Tuesday May 21, 2013
Leadership ForecastingBy Doug Dickerson Salem-News.com
We have come through tough economic times before, and I am optimistic that we will come through this one.
(CHARLESTON, S.C.) - I don’t have to tell you about the toll the recession is having on people around the country. Companies are closing, layoffs abound, and politicians in Washington continue to work on viable solutions. Times are tough.
As a leader, it’s important that you not just navigate your way through these trying times but keep in mind how you do it. I call it leadership forecasting.
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first flight on an airplane at Kitty Hawk, NC. On their fifth attempt, the plane under the control of Orville embarked in a 12 second flight.
Wilbur rushed to the local telegraph office and sent the following message – “We have flown for 12 seconds, we will be home for Christmas.”
Upon receiving the telegram, their sister Katherine went to the newspaper office, told the editor of her brother’s flying machine, and informed him they would be home for Christmas, if he would like to set up an interview.
He told her that was nice, and he would be sure to put something in the paper regarding the boys. On December 19, the local paper placed the following headline on page six of the paper that read, “Wright brothers home for Christmas”.
The most important story of the year – man’s first flight, and the editor missed it!
Leadership forecasting is not about denying the problems that exist, but rather setting a course for how you will come through them. Regardless of the level of leadership within your organization, your influence can be a difference maker.
I would like to encourage you with what I call a forecast of H.O.P.E. within your organization. H.O.P.E. can change the tone and climate inside your organization if you will take the lead.
First, the forecast is for hard work. Coming through this recession will not be a stroll in the park. In order to stay afloat and survive, hard work and sacrifice will not be optional. Leaders who model hard work in the organization will earn the respect of everyone in the organization as well as remind them that prevailing is a team effort.
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule ‘braying’-or- whatever mules do when they fall in to a well. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical. But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up. This he did blow after blow.
“Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up” he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought “panic” and kept on shaking it off and stepping up!
It was not long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What seemed like would bury him, actually blessed him.
The forecast that you project as a leader makes an important difference between being buried by the bad news or shaking it up and stepping up! Don’t panic. Shake it off and step up!
Second, the forecast calls for optimism. If the people within your organization don’t hear words of optimism and hope, it will be hard for them to believe a positive, long range forecast. A wise leader will flood his people with optimism to see them through this challenging time.
Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to climb Mt. Everest. On May 29, 1953, he scaled the highest mountain then known to man – 29,000 feet straight up. He was knighted for his efforts. He even made American Express Card commercials because of it. However, until we read his book, High Adventure, we don’t understand that Hillary had to grow into this success. You see, in 1952, he attempted to climb Mt. Everest, but failed. A few weeks later a group in England asked him to address its members.
Hillary walked on stage to a thunderous applause. The audience was recognizing an attempt at greatness, but Edmund Hillary saw himself as a failure. He moved away from the microphone and walked to the edge of the platform. He made a fist and pointed at a picture of the mountain. He said in a loud voice, “Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you are going to grow…but I’m still growing!”
Your company may have taken a few blows in the recession. Like Edmund Hillary, you may have suffered a setback, but when you instill optimism in your people, cause them to believe in themselves and in your organization, you too will see better days.
Third, the forecast is for patience. By most accounts, economists tell us to expect up to two years for the economic recovery. It could come sooner, it may take longer. Maintaining hope for the long haul is going to be critical.
Because of erosion, the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was in peril of washing into the Atlantic Ocean. So Congress appropriated $12 million for the National Park Service to move it 2900 feet to safety.
With a combination of care, expertise, patience and raw power, The Expert House Movers of Sharpton, Maryland moved the 208 foot tall, 9.7 million pound structure to its current home. The option of moving the lighthouse was first proposed in April of 1982, but the light wasn’t lit at its new location until November 13, 1999. Why did it take so long? Small things can be moved quickly, but big things take time. Most people tend to overestimate what they can do in a week and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime.
The forecast calls for patience. You will weather the storm, but it may take a while. Hang in there!
Finally, the forecast calls for high expectations. Your expectations will strongly impact your outcome. It’s hard to rise above your level of expectations.
General Electric was established in 1876 by famed American inventor, Thomas Edison. In the middle of the Panic of 1873, a six-year recession, Edison created one of the best-know inventions of all time – the incandescent light bulb. In terms of market capitalization, GE is now the third largest company in the world. The enterprise has evolved from a manufacturing-strong business to an enterprise earning more than 50 percent of its revenue from its financial services division. And all this was born in the midst of a six-year recession!
We have come through tough economic times before, and I am optimistic that we will come through this one. In spite of what you see around you, keep your expectations high. When you come through the recession, you will be stronger.
I encourage you to write your own headline. Through your leadership, give a forecast that your people can grasp hold of, give a forecast of H.O.P.E.
Doug Dickerson is the former editor of the Berkeley Independent newspaper in South Carolina and is currently the director of university relations at Charleston Southern University. Doug’s writing has been recognized by the South Carolina Press Association, having won awards for enterprise reporting, series of articles, and for humor column writing. Doug’s passion for communicating leadership principles and personal development is crystallized through his Management Moment column and leadership columns he writes. Read more of Doug’s columns on his blog at dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com
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