Great Leaders Imagine What Is Possible

Leaders who focus on creating better futures for others face just as many roadblocks as the rest of us. What helps leaders navigate these roadblocks, rather than give up and be defeated?

Effective goals are outcome statements describing the future state as if it were current.

In my workshops, I am continually inspired by the goals participants set. Each participant has a vision for themselves and their organisation beyond what they are doing now. They want to make their ‘potential’ a reality. My involvement at this point is to help them express their goals so they recognise when they have achieved them.

In a recent Executive Presence programme, leaders set themselves “stretch” goals.

Here are examples of powerful outcomes:

These first two are from hesitant, in-the-background leaders.

  1. I create trusted relationships rapidly; senior leaders want to hear from me.
  2. I balance my low ego with being forthright and going for what I want.

You can imagine the power unleashed by these leaders as they achieve their goals.

These examples are from forthright leaders who work well upwards, but not so well with peers and staff.

  • I build high performing teams rapidly.
  • I run purposeful, engaging and relevant meetings and staff and colleagues love contributing and we all see rapid progress.

There are six steps that underpin achieving any outcome:

  1. Accept that there is a learning gap between your current state and your desired future state. This gap is important. Leaders choose how to populate this gap. Many leaders dislike this gap, and feel embarrassed about it – as if they should already know what to do, yet it is a completely new area. I recall a family story of a relative who didn’t want to go to school because she didn’t know how to read or write. Living with the learning gap requires curiosity: How do others do this? What qualities do I want to be known for?
  1. Take action steps and assess the results.

Actions might include:

  • to introduce yourself to new people in meetings
  • be contribute early in any group you are in
  • to introduce yourself and three of your qualities which will add to achieving successful meeting outcomes
  • to share your opinion and insights early and succinctly
  1. Expect roadblocks and expect to navigate these. You discover powerful allies when you ask for help. Find people you know who have mastered the area you are working in. Avoid asking for “support”. Be specific in the help you want. For example, Might I text you with my focus for the week, and three things I did and let you know the response?
  1. Take note of the response you generate. Assess how well that takes you in the right direction. Do others look at you when you are talking? Are they listening? Do they build on what you say? If yes, then keep repeating what is effective. Any one of the actions in our first example would generate a positive indicator towards achieving your goal.  Systematically assessing progress monthly is a powerful way to embed improvements.

Leadership practice

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Keep in mind the impact you want to make, and tolerate the lag you are likely to experience between taking action and seeing results. Others do notice. Don’t expect perfection. Look for “good enough”, or “fit for the purpose”.
  1. Clear success indicators help dramatically. What would you see if you are successful with this goal? What would others see or experience?

With the first example, “I create trusted relationships rapidly; senior leaders want to hear from me”, a success measure could be: three to four senior leaders (Named Executives) consult me and invite my input. You will definitely know when they do this. If you don’t hear spontaneously of your improvements, ask three to four trusted others, “What are you noticing I am doing that is new and effective?”

In a fast-paced world, with a myriad of competing priorities, it is easy for leaders to forget to measure success of what they set out to do and instead move to the brightest thing.

Setting and achieving goals is a powerful way for leaders to see improvements and expand their and others’ capacities.

Diana Jones ©