Future Proofing – Grow Great Daily Brief #110 – November 28, 2018

I’m not talking about block-chain technology, or AI or VR. I’m talking about what we can do – what we need to do – as business people to future-proof our careers and our companies. Should you be learning about those technologies? Of course, but unless those are at the heart of your business then you likely need to focusing on some other things.

The Past Won’t Predict The Future (Necessarily)

History is a great teacher because it’s over and the facts are more easily seen. We can be backseat drivers to history. From our vantage point, it looks easier than it did in real-time.

Wisdom is being able to get it right in real-time. It’s hard but doable. It’s impossible without varied perspectives so we can avoid our blind spots. History proves it. The biggest mistakes were often made by people arrogant enough to think they knew more than they did. Only to find out too late that maybe they would have been served by listening to some other points of view.

Your past success or failure doesn’t dictate your future. It may impact it, but that’s mostly up to you. I’m not going to discount tradition or legacy. I think they really matter. But they had to start somewhere.

If you haven’t yet established the tradition or culture you feel would most benefit your current and future growth, then get busy with it. Make it a priority. We know our employees have to learn how to win. High performing teams don’t just magically happen. They’re created, trained, fostered and rewarded. It demands a lot of work, but it’s among the most profitable work you’ll ever do as a leader. And it’s a bedrock of future-proofing your company.

High performing teams and cultures don’t continue without bigtime priority effort. You have to keep putting in the work. The fast way to lose them is to take them for granted. Assume you’ve already done that work and you no longer need to do it, and you’ll lose it. So the past accomplishments are important. Don’t surrender ground you’ve already conquered. Keep it conquered by paying attention to it every day.

Get Your Present Right

The first step to future-proofing your life, career and business is to get the present the way it needs to be. Call me Captain Obvious, but this gets by so many people who put all their hope into tomorrow.

See where you’re at right now. See it accurately.

Truth. Evidence. Perspective. Accuracy.

These things matter. Pursue them vigorously. Don’t stop. Your best tool is asking questions. Ask tough questions of yourself. Ask tough questions of others. The only reason asking questions is your best tool is because the most valuable information comes from the answers. So listen! Very carefully.

See. Hear. Understand.

I’m encouraging you to ask questions for the purpose of learning and understanding. Not to show off. Not to make people tense or uncomfortable. Not to make sure everybody knows you’re the boss.

Growing great happens when we more deeply develop our learning and understanding AND then we leverage those into our lives. It’s one thing to know something you didn’t know earlier. But it doesn’t do you much good unless you put it into action.

Start asking better questions. Not fancier ones, but ones that will get to the heart of what you need to know. Be fearless. Don’t be embarrassed to ask any question. It’s likely the one that most needs to be answered.

Next, get busy with things to grow today. I’m all for patience, but you can’t delay growth. Don’t be fooled into thinking that procrastination is a good strategy. This isn’t about expecting miraculous fast growth. Be reasonable, but don’t settle for shoving things off until the future. You’ve got to get today right. That means you have to get today going the way you want – growing.

How will you know? Figure out how to measure what matters. Sales and profits are easy measurements, but depending on your business those may be tough to use for short-term growth measurement. Some companies have a sales cycle measured in months. Many months. Sales and profits today aren’t going to be a great measurement for today’s growth. Are there activities tied to growth that you can measure? Of course. Then start doing it. It can be something as basic as the number of prospecting calls or something else that fits your business. Figure it out and get after it.*

*Let me quantify “figuring it out” because somebody criticized that phrase thinking I’m talking about it in an absolute sense. I seriously doubt you think that, but I’ll explain it more fully. Every time I say “figure it out” I’m talking about what we must do for ourselves so we can move forward. I’m not talking about us knowing all the answers or possible outcomes. And I’m not talking about us having everything 100% nailed down. Your context matters because I can share my experiences with you, but you have to realize my context is different than yours. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from me and that I can’t learn from you. It does mean each of us has to do some thinking for ourselves to apply what we learn to our circumstance and situation. Do I know enough to begin? Do I know enough to feel confident in what my next step should be? That’s figuring it out.

Get today as right as you can. Along the way, when you realize it may not be going right, then make adjustments to get it more right. It’s called living. But I call it GROWTH. It’s how we improve. And it doesn’t mean all of life is trial and error. It means we compile the learning from others, couple it with our own, decide what we think is best, then step forward. Based on the feedback of that forward step we realize sooner or later that we were right, or not. So we adjust.

Today matters because that’s where we get our feedback.

CEO’s and business owners who plan for a better future without working on today are failing to future-proof their careers and their companies. Mostly because they’re not taking the advantage of the ongoing learning – the feedback – they could be getting by starting right now.

Put Today In Perspective With Tomorrow

Right now I need to lose about 20 pounds. I’d love to be 20 pounds lighter by the first of next year. Maybe that’s not the healthiest approach though. So let’s say I set about to be 20 pounds lighter by February 1, 2019. That’s about 8 weeks away. That means I’d need to lose about 2.5 pounds a week. But I’d be challenged to do it during one of the worst times of the year – the holidays! Could I do it? Of course. Is it reasonable? That depends on how badly I want to do it, and if it’s important enough to be right now — and on February 1, 2019. It’s a now thing, but it’s also a journey of 8 weeks culminating on February 1st.

That timeline is the perspective and it’s not all the same. Let’s suppose I start today. Today might be easy. I may be highly motivated. By Friday I may be struggling with cravings that would foil my progress. Let’s say I fight through that, but then the family goes out to eat on Sunday after church and they want to go somewhere that’s a favorite of mine. A place where I enjoy a plateful of something that would wreck my eating plan. And put my weight loss goal in the ditch! That day would feel and look differently than Saturday.

Every day is a journey. 

Keeping the goal in front of you while enduring (at best, enjoying) the journey is key. So future-proofing your life, career and company isn’t about right now, or tomorrow, or a year from tomorrow. It’s about all of those. At the same time. Just like my weight loss journey (should I decide to take it). 😉

Your job is to serve the company and everybody in it. It’s been said that great leaders see the future first. I think that’s right. You have to see the future first in the sense that you determine the course. Can I see myself 20 pounds lighter in the future? If not, then I’m not going to lead my life to go there. The same goes for you running your company.

Always Looking Ahead

Great CEO’s and business owners are always looking ahead. There’s an ongoing discontentment required of great leaders. Not a dissatisfaction necessarily, but a realization that we can be better. We can do better. I feel pretty good, but I know I’d feel better if I were 20 pounds lighter. That would be an improvement for me. What would be an improvement for your company? What would be an improvement for your life and career? You have to set the aim toward the future.

Big Goals. Small Goals. Long-Term. Short-Term.

It all matters. My 20 pound, 8-week goal could be considered long-term or short-term. Depends on how I want to approach it. That’s up to me. Frankly, I’d see it more longer-term and I’d see my daily activities required as the short-term goals. As the leader you have to break it down in ways that best serve your company. That means, you have to consider the people in your company. That’s largely what future-proofing is all about. Yes, there’s infrastructure stuff. There’s digital transformation stuff. It’s important and may involve technology. But another part of future-proofing may have little to do with technology. It may mean you need to make sure you’ve got the right people where you most need them for whatever goals you’ve set. It may mean you need people with a new skill set that you don’t currently have. Again, that’s for you to figure out. It’s a good news, bad news deal…but I rather think it’s a good news, and more good news deal.

You Can Start Today. You Can Never Stop.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!