Recently, I had to engage in a bit of self-talk. Long hours. Early mornings. Late nights. A move to a new city. It was catching up with me. I was e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d.
That meant the minor task I had to accomplish was becoming a major headache. With all the finesse and grace of an accomplished dancer, I spun around that task and successfully avoided it for hours.
Eventually, as I was sitting on the couch looking for yet another distraction, I finally came to my senses.
Justin!?! What are you thinking? You know you need to do this. If you lack motivation, you lack the vision. Whydoes this matter to you so much?
Clarity Breeds Confidence
At that moment, I acknowledged I lacked the clear motivation of why this task mattered. I verbally began to recite whatever came to mind as to why the task mattered.
Your family is counting on you.
Accomplishing this will provide income to your family.
It builds trust and respect.
I want to provide for those I love.
On and on the list grew. Before I knew it, I had expressed over twenty different reasons I needed to complete the task.
It was done in less than an hour.
Clarity breeds confidence. If we lack the motivation to complete something, it’s often because we lack the vision of why it matters in the first place.
When we remind ourselves what makes a task important, we harness the motivation (and more importantly, discipline) to get it done.
Pulled 1,000 Different Directions
Many of us are pulled in a thousand different directions every day. Our spouse needs affection. The kids want our attention. Our boss wants a report. A parent needs our perspective. Our friend needs advice. The side-hustle needs grinding.
Whatever it is, you know what it’s like to be pulled in a thousand different directions.
When struggling, recite: Confidence breeds clarity. The more clear our goals, the more action we are willing (and able to take).
By gaining clarity on why something matters, you’ll breed the confidence to figure out how.
That’s one big difference between high-achievers and regular performers. High-achievers spend a significant amount of time engaging in the end vision of their journey and then plan intentionally.
Today, we’re covering part three of the speech: Rise To The Occasion.
The contrast of several Northern leaders needs our attention. The North, at the outset of the Civil War, was lacking in high ranking military men. Most of them had gone south at the start of the war. The few that remained, like George McClellan rose quickly. Others, like Generals Custer and Grant, would rise to the occasion.
Setting The Stage
McClellan was a brilliant tactician. His study of worldwide fighting styles, military strategies, and historical aspects of war made him highly desirable. He graduated second in his class from West Point. Dubbed the Young Napoleon, McClellan’s future was bright. Everyone expected great things from McClellan. He cared deeply for his soldiers and they loved him for it. From their perspective, they were well fed, well trained, and rarely fought. It was a pretty good arrangement.
However, between McClellan and President Lincoln, things were rarely ever smooth. McClellan became famous for requesting more supplies and exaggerating enemy numbers. One account tells of a breakdown in Confederate lines and supplies after a battlefield loss. Research seems to indicate that had McClellan pursued them and chased them down, the war would have been over in less than two years. Richmond would have been captured. Top generals would have been defeated. The North would’ve won without further bloodshed.
Instead, McClellan estimated enemy numbers exaggerated by 20% and blamed the possibility of bad weather as reasons for a delayed attack. As a result, he called off the chase. Within two days, the South regrouped, shuffled their troops, and counterattacked. They drove the north back. For more than two additional years the Civil War would be fought because of this one failure in his leadership.
Rise to the Occasion
Contrast the brilliance, genius, and ultimate ineptitude of someone like George McClellan with someone like Grant. Grant rose to the occasion given to him. Grant’s war policy was to attack consistently and ferociously. He was adept and editing commands on the fly. He was both well prepared and adaptable. Because he knew the ultimate goal, he could change his methods as the battlefield dictated.
George Armstrong Custer, from outward appearances, had nothing going for him. He barely graduated from West Point coming in dead last in his class. Custer gained an unfavorable reputation because so few trusted him. He was often pulling pranks, spending time in detention, getting into trouble, and had an overly brash demeanor.
However, throughout the Civil War, he distinguished himself as a man of courageous action. By the end of the Civil War, he had been promoted to Major General and was in command of the entire cavalry. In an age where leaders worked from the rear and made orders for other men, he gained admiration by fighting from the front. It’s been noted that he was often the first to go flying into combat with his men trailing behind him. At the conclusion of the war, his unit was responsible for capturing more POWs and infantry flags than any other unit. He was even respected enough that he received the table that unconditional surrender terms were drafted.
Where We Find Ourselves
Three men at the same point in history take dramatically different paths in life. One, seemingly given every advantage, squanders it all. He leaves frustrated, disgraced, disillusioned, and desperate. The other two inspire, engage, and rise to the occasion. McClellan, from the top of his class, witnesses everything crumble before him. Grant and Custer rise from the bottom. Custer, quite literally from the bottom of his class to one of the highest positions available and becomes the stuff of lore and legend.
There is something inside of our DNA that loves these transformational stories. Zeroes to heroes inspire us. We long for stories of David defeating Goliath. Worst to first and victory in the midst of defeat give us hope.
Undoubtedly, there are many parallels in our businesses. Perhaps you even know of a time or two in your own life or that of your company (or even an employee) where you can see now how things could have and should have worked out differently.
Individuals or companies with all the advantages that still somehow managed to fail. Mega tech companies caught with bad numbers and crumble an empire. Someone identified as a high performer busted for ethical violations or a failure to perform. An industry darling in one year is an outcast in another.
But there’s also the flip side.
A surprise hire going on to transform a business or industry.
A perpetual under-achiever finds a fire in their soul and rises to extraordinary levels of leadership.
And while nothing in life is a guarantee, what I have found throughout my years in coaching, is that there are certain tendencies and ways to “hedge our bets.”
The Power of Coaching
Coaching advances the high performers at an astounding rate, helping them to avoid burnout. It also has the capacity to equip the last place hire to deeper levels of transformation. Coaching gives a place for both the first-place all-star and the last place “skin of your teeth, you just barely made it” performer.
My start in coaching looked much the same. I began working with clients who self-identified as someone who knew they were capable of great things but couldn’t get out of their own way (much like we might have said early on about Custer).
The ICF first defined coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
When we equip our ourselves and our staff to reach their full potential we inspire them to rise to the occasion.
“Both mission and vision inform strategy but in different ways. Mission provides day-to-day clarity by defining the identity and scope of the business. Without a clear mission, you can easily drift off target and head into either too many directions, or the wrong direction…A proper Vision Script is…a robust document, written in the present tense, that describes your future reality as if it were today.”
This is a helpful distinction and provides clarity for where we’re headed.
Values – The moral and ethical code the leader or the business operates by. This is integrity in the personal and business sphere. A list of words (usually 5-10) that are non-negotiable.
Mission – The identity of the leader or business, defined by the practice and day-to-day operations. This is usually a sentence or two that provides strategy and action principles for the organizational culture.
Vision – The future destination of the leader or business. A full, robust manuscript that has actualized success and invites the readers into a compelling narrative of what could be as if it has already happened. This is usually much longer, much larger, and much more integrated.
Make It Compelling
Truly great leaders are able to draw people into their vision of the future. Their vision of the future is compelling, motivating, inspiring, and equipping. It guides other people into proper ways of thinking and doing.
Think of a vision board on steroids.
It’s large, comprehensive, and transformative. Vision creates the principles by which the mission is executed and the values are maintained.
A compelling vision removes any doubt about the direction we’re going and as well as irradicating the opportunity for settling or stopping short of the goal.
A vision statement covers all aspects of personhood or business to make sure that nothing is missed or left to chance.
3 Steps For Creating A Compelling Vision
1.) Take the Necessary Time
This is not a quick process. A compelling vision doesn’t happen overnight. It may not even happen in a weekend. It’s an intentional time of focus, reflection, integration, and prospecting.
Creating a compelling vision means carefully crafting words, feelings, and desires into a language that motivates, inspires, and equips.
2.) Suspend Doubt and Judgment
Too often, we are our own worst critics. We want to achieve great things but are plagued by doubt and fear.
Great leaders with a compelling vision have been able to squelch that voice.
Don’t be limited in your imagining of the future. Your current reality or availability does not determine your final destination. In the future vision, you have unlimited resources, ability, people, and technology to meet your goals.
Avoid limiting language and limiting belief. Hold space that all things are possible. Ignore the voice that tells you to play small or live in fear.
3.) Firmly Believe The Best Is Yet To Come
To craft a truly compelling and transforming vision, we must hold firmly to the belief that the best is yet to come. The products we create, the people we help, the influence we have, the legacy we leave. All of that grows and expands over time. Unleashing a force of good, we continually reach new heights, meet new expectations, and bless new people.
We must remain certain that the best is yet to come. We embrace the challenge of leaving the world a better place and know that by fulfilling the vision we are writing we will do so.
Where Are You Going?
Ultimately, the question for everyone is, “Where are you going?” For leaders, this is especially important.
No one drifts towards greatness. If we don’t pursue it intentionally, we will never reach it.
Failure to clearly articulate our desired vision of the future means we will never have it.
If we can’t firmly affix our steps to a larger purpose, we will never have one.
In his book, Miller highlights the difference between what is expected of everyone in an organization, and what is expected of leaders.
Everyone in an organization must be concerned with “Helping Others Win.” Leaders have the added burden to “Communicate Tirelessly.”
When it comes to communicating mission, vision, and values, the experience of my own coaching clients bears this out.
One of the points I make repeatedly is the need to over-communicate these key aspects of the business.
Here is the rule we start from: Once you’ve talked about your vision a hundred times, the average employee has heard and understood it less than ten.
But it’s true.
One of the great failures of business owners and leaders happens when they think everyone else ‘just gets it.’
As a business owner, you may be passionate and inspired by your vision. Compelled by the mission, you get out of bed every day ready to change the world.
Your average employee doesn’t.
To bring them into the mission and vision you created, it must be shared.
4 Levels of communication
1.) A Failure to Communicate
The first way we communicate is not at all. Like the famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”
A number of years ago, I shared a meme that reminds me of this. The caption I posted was, “This signifies my day so much”
The meme was of a couple, sitting on opposite ends of the couch. The woman, in her diary, was writing about her the distance her husband had been displaying that day. She had made his favorite meal, and there was not so much as a “Thanks.” involved.
She wanted to go out that night and get dressed up. He seemed disinterested.
She tried to snuggle him and watch tv, he was cold and stand-offish.
The diary continued, wanting to know what the problem was. Was he seeing another woman? Maybe their relationship was in trouble? Did he not love her anymore.”
Then we see his diary. Motorcycle won’t start. Can’t figure out why.
This lack of communication led to marriage trouble that didn’t have to exist, at least as far as the meme was concerned.
I shared it that day because it resonated. If I remember correctly, I had a lot of apologizing to do after that.
2.) Poor Communication
Since we’re on the subject of things I’ve learned the hard way, here’s another one.
A couple of years into our marriage, in the midst of a ‘heated discussion’ my wife finally snapped. “I wish you wouldn’t call me “dear.” You only say that when you’re angry with me.”
Sometimes we communicate. We just do it poorly. The wording is wrong. The metaphor doesn’t work. The imagery fails. It happens when I speak (more than I’d like to admit) and it happens when we share the vision with others.
Business owners just as frequently communicate poorly.
Every time a business owner shares company values but doesn’t practice them, there is poor communication.
When a business leader excuses poor language, crude humor, or angry outbursts as “their personality”, poor communication is experienced.
3.) Base Communication
Assuming you as a leader don’t want to fail to communicate or communicate poorly, what are the other options?
The first is base-communication. But let’s be clear upfront, this is still not considered good communication.
It’s the bare minimum required to get any given task accomplished.
Base level communication is, “John I need you to send me that report.” Why? “Because I said so.”
The job gets done. You will get the report emailed to you, but it’s hardly exhilarating leadership.
Base-communication cares about one thing: results. But, as great leaders know and practice, we care about more than results.
So where does that leave us as leaders wanting to do more, be more, and have more?
Over-communicating is people inspiring, mission clarifying, and value-enhancing. Over-communicating looks at more than the task or the goal, it examines the heart of the person we are speaking with.
The best leaders we know practice the art of over-communicating. They speak clearly, concisely, and contextually. Great leaders know how to get at both the heart of the matter and the heart of the person quickly. Excellent communicators know what it means to elevate others and embrace the mission.
Over-communication requires commitment, bravery, and an extreme commitment to service.
The Case to Over-Communicate
To win the hearts of those around, the only way forward is to over-communicate. But note that over-communication is not micro-managing. It does not over. It does not belittle. And it does not de-value.
Over-communication accentuates the positive. It brings out the best in others. Over communication sparks light and life in those that are listening.
Over-communication holds unwaiverlingly to the idea that everyone can witn.
When we over-communicate with our spouse, employees, team-members, and friends we bring value and honor to their personhood.