I took the Bodensee Ferry on my way back to Munich last week; here’s a photo from the ferry as the sun sets over Konstanz. They have installed an extra “captain’s wheel” at the back of the ferry and I watched a young boy turn the wheel to and fro as if he were steering the ship.
He had a lot of fun at the wheel, but he didn’t have any influence in the guiding the direction of the ferry. Watching that boy, working that captain’s wheel with all his might, reminded me how important it is as leaders to connect our contributions to our stakeholders, whether that be employees, shareholders or clients.
How do your efforts at the”captain’s wheel” impact where your company’s ship is going? Do you have a clear idea how you and your team’s efforts contributes to the overall direction and results of your business?
Too many leaders and too many teams are steering the captain’s wheel with little idea of how it impacts their business. The status quo creates a powerful current and it takes real leadership to move out of this same old way and create new results and new value for your business.
This is the role of leadership and we must move beyond the status quo. Shimon Peres, one of Israel’s founding leaders, said it best;
“Leaders must go ahead even when moving ahead is controversial. You must be ahead of time, because if you want to represent the status quo, what do you need leaders for?”
Here are four ideas to make sure that you aren’t wasting time and energy turning the wheel without it influencing where your business is going:
- If you and your team stopped doing the work you do now, how would it impact your customers and overall business? If you can’t answer that or you think it would cause little or no disturbance, you probably aren’t working strategically.
- What stakeholders are core to your leadership agenda? How clear are you and your team about what they expect from you? Get clear on your stakeholder’s expectations and I’ll bet what they expect of you is beyond the status quo.
- What results are vital to your team’s success? Too many teams (and their leaders) are obsessed with processes, following procedures they tell me, with little idea of the concrete result that comes out of it. Put results at the forefront of everything you do.
- Focus on being respected and stop seeking affection. Too many leaders are “steering their captain’s wheel” because they think it what their boss likes, not how it contributes to the business. “We are going this way because it’s what the boss wants,” I am told. When I asked, what kind of breakthrough results do you expect from this path, people aren’t sure how to answer. Make expected outcomes and measureable results the centerpiece of your work and conversations with your boss.
It’s time to own up and take the real wheel of leadership. It’s either that or sit at the back of the ferry.