Chapter 5: Vision
That next Monday morning Scarlett was glad she had a session with Jack. She had a lot she wanted to discuss with him.
“Hi, Jack,” she said as she walked into the conference room.
“Hello. How have your last two weeks been, Scarlett?”
“They were a little daunting at first. I’m not used to sharing with my co-workers. I’ve had so many walls up for a long time that it felt uncomfortable, but I knew I needed to change.
“How did you feel when you began sharing with your employees?”
“I have to say that I am making some progress with Melissa and Steve. Having lunch with them, showing them some genuine appreciation and opening up a little bit about my life is making a difference. I’m beginning to enjoy seeing them every day instead of dreading it and I can see that is helping all of our performance. I really like the small changes, and I think they are cautiously pleased as well.”
“That’s great, Scarlett.”
“Yes, and I really didn’t understand that better relationships with my direct reports could take such a weight off my shoulders. We’re still focused on doing good work, of course, but I’m realizing that I can loosen my grip on what they are doing and truly begin the process of building trust. Trust was missing for a long time as I didn’t truly believe my employees would be to do as good of a job as I could.”
“Yes, trust is a big catalyst. People will step up when they feel trusted and sense you’re open to getting to know them. You’re treating them more as adults and contributors, helping them to want to step up and create an even better working environment. It’s a huge shift for all of you.”
“I also had another realization – I really do want to invest in my relationships outside of work. I went on a really good date this weekend and saw so clearly how having my guard up was really limiting my personal life as well.”
“Ok, tell me more.”
“Well, I haven’t really put an effort into building personal relationships before. I would typically date someone for a few months and then find some excuse to break up. After the date with Lee, I realized that I want something real in my life now.”
“That’s interesting, Scarlett. As you know, our primary purpose here is to work on your relationship-building skills to help you prepare to take on a partner role here at the firm, but everything is interconnected so these skills certainly translate to your personal life as well.”
“But this won’t come overnight. It takes time and energy to invest in relationships and truly build strong ones. It takes learning how to give and take and a willingness to be strong and powerful and yet vulnerable and open. It takes real courage to let people in if you have had walls up for a long time. Are you truly willing to work on that?”
Scarlett exhaled deeply.
“Yes. It’s scary, but I realize that I want strong relationships both inside and outside of work and that takes trust not only in others, but also trusting myself that I can open up to them.”
“Scarlett,” Jack continued, “I think you’re off to a great start!”
“Ok so what can I do next in order to continue moving towards partner?”
“Well the next step of the process of moving you from the manager you are to the leader you want to be is to begin to put together a vision of your professional (and personal life). For next time, I want you to focus on creating a vision for yourself for one year, five years, and ten years out. Write a letter to me explaining both personally and professionally what you are doing in those years, what you have achieved, and who are the central figures are in your personal and professional lives. As a leader, it is important to have a vision of where you want to go in order to truly understand what is important to you as well as to create the steps to achieve that vision.”
A month ago, Scarlett would have had a simple answer for most of these questions. But now, the possibilities overwhelmed her.
“In the meantime,” Jack went on, “continue building the relationships you are developing with your subordinates. Stop at their desks. Ask them how they’re doing, and how you can support them. And most importantly, listen to the answers. Keep investing in your relationships for that is how they will grow and prosper.”
“Thanks, Jack. I feel like our work is pushing me in the right direction, both in terms of becoming partner, but also a more well-rounded person.”
During that week, Scarlett found, oddly enough, that this assignment was harder than her first one. She had never really let herself take the time to dream because she was always so busy. She got frustrated. Who had time for this?
She took a step back and realized, however, that whatever Jack had been guiding her to do up until this point had been working, so she was at least going to try it. For her goals she had always been so focused on becoming partner. After that she knew that she wanted to go into politics. But she had never really fully developed her vision beyond that, and she certainly wasn’t sure about her life outside of work. She gave it a lot of thought, and wrote down her vision for each of the assigned years in anticipation of her next meeting with Jack.
I don’t know about you, but I have been enamored by the Olympics and have been watching them as much as possible. What I especially love seeing are the Olympians who have fought through adversity and come back better for it.
This year the story was Jordyn Wieber of the women’s gymnastics team who missed out on making the all-around final because her score was lower than two other American gymnasts. But two days later she came back with the American team and won gold, only the second time in history that the American women’s team has done that. She led the team out with a vault where she stuck the landing and set the tone for the entire evening.
The other example is Michael Phelps not medaling in his first event, the 400 IM, and then two days later coming out and getting two medals to make Olympic history of 19 overall medals.
What is amazing about these two stories is the resilience that both of these Champions displayed. It is of course talent and hard work, but what really sets them above and beyond I think is their mindset. They were able to control their emotions of their loss, focus on the big picture of their goals, put the past behind them, recognize that they can learn and grow from this process and then hit gold.
Both of these champions were able to be resilient. They took what could have been catastrophic and turned it around to something amazing. They were able to think about the situation, let go of the pain and sorrow of it quickly by feeling the emotions associated with the process, and then get back to focusing on what they truly wanted.
As a result of their strong mind, they were able to remain confident and pull out incredible wins. That is what I call a true champion and a true leader!
How resilient are you in reaching your goals? What can you learn from these champions in working towards your vision?
“Management is about coping with complexity. Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change.” John Kotter
Companies manage complexity by first planning and budgeting, then organizing and staffing, and then controlling and problem solving.
Companies lead by setting a direction, aligning people, and motivating and inspiring.
Kotter says that leadership is really creating a vision of something that could be mundane, but truly serves the needs of its customers and clients. Aligning people truly empowers them to step into their role and contribute in a way that moves the organization forward. Successfully motivating ensures that employees will have the energy to overcome obstacles. It is motivating through satisfying basic human needs of achievement, belonging, recognition, self-esteem, control over one’s life and an ability to live up to one’s ideals.
Management on the other hand is truly taking complex issues and making them more effective, efficient, and productive.
I agree with Kotter that leadership is more visionary and inspiring to bring people along with the strategic plan they have. It takes the ability to take risks, serve clients in a way in which they are not currently served. It is inspiring and open minded and willing to motivate others by working on those aspects that engage employees to want to work through obstacles and not just require it of them. It takes courage to be a leader. It takes authenticity and it takes inspiration - in your own vision and in encouraging others to work towards that vision as well.
Are you a leader or a manager? If you want to be a leader what is your vision to get there? How can you begin to take the steps to become a leader and how can you inspire others to follow your lead?
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.