Setting Direction - Part 4: What Are Our Current Realities?

Along with where are we going, why are we going there, and what does it look like when it's done well, another what question needs to follow. Namely, what are our current realities?

We need to have the end in sight. We need good rationale for aiming there. And we need to make sure what reaching there actually should look like. However, experience has taught all of us that we may not be able to get there without some adjustments given our current realities.

I enjoy playing golf. It's a relatively simple game. As you stand on the tee box, you can see the goal (or at least you know that it's around the dog leg), the flag stick waving in the breeze indicating the location of the cup on the green. Success is getting your golf ball in the cup in the fewest number of strokes.

However, I rarely hit straight shots. Instead of being in the middle of the fairway with a clear, open shot toward the green, at times the ball is right up next to a tree in the rough. And sometimes it's a big tree. They don't make golf clubs designed to hit golf balls through trees. I step to the side of the tree. I can still see my target, the green and the flag stick down the way. But I can't get there merely by aiming at the flag.

My direction is hindered. The reality is that I can't get there from here.

So, I have to make an adjustment in my direction. I have to chip the ball to the side in order to get back into position to resume the direction I originally set. It will cost me an additional stroke to hit sideways instead of forward. However, it's also the only thing I can do to get back on track.

I'm sure you've heard the saying that in a military conflict, the original battle plan goes out the window after the first shot is fired? Why? Because there is a new reality. The realities on the ground and in real time will be different from what was drawn up. These new realities won't change the original goal.

They will require a fresh look at how to get there.

What is required?

1. Honest assessment.

I find that for those of us who tend to be more visionary and optimistic, we can be a bit naive or unrealistic regarding this.

Our fixation of the goal blocks all other sights. We can see the flag stick. But we don't see where the golf ball is right now. Often, we don't want to see the reality. We can be overly enamored with our own ideas and goals. We think the vision itself will carry us through. Yet, reality screams, "But look where the golf ball is. It's behind a tree or in the sand trap."

That's also why we need others to help with defining reality. They can add an objectivity that I may not have because it was my idea, my goal, my direction. Here are some questions that need to be answered:

  • Who can help me with objective assessment?

  • Where are we now?

  • Are we really where we need to be?

  • What are the challenges?

  • What didn't work?

  • What surprised us?

  • What needs to be rethought?

  • What are our new opportunities?

2. Crucial tactical adjustments.

To keep the golf analogy going, we can't hit through the tree. It's not simply a matter of trying harder. Redoubling effort doesn't necessarily work. Again, we can't hit through the tree no matter how hard we swing the club. We have to chip out to the side. It requires a minor, temporary tactical adjustment. A modification that will enable us to then refocus on the original direction. Here are some questions to help:

  • What adjustment is needed?

  • How do we execute the adjustment?

  • What resources are needed now?

  • Do we need a change in personnel?

  • Do we need additional training for our personnel?

  • Do we take advantage of the new opportunities?

I like the way Dr. Henry Cloud defines the word integrity. He says it is the "courage to meet the demands of reality." It takes this integrity, this courage and honesty to define reality.

Are you willing to go there with your current leadership responsibility? Have you hit the Pause button often to give an accurate picture to where you are? Remember that blind loyalty to a plan almost always guarantees failure.

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