For 10 years straight, I organized a canoe trip for a group of guys. We had fun times paddling down the Guadalupe River in the Hill Country of Central Texas. The Guadalupe is the most popular canoeing river in the state. It offers some of the most advanced canoeing in the United States.
My brother-in-law and I always partnered, and he invariably wanted me to be at the rear of the canoe. I think it was because I developed an ability to look ahead down the river and use my paddle to power us faster than the speed of the water flow and to steer the canoe in the best direction.
Tip: If you allow the river’s water flow to exceed the speed of your canoe, you will lose control and direction of your canoe, and then your canoe will hit a hazard, obstacle, or a boulder. Therefore capsizing your canoe.
Observation: The same principle applies to business. If the marketplace is traveling faster (water flow) than your business, your business will eventually fail (capsize).
The river boasts several stretches of white water rapids, and life preservers should be worn at all times, especially at the Waco Springs and Slumber Falls sections where many lives are lost each year.
As you can imagine, there are many hazards as you journey down the river’s twists and turns, and you have to expect to get wet when (not if) your canoe capsizes.
Despite the many challenges that occurred during these canoe trips, we were confident of one thing: that we were going to reach our destination – our shared vision.
You know that leading a business is much like an adventurous journey with many twists and turns. There are many hazards, obstacles, and boulders that challenge you to navigate around and through as you move forward to your destination – your vision.
Leaders are much like canoeists when it comes to setting the organization’s future direction/vision in which they and their people will travel.
Their envisioned future is so vivid to them, that it’s as though they have already taken the journey.
And they have come back to take their people up to the mountain top because they want the team to feel and experience the same victorious dream.
One of the best ways to convey your dream is through a vision statement. And, I have discovered that just like a canoe trip, preparation is the key to success. As leaders, we need to take certain steps to prepare for this important process.
“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”
– The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Every leader can prepare to write a vision statement by taking three steps.
1. Ask – Where do you want to be?
Before you, as the leader, ask yourself “Where do we want to be?”, you must ask yourself…
- Where have we been?
- Where are we now?
2. Connect – MBWA
One of the best ways to connect with your people is to regularly do MBWA (Management By Walking Around).
MBWA is an unstructured manner of walking/wandering through the workplace to talk with employees or inquire about the status of ongoing work.
It should be done by you, as the leader, as well as your leadership team so both of you knows with certainty what your employees are thinking and what they recommend for quality improvements.
And just as important, you want to learn:
- What do your customers want to buy from you?
- How can/do your organization give your customers what they want?
3. Analyze – SWOT
A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to find your competitive advantage and to evaluate the…
Internal Factors (inside the organization)
- Strengths – Characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others.
- Weaknesses – Characteristics that place the business or project at a disadvantage relative to others.
External Factors (outside the organization)
- Opportunities – Elements that the project could exploit to its advantage.
- Threats – Elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project.
External Factors may include macroeconomic matters, technological changes, legislation, and sociocultural changes, as well as changes in the marketplace (customers and suppliers) or in competitive position.
Tip: Become a student of specific and general industry and market trends.
For many years prior to selling my company in 2011, I was an avid student of trends inside the moving and storage industry and other industries outside of mine. This habit allowed me to develop a keen perspective of external opportunities, threats and trends. Ultimately, this practice led to us to discover our vision statement.
As the leader, you must see ahead where you are going so you can power paddle and steer your business through all of the hazards and the twists and turns to your destination – your vision.
Does your organization have a vision statement? Do you have the passion and the faith that you will prevail in the end as you confront the most brutal facts of your current reality? Please share your comments <here> and share this blog post with a friend or co-worker.