OS 002 - Forecasting the future and making it happen
This session of Orchestrating Success is about forecasting the future and then making it happen. Orchestrating Success: Converting Your Passion to Profit. Don’t misunderstand this as being all about profit, all about money, all about the green back. It is an important commodity that helps us. It’s sort of like the gas. You get a car, which is sort of like building your business. You learn to drive it sometimes. Now you need to put gas in the car. It’s the fuel that runs your organization, the enterprise that you have been charged with leading.
Effective leaders live in the future. We forecast what is going to happen. I remember somebody talking about a famous hockey player one time. They noted that he skated where the puck was going to go. He was there ahead of time. Think about visionary leaders. They are paying attention, looking at the future. That is part of it. Let’s envision the future in this podcast.
Looking ahead: envision the future. When Napoleon Hill interviewed Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie introduced him to the most successful business leaders of his time: Ford, Woolworth, Wanamaker, Edison, five presidents, amazing people with amazing success. What Napoleon Hill found out is that every one of them saw the future and could see it in present tense. Definiteness of purpose is what he called that. We as leaders are charged with a vision. The vision is what takes us to where we want to go. Does it? No. The vision is the target. We take us where we want to go. There is a whole lot that needs to happen between the visioning and the arrival point.
I’m watching the Olympics, and the track and field is this week. I really love it. I used to run in high school, and I still do; well, we call it running. It is equipping our bodies to do what our brains think we want to do. I have run several half-marathons and lots and lots of shorter races, and I don’t just get up one day and decide to run a road race. However, I meet lots of people, visionary leaders, who want to start a charity, a church, a business. They have an idea and are going to make it happen. Wait a minute, did you train for this marathon? Did you learn to fly the plane before you take off? Flying the plane might not be too hard; it’s the landing part that is tricky. Starting a business, a lot of people do that. Mark Twain used to say, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing I have ever done. As a matter of fact, I have done it hundreds of times.” Sometimes serial entrepreneurs keep starting businesses because they don’t succeed. We read about the ones who start successful businesses, sell them, and then move on. We don’t read as much about the ones who start and don’t make it. Therefore, let’s equip ourselves for success before we start. Let’s envision the future. Then let’s create a pathway to get there. Envisioning the future, that is an art in itself.
Let’s talk about leadership. There are many styles of leadership. Autocratic, charismatic leaders, we read about those. Those people are up there saying, “Do this, do this.” They are called the boss. They give all the orders. They manage. They create anxiety, which we call energy. They create all the stress for themselves. They are always in charge, and they are always giving orders. If that is the way you want to live, that’s okay; however, you might want to take a day off, you might want to go somewhere. We are going to talk in the upcoming sessions about building a system that is going to be the underlying foundation for your enterprise. It’s going to make money in several ways: make money while you are sleeping, make money with your team, your projects, your events, your products, and your personal activities.
Before we get there, we have to look at the future. Now, we have a talent, we have a vision, we have programs, we are really good at something, we have really good products. That is the core of what we are doing: the vision and delivery of content around that vision. The Hugh Ballou 10/90 rule is 10% is what you know you have, and the other 90% is what you don’t know that you don’t know. The 90% that is under the water of the iceberg is what holds that 10% above the water. The 90% is the structure of our business: our team, our skill, our plan, our implementation process, our budget. All of those things empower that 10% to be successful. Otherwise, we are running down the runway without any idea as to how we are going to take off in this plane and much less of an idea of how to land it. Charismatic leaders are those that have a vision, but it is mostly all about them. They are the heart of everything; they are the bottleneck of it.
The antithesis of that is transformational leadership. It is on the same side of the curve as transformational leadership. On one end of the spectrum, you have the autocratic, charismatic leader: “Do this. Do this. I call the shots. I do everything.” 180 degrees the other way is the transformational leader. The transformational leader clearly identifies the future. Here is the vision. Here are the goals. This is our mission. This is how we are going to accomplish it. The transformational leader is very skilled at creating a high-functioning culture.
I call this series “Orchestrating Success” because of my 40 years as a musical conductor. I pulled people together that typically had no reason to be together. I worked in the church and did music ministry for 40 years. I had the pleasure of working in some very large organizations and was able to hire players from significant symphony orchestras around the country and the world. I would pull groups of people together, and we would be aligned with our commonalities. That is, the passion for music, the passion for creating excellence. We knew what to do because we had that thing in front of us called sheet music, which is a piece of paper. What I did as a leader was impact the culture, influence the people to perform at the highest level possible to connect their passion with the end results. We create this magnificent stuff called music just out of nothing. It is a bunch of dots. We get together, and we make it happen.
Transform that into the workplace. We have a vision as a leader. We have defined the future. How are we going to get there? Let’s create a plan. Let’s define the gaps. In the first gap, we are going to have a couple of sessions in this series about all the mechanics of all of these rubrics of putting together the plan. I am in favor of a strategic plan. A strategic plan is like the piece of music. It tells you what to do when; it’s an operational plan. It’s how you will implement and when and who and how fast. All of that stuff is in your strategy. A business plan is usable for some functions in my world, like giving it to a banker, presenting it to an investor. It’s a summary document that is about the business.
By the way, I don’t make any distinctions on running various kinds of small enterprises. We as social entrepreneurs are making a difference, whether we are running a charity. We use the word nonprofit as a philosophy when really it is a tax classification. If we make money, then we can pay salaries, we can accomplish things. We are tax-exempt, so the entity does not pay income tax. However, when we pay salaries, we pay income tax on that. Everybody wins. We pay taxes as a responsible citizen. We get things done as a responsible enterprise. We have installed business principles into this charity. Nonprofit is not a philosophy; it is a tax classification. There are lots of rules governing how we do things, and it is very important that we mind the shop. We take care of how we run business, whether we are running an S-corp, a C-corp, an LLC, or a charity. We have disciplines that are very important.
As a musician, if we don’t have commitment, if we don’t have discipline, we don’t have excellence, and we are not good. There is no point in us making music because people don’t want to hear it. In business, we must have discipline, commitment, and focus. Installing a leadership culture of high performing is what transformational leadership is about. It is about the vision. It is about us as leaders not doing everything. We let go of things we should not be doing. We however learn delegation as one of those high-level skills that a leader needs to have. We duplicate and multi-task through the work of others who have the passion, the commitment, and the discipline because we have modeled that, which is the first and foremost principle of transformational leadership: modeling what you see.
A famous conductor of conductors, as he was teaching other conductors, said, “What they see,” meaning the orchestra or choir, “is what you get.” In managing teams, what they see with the experience is what you are going to get. It’s like our children learn from us, and they model things that we do, not necessarily what we say we ought to do. Some of those are good, and some of those are things we wish we had not shared with them, but they were alert and picked up on it anyway. Therefore, we want to shape the future of not only our enterprise, but also how we are going to get there by building a strong, high-functioning, passionate, excellent team. We do that by starting with ourselves.
This podcast is about managing self. If we want anything to happen, first and foremost, we need to work on ourselves, the transformational leader. We have a vision. So what? Everybody has an idea. Out of every 100 people that I hear a fantastic vision from, there are only three that will actually do something about it. Why? Because, well, as Jim Rohn used to tell us in his trainings, that is the law of averages. Three people will do something. Now the statistics show that 90% of those who do something fail because they did not start out by equipping themselves for this marathon.
If you are going to run a marathon and you don’t want to die on the path, you don’t want to run out of steam, you don’t want to end up in the ditch, it is important to train for the marathon. Train regularly, train with a pattern, and train with a coach. You have a plan. You have a coach. You have an accountability partner. It is the discipline of regular training that builds up your body’s ability to make the end of the marathon. Running an enterprise is not a sprint; it is not a series of sprints; it is a marathon. We do one plan, and we migrate that plan over time. We upgrade it and fine-tune it, and it becomes the plan of action for everybody. We are not starting and stopping with a new plan every 3-5 years. We are growing the plan of excellence that we have envisioned, and we change it, revise it, edit it, and update it according to the culture, the upgrade of the vision, the progress we have made, and the new products and services and accelerated revenue we have to broaden the base of that plan.
As we are beginning this journey, it is really critical to write down the vision, to claim the vision. In my world, that is the concept you tell people. “What is this about?” they ask you. You can tell them in one concise statement. It is one powerful statement that talks about what the concept is. Define the future in present tense. A good response to that would be, “How do you do that?” That would be the mission. The mission is we accomplish it this way, this way, and this way. Our vision and mission are at the heart of success, which is our ability to lead.
As we wrap up this particular podcast, I would like to encourage you to work on yourself first. I had to stop there because I had to think about how to say that. Managing self is a constant upgrade. I say this with all humility because I am still working on myself, upgrading myself, and working on those things that I would like to increase my ability and my effectiveness and the whole footprint of what I offer to humankind. That is a lifelong journey.
When I listen to the famous leadership presenter Bob Proctor speak, last time, he said he was 81 or 82, and people ask him when he is going to slow down. He responds to them, “I am going to speed up because I am 80 and I have more to do.” It is more impactful. I thought, Isn’t that great? He also goes on to say that retirement is not part of his vocabulary or DNA. That is a great inspiration. If we are doing something, it is important to continue to build excellence.
Let’s look at what our skills are. Later in this series, there is an interview with Cal Turner Jr. Cal went to his management team in Dollar General. His highly-skilled managers were very talented. Cal went to them and said, “My dad founded this company, and I am now president and CEO because I am his son. I have a vision for where we are going, but I don’t necessarily have the skills. I got this job because of my genes, not my skills. Here is where we are going.”
Cal reported that every one of those people stepped up and said, “Okay, I am contributing, and we are going to achieve that vision.” They did. They went public, and it was very successful. Dollar General continues to be a very profitable, successful business, even to this day.
Cal said to me, “Hugh, leadership is about defining your gaps and then being very transparent about them.” This is very consistent with the model of transformational leadership that I have been teaching for years. I have morphed it into the conductor teaches leadership because the conductor models the transformational leader in taking individuals and transforming them into a choir or an orchestra and then transforming it into what we call an ensemble. The ensemble is that higher level of synergy that musicians learn to perform because they listen, because the conductor inspires them to do, and because the conductor creates the space for people to achieve excellence as a community, as a culture.
As we think about leading our teams in the enterprise that we lead, equipping ourselves is the first rule of order. Often, when I am talking to people about building their business, they say, “I am going to do all this stuff, get my team, come back, and work on leadership.” I am sad to report to you that doesn’t work. That is backwards. First, work on yourself, then work on your plan, then work on your team. That is the sequence. Otherwise, you won’t have the wisdom for who to put on the team. Who is going to do what, and how, and how will you manage this? We start a train wreck right from the beginning. Leaders cause problems. That is one way we cause problems. Because it is us, we don’t really know what we are doing. We send off confusing, conflicting, and damaging messages to the culture that we hope to lead. We have it in our mind. I love it when people say, “I have my goals in my mind. I don’t need to write them down.” If you are going to work all by yourself, that might be good. But it is never beneficial: it is a lack of commitment and clarity. It is so easy to keep changing them as there is no accountability if you don’t write them down and share them.
The first rule of leadership is defining the gaps. This is what I do really well. I suggest you start with a blank piece of paper and list your skills. These are the things that you are good at. Give it a number from 1-10. How good are you? How many 10’s do you have? How many 9’s? That means you are very good at those things. Look at the things that you are very good at. Then look at the ones with low numbers, and start making a list of your gaps. Here are things I don’t do well. You are starting to build a list of things you can delegate, which is another podcast on how to build the skill to learn to delegate. Build the skills; work on those that you are good at. As John Maxwell writes, if it is below a 5, don’t worry about increasing it because it will never get to a 10. If it is a 5 or below, that is where you want to delegate. You are going to work on the ones that are a 6 or above because those are the ones you are good at. Among those things that you are good at, there are still things you should not be doing. We as leaders do too much.
The primary lesson of this podcast is to identify your gaps. Notice I did not say strengths or weaknesses. I don’t think that because we don’t do a thing well that it is a weakness. It is a gap. It’s not what we are supposed to be doing. Free yourself of this critical language. Here is my skill. Here is my gap. Here are opportunities for me to surround myself with skilled people that can help me work with me partner with me, collaborate with me to achieve the vision.
There are two things we are responsible for as leaders in any enterprise: 1) Make sure the vision we articulate is faithfully executed throughout the organization. That is a full-time job as you grow this. It is very important to make sure that vision is faithfully articulated, and that is part of your strategy. If we don’t mind the store, who is? It’s our vision.
The second responsibility of the leader is to watch the money. Where does it go? Do we have positive cash flow? Are we making a profit? In a nonprofit, we must make profit in order to do the work that we said we are going to do. It is not profit in a business sense where we take it home and distribute it to stockholders. It is profit that is fuel for the programs and services that we offer people because we are a charity. We must have positive cash flow; we must have money left over. It is really good stewardship of resources.
No matter what we are doing, work on our gaps. Tend to ourselves. Manage ourselves because we as leaders are people of influence.
When we are in business, we do get stress. For the weary and frantic, take a note. Take a breath. Inventory your skills and gaps. Develop a plan on working on your skills and delegating those gaps.
This is Hugh Ballou. Orchestrating success begins with empowering yourself to do those things that you don’t yet know you are going to need to do for your ultimate success.