15/09/10

By Brian Chernett, Founder, The Academy for Chief Executives

When I think of thought leadership, I think of a guru or swami. They are very much of this world but able to detach and operate above the noise and clutter when they want to. I know that calling a CEO or entrepreneur a guru is not always welcomed but the process they can use to elevate their thoughts above the day to day clutter of business life may not be unrelated.

Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs for an individual (see picture). The basic lower level needs must be fulfilled to enable you to climb the triangle towards the self actualisation layer at the top.

In my experience, business has a similar hierarchy. At the bottom is the day to day operation with such activities as

• responding to calls

• filling orders

• making product

• delivering service

• recruiting people to fill roles

• accounting for transactions

• managing cash and bank

In the middle layer is the tactical activity. Medium term activities like marketing campaigns, promotion of products or services, decisions on the location of branches and business structure to meet immediate and forseeable needs.

The top layer is reserved for strategic issues. Such issues as consideration of what the business is about, what it stands for (and what it doesn't) and where it can go and how that will benefit all of the stakeholders.

It is easy and seductive to remain in the operational layer. There is always something that needs attention, so it can be (and usually is) reactive. In the operational zone, your impact is usually immediate and so is the feedback on whatworks andwhat doesn’t. Many of us are naturally comfortable in that space.

Adding in a level of shorter term tactical thinking is often just an extension of the operational issues. Something operational doesn't work well enough and you need to find a way to do it better. You are still dealing with the forseeable and the time frame for feedback on decisions made is still days, weeks or, at most, months rather than years. Getting into the top, strategic, layer demands an ability to distance yourself, to be able to leave the operational and tactical behind and to look forward at possibility and at dreams. So how do you do that?

• Delegate or outsource the routine tasks.
The more you can remove yourself from day to day issues, the more you can steer the business forward.

• Free your mind of the day to day, you can meditate, walk, run, play golf, listen to music whatever allows your mind to wander. You'll find thoughts comibng into your mind unbidden as your unconscious mind begins to do this job for you.

• Put time in the diary and spend that time thinking about possibility. Dream for a while about where the business could be in a year, 3 years, 5 years, more. Then start to work back from there with a plan. Larger dreams will need to be broken back into smaller parcels of activity that can be achieved as part of the longer term pathway.

• Share and communicate those thoughts internally
so that the team begin to look for opportunities to bring the dream to life and engage to implement the plans.

• Share and communicate those thoughts externally
to find the people and resources you need to achieve that dream.

Everything worthwhile that was ever achieved began as a thought or 'dream' in someone's head and became real by communicating the idea (and enthusiasm for it) with others, building on that dream and taking action on it.

What are your dreams for your business?

What can you do today to begin the journey to their achievement?

Watch a video of Brian Chernett, Founder of The Academy For Chief Excecutives, explaining how The Academy For Chief Executives inspires business leaders.

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Brian Chernett is founder of The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE) - He has 43 years' experience as managing director of private and public companies, including subsidiaries of Booker Bros McConnell, the Landmark Group, and several other major companies. Find out more at www.chiefexecutive.com. We always welcome your feedback on the articles. Email them to brian.chernett@freshbusinessthinking.com

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