Preparing for the future? Remember these four vital truths

by | Jan 5, 2022 | Insights

#1: Speed matters, but so does distance

The question is not simply how fast we can go, but how far?

Much about business and life is not only counter-intuitive but often overlooked as we rush to act or respond to events. This has an unintended consequence: the fact that many of our problems and missed opportunities are caused by an emphasis on immediacy and short-term thinking, at the expense of reflection, preparation and longer-term thinking.

I can perhaps best illustrate this with two popular proverbs and a question.

First, an African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” I get that we are often working in isolation, and we need to work fast. But we do also need to work together, and that means setting and achieving longer term goals.

Second, the classic Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Don’t be daunted, or lazy. Life is all about the journey. And some journeys, like life, benefit from planning, sustained commitment, reflection and time.

Consider this simple question. Is 65 years, 7 months and 4 days a long time? It seems a long time, and in many ways it is, but it is also really fast. This is the time it took from the first powered flight, on December 17 1903 by the Wright brothers, until arguably the most famous powered flight on July 20 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Speed matters, but so does distance. In the context of the journey taken and the progress achieved it seems that 65 years, 7 months and 4 days is both really fast and a very long way to travel.

Ask yourself: 

  • What is your 1,000 mile journey – your long term goal(s)?
  • What goals matter to you most, and why?
  • What do you want to achieve in the next ten years?
  • What skills and mindset shifts do you need to get there?
  • What will lasting, long-term progress and success look like?

#2: Trust and intention matter

Do you trust – and mistrust – the right things?

It is hard to make progress at anything without selectively trusting people (of course), and also trusting data, facts and scholarship, and being trustworthy yourself. Trusting people and facts is one of the principle ways that we receive (and provide) the support and challenge needed to succeed.

Leadership and progress are achieved by providing challenge (for yourself and others to do more or better), and support (enabling others to do more or better). This requires, among other things, trust. 

Ask yourself:

  • Who and what do you trust?
  • Do you balance intuition and emotion with data and facts?
  • What resources do you need to develop to secure your future success?
  • What goes around comes around – so, are you doing enough to help others make progress?   

#3: Remember the fundamentals of being human

Are you taking adequate care of yourself and others as you navigate and shape the future?

This might seem a little unusual but virtues such as kindness, openness, curiosity, vision and aspiration, energy and engagement, support, dedication and effort, dependability and courage are universal and, crucially, they drive long-term progress, resilience, fulfilment and success.

Despite their significance and ubiquity they are often overlooked – perhaps because we learn them as children and then “move on” into a world of complexity and challenge. If you need reminding about these virtues then look no further than religion, sport, literature – or super-hero movies.

Ask yourself:

  • Who do you aspire to be – what are the personal qualities that matter most to you?
  • What do you need to do more, differently or better?
  • What assumptions, misplaced beliefs or negative attributes do you need to eliminate, reduce or leave in the past?

#4: Ask questions of yourself and others

What are the most important questions for you to consider?

Questions are immensely powerful for making progress in all of these areas. In fact, I would argue that they are an indispensable tool for achieving progress. Crucially, they don’t necessarily need an answer, let alone a correct answer. The mere act of questioning can be enough to drive progress.

First, questions about you – your aspirations for the future and longer term goals. Where do you want to be, and what do you need to do to get there?

Second, questions focusing on your team – we help people not for transactional reasons but because it’s the right thing to do, and in the end we all benefit. What will you do this week and every week to support the people around you? Who needs your support?

Finally, questions for your organisation or wider ecosystem or community. What are you doing to leave your organisation or community in better shape than you found it? How are you helping the system, the way things work? 

Remember:

  • Being fast matters, but so does the journey and the need for progress.
  • We achieve this by valuing, respecting and trusting each other…
  • … as well as tapping into human emotions and being the best we can be.
  • This fundamentally requires an ability to question: asking more of ourselves and others.

That way we will navigate and shape an exciting, positive future.

This article is based on Coaching Questions for Every Situation: A Leader’s Guide to Asking Powerful Questions for Breakthrough Results by Jeremy Kourdi.

Kourdi Associates​ ​work with current and potential leaders to develop their mindset, skills and effectiveness. Jeremy Kourdi is formerly Senior Vice President with The Economist, he has worked with London Business School and Duke Corporate Education as well as market-leading businesses worldwide, and he is the author of 27 books translated into 17 languages, including​ ​The Truth About Talent​ ​and​ ​Coaching Essentials​. ​His business​ ​Kourdi Associates​ ​provides coaches, expert content and consultants that help leaders successfully navigate a changing world.

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