Caught in the Whirlwind


How do you sustain your vision? I often have the privilege of coaching executives who are having trouble sustaining their effectiveness. While the following three stories are not identical, their response was similar, and that response is what was contributing to their diminishing results.

In one case, the executive was leading his department through a large-scale reorganization resulting in a significant downsizing of his team. Any of us would agree that this is a tough situation. In addition, this was his first big opportunity to shine after a career set back that almost derailed him. Talk about stress.

In another case, the executive was facing numerous pressures at work and at home. She was managing a rebellious, insubordinate employee whom she had been handling with kid gloves for fear of a lawsuit, and was almost single-handedly managing the care for a very ill parent who required a significant portion of her time and energy away from work. All of this distraction caused her to lose confidence in her capacity for leading effectively.

In another case, the executive was faced with new customers who had new demands, and home office that had even higher expectations of him to secure these new relationships. He classified himself as an engineer who would prefer managing operations than building and leading his team to create an environment where operations can thrive.

In an effort to be effective in these stressful conditions each of these executives allowed themselves to become buried in “whirlwind of operations” such that they have lost their focus on their vision for leading, if they ever really had one in the first place.

In his timeless classic, “The Effective Executive,” Peter Drucker said, “If the executive lets the flow of events determine what he or she works on, and what he or she takes seriously, he will fritter himself away operating.”

This is what these leaders were doing, and they didn’t realize it until they stepped back to gather a more objective perspective.

Each of these leaders utilized the time with their executive coach to step back from this whirlwind to renew their vision for their organization and their leadership, and to develop a strategy to ensure that vision becomes a reality.

They were asking themselves the big questions about why their teams existed, and what was the team’s purpose, mission and vision. They were asking about the values and behaviors they wanted to see exhibited in their team, i.e. the things that would lead to the highest levels of performance and execution. They started evaluating their talent and discussing team members’ development needs. They began to ask themselves what team members needed most from them, and how they could create the environment that would allow these to come to life. They were redefining their role and their priorities. They were setting aside time to work on these things, and to ensure that they did not let themselves be overwhelmed by constant “whirlwind of operations” that would consume them if they allow it.

Once they began to develop the plan for bringing these things to life, it was evident that their fire and passion for leadership was reignited.

What are you doing to keep the whirlwind of daily operations from snuffing out your vision?

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