of my favorite visionary architects is R. Buckminster Fuller, the creator of the Geodesic Dome. His concepts were revolutionary. The dymaxion car (contracted from DYnamic MAXimum tensION), for instance. Fuller had a superb ability to dream big and develop audacious goals. 

Success and significance in life are directly proportional to how well we act on vision. Acting on vision requires strategy. Developing goals and objectives that bring the vision into clearer focus is essential. Having a team of people who will buy into the vision is key. It’s all about mastery and architecture. May your vision come to pass!    

Activate the Momentum Principle in Your Life

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Our degree of productivity in life is directly proportional to the momentum we have going for us at any particular moment or task. Momentum is really our best friend because it enables us to enter a zone of productivity that brings out the best in us.  The momentum principle reveals that although it may take tremendous amounts of energy to overcome inertia and get going initially, it takes far less energy to keep going. The idea then, is to get started and really put our best effort in from the front-end. Activate the momentum principle in your life and you will be assured of continued productivity and results in life. 

The Power of Leadership

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Success and significance in life are the offspring of good leadership skills, qualities and competencies. There must be a good leader for a team, group, department, company, constituency or nation to achieve results at whatever it sets out to accomplish. There are four levels of results in life and I’d like to explore how leadership impacts each:

1. Excellent leadership brings significance and a legacy

I want to start with excellent leadership because that should be the predominant focus of our passions. Excellent leaders get there because they work every day at making themselves better people and better leaders. Lasting excellence in leadership comes from continued study and a relentless passion for making a mark. Excellent leadership is the key to leaving a lasting legacy. 

2. Good leadership brings success and achievement

All human beings want to have success at some level or another in their lives. One must have some kind of leadership skill or competence if any success is to be attained in life. Individuals who attain success but do not continually work to become excellent leaders will achieve a lot of good things but will never be able to leave a legacy behind them.

3. Poor or Mediocre leadership leads to stability and maintenance

The majority of human beings live stable lives. The majority of organizations in society are stable. The majority of nations on earth are stable. Stable means life has very few surprises. It means one can make it from one month to the next. It means an organization does not have any major problems. It means a country is doing okay. But stable is not enough. We need to go beyond the norm. The key is to develop our leadership.

4. Lack of leadership leads to survival and struggle

Survival and struggle are the lowest levels of life. People who live at this level have nothing to look forward to – no dreams, no vision, no purpose. We should never be at this level because everybody has a skill or two that they can utilize in going to the next level. We are not designed to spend all day holding ‘help me’ signs at an intersection. Developing leadership skills is the first step towards living a successful life.

The one question that each leader needs to consistently ask herself is whether she is doing enough to go to the next level and also take others around herself to higher levels of experience in life. Leadership is more than just having the right credentials; it’s more than just reading a couple of best-selling books and gaining insight. Leadership has a lot to do with having the right vision, the courage to pursue it, the aptitude to share it and the wisdom to develop others as they join in the dream. Leadership is powerful.

Your Dream Will Come to Pass

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

A couple of years ago I read a quote that inspired me to begin developing and pursuing goals in life. . The quote was, “A dream is a goal given substance, direction and time”. I think I read the quote in a Fast Company magazine article around 1999 or 2000.  It’s an encouraging quote that I’d liek to encourage you to use to motivate you as you pursue your goals in life. Be confident that your dreams will come to pass. Voltaire once said that an invasion of armies can be resisted but not a dream whose time has come!

The Power of Mental Vision

Friday, April 4th, 2008

After many years of research being done and business books being written, the jury is out on the idea of organizational vision: companies must have a vision. Over the past two or three decades many companies have done a lot in terms of developing their vision/mission statements along with core values that guide them towards that vision. Go to any company website and nine out of ten times you will find some form of a mission statement, vision statement, guiding philosophy or core values.

While it is commendable that many organizations have a vision to justify their existence, it is worth noting that most of these visions are short-range in nature. The vision enables them to get on track with their plans but it is not sufficient enough to take them into the future. Let me use the analogy of a train going through a tunnel. Physical vision (along with the train’s lights) enables the train operator or engine driver to see as he goes through the tunnel. An experienced driver, however, has the mental vision that enables him to see beyond the tunnel. I would also venture to use an example from the nation of South Africa. Nelson Mandela had the vision to take the people out of apartheid. Thabo Mbeki had the vision to take the country into reconciliation and a future of mutual existence. Actually, Mandela did initiate the reconciliation but it took Mbeki’s leadership to sustain it beyond the euphoria of excitement.

Here are some thoughts on how long-range vision can transform your business:

1. Provides a focus beyond “tomorrow”

Vision is great because it provides you with a general strategy for handling tomorrow. Beyond tomorrow though, you need to be able to handle “the future”. Tomorrow belongs to those organizations that have a vision of what is coming ahead. The future belongs to those organizations that can shape what is coming. We see what’s ahead through vision; but we shape what’s coming through long-range perspective.  

2. Ensures the continuity of the group or organization

Vision gives power to an organization’s mission. Long-range vision, on the other hand, breathes life into the organization’s mission. Any organization can make it a couple of years but it takes long-range thinking to survive a future that threatens the very life of organizations. Vision can sometimes guide an organization to it’s level of incompetence. The Swiss watch making companies for example, were overtaken by Japanese digital watch companies because they did not have long-range vision. They had vision, yes, but that alone could not take them into the future.  

3. Envisions potential pitfalls and their solutions 

Henry Ford is noted for saying that the masses could have any car they wanted so long as it was black in color. Ford had great vision for the automobile industry but he could not see beyond the tunnel. He could clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel but little did he know that it was the headlight of an on-coming train. Now, he had experience and should have been able to see beyond the tunnel. However, he didn’t. If organizations are going to make it into the future, they must have long-range vision, rather than just “a vision of tomorrow”. They must be on the cutting-edge of shaping the direction in which society is going rather than putting themselves in a place where they will have to play catch-up.

Regaining the Lost Art of Listening

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Listening is perhaps one of the most basic social skills but few people take the time to master the process of listening. One wag once joked that ‘we are given two ears and one mouth so that we can listen more and talk less’. Today, I’d like to look at the art of listening by way of an acrostic of the word LISTEN. 

How to Increase Your Listen-Ability Skills

One of the most painful things for a speaker is the realization no one is listening until when the speaker makes a mistake. The joy of conversation (or public speaking) is usually crucified by the luxury of half-listeners. Regaining the art of listening necessiates an ability to LISTEN. Here’s how:

Look at the speaker and focus on her words – This might seem as a very simple and easy thing to do but it’s among the top, most challenging skills for many people. Last week I was talking to a friend at the Global Center in downtown Cincinnati and she told me that she has always had a hard time looking at people during conversation. This is someone who works at a place where she rubs shoulders with dignitaries from all over the world! Some people choose to look over the speaker’s head. Eye-contact is essential to communicate a listening attitude.  

Indicate understanding by nodding affirmatively – I once mentored a teenager who had a huge problem with accepting my ideas. This was a really nice young man who had been brought up on the north side of Omaha in Nebraska. What I noticed with him was that, as adults approached him to speak with him, he would immediately go into a mode in which he would shake his head from side to side and look down at his feet. After lots of coaching sessions, he began nodding positively and that created a lot of room for him to start accepting my feedback.

Spot any distracters and put them out of your mind – We live in a society in which so much demands our attention. I’ve been in meetings where, all of a sudden, I’ve noticed my mind drifting away to other things that I’d rather be doing (well, some of the time the content – or was it the speaker? – may have been boring.) But really, that’s no reason to zone-out a speaker and go to lala land (lala is a Swahili word for sleep). When this happens we must consciously choose to put any distracting thoughts completely out of our minds. That’s the key to concentration, the glue of listening. 

Try not to think of what you are going to say next – My wife has a great illustration she normally uses when coaching people on their listening skills. She talks about this funny commercial in which there’s a lady being spoken to. During the entire time she is eating Doritos and has zoned out the speaker. This has been a huge area of personal growth for me in my marriage. I thought I had learnt all I needed about it from my mom only to find that I was still raw on this habit after I got married. Nowadays I have learnt to gain power over my thoughts and focus on the speaker, thanks to the two most important women in my my life.  

Engage actively by participating on your turn – The art of listening goes hand in hand with demonstrating an understanding of the spoken word. Active engagement might mean responding in a concise manner or taking notes that enhance your grasp of the content. Listening is not a one-sided activity. It’s dialogue. As you engage in dialogue, you need to be able to monitor your internal conversations. Internal conversation should be focused on the speaker, not on what you are going to say next. Healthy listening skills come from being able to enage with the speaker. It’s about connectedness that comes from each party’s ability to play their roles effectively.

Note key points and make it a point to remember them – Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about an “Indian talking stick” that was given to him by Indian chiefs. According to Indian culture, listeners were not permitted to say anything until the speaker passed the talking stick to them. The talking stick was never passed around until the speaker felt completely understood. What a beautiful way to communicate the sacredness of listening! Actually, here’s a link to the video where Stephen Cover talks about the Indian Talking Stick. It’s a great concept worth grasping fully.

Let’s regain the art of listening. Better listening not only enhances your knowledge of the topic but also communicates respect to the speaker. The key to being a great listener is to LISTEN. As my mother used to say, “Listening is one thing; hearing is another”. Let’s listen to hear.

The Power of Focus

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

When I was a kid my dad bought me a couple of magnifying glasses of varied colors. I enjoyed playing with the glasses and feeling like a serious detective as I roamed in and out of the house looking for clues to mysteries that I created in my overactive imagination. Perhaps the greatest power of those glasses, I came to discover, was that when I held them over a piece of newspaper and allowed the sun’s rays to stream through, pretty soon I would have a fire (I was a little older and understood the need for safety). We lived directly under the equator and the sun was always hot and directly above us for most of the day. However, it’s rays never burnt anything until when they were brought to a point of focus.

While bringing those rays to a point of focus might seem like reducing the sun’s power, it actually increased it’s intensity and resulted in the generation of heat. This is the same thing with our potential. When potential is brought to a point of focus it results in greater output and results. Activity is not necessarily productivity. It’s what you focus on that brings about your greatest productivity. Much has been said about the Pareto Principle, which I believe to be true. According to Pareto, 80% of your productivity will come from 20% of your activity (paraphrased). Here’s the key to generating lasting results: find the 20% of what you are most effective at and give it 80% of your time and resources.