Developing Future Focus - Sparking Energy for What Really Matters
Question for Discussion – How do leaders in your company help people see their role in building a better future?

Developing Future Focus

I could not put Steve Job’s biography down. I found it so fascinating because of his focus and passion, and the intense drive in his personality that motivated him to achieve greatness
. Steve Job’s creativity and genius for creating products that invent the future is so inspiring. Oh Wow!

My executive coaching clients and I frequently have conversations revolved around innovation.
Mr. Jobs was a leader who could be nasty, but who inspired people and teams to achieve the impossible. He could be brutal at times lacking in emotional intelligence, but created a world class company of “A” players.

I’ve learned over a twenty-five year coaching career that some leaders are much more gifted than others possessing the competency of visioning the future. Executive coaching can help enlightened leaders improve their capability to spark employees’ energy for what really matters.

Sparking Energy for What Really Matters

Here’s the problem: In tough economic times, everyone hunkers down on tactics
. They focus on survival and results. Decisions become pragmatic. After a while, however, this short-term approach grinds us down, and we lose sight of the big picture.

In today’s difficult times, people need to be reminded of why they are doing what they do — and why it matters. This is when leaders can step up and make a difference. Leadership is more than encouraging high-performance; it’s about reminding people of what they are trying to build and why it matters.

Leading with Why

There are as many different formulas for leadership development as there are brands of cereals at your local supermarket.

Leaders who want to succeed should clearly communicate what they believe and why they’re so passionate about their cause, according to business consultant Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Portfolio, 2010).

Most people know what they do and how they do it, Sinek says, but few communicate why they do what they do.
Question for Discussion – How do leaders in your company help people see their role in building a better future?

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy into why you do it,” he writes.

If you don’t know and cannot communicate why you take specific actions, how can you expect employees to become loyal followers who support your mission? Great leaders inspire us when they connect with our hearts and emotions, says Sinek, who presents his ideas on TED TV

Great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Walt Disney always communicated their “why”—the reasons they acted, why they cared and their future hopes. Great business leaders follow suit:

  • Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, believes air travel should be fun and accessible to everyone.

  • Apple’s Steve Wozniak believes everyone should have a computer and, along with Steve Jobs, set out to challenge established corporations’ status quo.

  • Walmart’s Sam Walton believed all people should have access to low-cost goods.

  • Starbucks’ Howard Schultz wanted to create social experiences in cafés resembling those in Italy.

The Why of Apple

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak teamed up in their 20s to challenge a computer industry designed for large corporations
. Wozniak saw the personal computer as a way to provide tools to the “little guy”—to give everyone the ability to perform the same functions with similar resources.

Steve Jobs had originally sold surplus electronic parts, but he was much more than a salesman. Jobs wanted to make his mark on the world, and he envisioned building a company as the best way to start a revolution.

In Apple’s first year, with only one product, Wozniak and Jobs brought in a million dollars in revenues. Year 2 produced $10 million in sales; year 4, $100 million. Within six years, Apple Computer was a billion-dollar company with more than 3,000 employees. The computer revolution was, indeed, established.

Jobs and Wozniak were not alone in their technological quest, nor were they the smartest or most experienced of the bunch. They actually had no leadership development training or executive coaches.

What made Apple remarkable was not its fast growth, nor its unique ideas about personal computers. Apple has repeated a pattern of success over and over again. Unlike any of its competitors, the company has challenged conventional thinking within numerous industries: computers, small electronics, music, mobile phones and broader entertainment categories.

Think about this:

1. Revolutionary products in several fields

2. Founders without any special powers or mystical influence over others

3. No corner on hiring the most brilliant people

With only a 6 percent market share in the United States and about 3 percent worldwide, Apple is not a leading manufacturer of home computers. But the company nonetheless leads the computer industry in innovation and technological advancements, while becoming a force to be reckoned with in other industries, as well.

Apple’s success lies in its leaders’ ability to inspire and be true to their core values: challenge the status quo and empower people.

Apple inspires because it starts with why, according to Sinek. Company leaders communicate the reasons Apple exists, as well as their heartfelt motivation for creating new products that give customers new levels of freedom and power.

Apple has access to the same talent pool shared by every other computer company. Its leaders hire those who can eloquently verbalize their desire to be great. Those selected to join the company can achieve this goal because their leaders communicate passion and their “why.”

In many ways, leadership supplies oxygen to keep the fires going. When people are mired in day-to-day work details, they can lose their bearings. An effective leader makes a difference by helping people see their role in building a better future.