“That’s what we want to do here at Johnson Space Center. I think what we have always brought to NASA and brought to the country is trying to push the boundaries, trying to go to the next level.”
I know of very few people who are not at one time or another very interested in reaching the next level. For some, it’s an obsession. Whether you’re an actor, athlete, student, entrepreneur, executive, business owner, or CEO, you want to “get to the next level.” Wherever that level is.
That’s the mission of the company I lead. Our tag is: “We take leaders and companies from where they are to where they want to be.” It’s fun, inspiring, and rewarding work.
How do you get from where you are to where you want to be? Read on.
1. Discover where you are
How will you know how to get to where you want to go unless you know where you are? You can’t.
Let’s say you want to go to Dallas. How will you get there? That depends on where you’re at when you start.
The route to Dallas will be different for the person currently in Los Angeles than it is for the person who is in Chicago.
That’s why this is one of the first questions we need to ask: “Where are we right now?”
In my book, Intentional Leadership: How the Best Leaders Create the Future, I relate an experience my wife and I had when we followed some acquaintances to a meeting in an unfamiliar area of the country. As they got in their car, they said they knew how to get to the meeting venue.
We believed them and said we would follow them in our rental car. We were grateful that someone in our group knew the way.
There was only one problem; they didn’t know the way either.
After following them for several minutes, it became apparent we were both lost.
My wife, Kathy, asked, “Can’t we call someone for directions?”
“Do you know where we are?” I asked.
“Neither do I.”
How do you figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be unless you first know where you are?
So, where are you?
- Where are you at in life?
- Where are you in your career?
- At what state or stage do you find your company?
- What is your current revenue level? Opportunity level? Staffing level? Morale level? Market condition?
- What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Potential?
Figure out where you’re at—and then let’s determine where you want to go.
“Anyone who has ever asked for directions knows you need two crucial pieces of information to get good results: a starting point and a destination.” —Mike Quigley
2. Determine where you want to go
In strategic planning sessions, this is where the fun begins.
There’s nothing quite like an empty whiteboard, legal pad, or giant Post-it Easel Pad surrounded by people in a conference room.
I’ve also found that a simple napkin will often do nicely.
- Where do you want to go?
- What is that next level you’re dying to reach?
- Where do you want to be in five years? Three years.
- How about you personally? Where do you want to be one year from now?
One important caveat is required to answer this question: Your answer must be honest and unfiltered.
In other words, “Where do you want to go? Where do you REALLY want to go?”
Don’t filter your answer through your fear, doubt, insecurities, perceived weaknesses, or thinking you’re not ready.
Make sure you express what you want, not what you think someone else might want.
If you’re in a group planning meeting in your company, set a ground rule: “There are no stupid ideas.”
Now is the time to dream.
3. Decide why you want to go there
Discovering the “why” is often more difficult than determining the “where” or “what.” But is no less critical and, I believe, often more important.
Now is the point where inspiration enters the picture.
Again, it requires honesty. Why do you want to accomplish this? Why do you have to go there?
You often need to dig deep and get to the root cause of your desire.
What’s the real purpose of launching toward the next level? Why is this so important?
“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” —Simon Sinek
If you’re leading a corporation, don’t forget you’re going to have to sell this idea to the Board of Directors, your senior staff, department heads, and eventually the rest of the company.
Your “why” is what will inspire them to go with you on this new journey.
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” —Simon Sinek
Also remember, the strength of your “why” is what will inspire everyone, including yourself, to keep going when you face obstacles, diversions, and difficulties.
It’s what will keep you focused, disciplined, and consistent in your effort.
4. Devise a plan to get there
Once you know where you are and where you want to be, and once you understand why you want to go there, here’s the critical question: “How will we get there?”
Going back to the earlier question, you’re in Chicago; you want to go to Dallas. How will you get there?
Will you take a plane? Will you drive a car? Take the bus? Will you board a train? Will you ride a motorcycle? A bicycle? Maybe you’ll hitchhike.
You’re an executive in a growing company, but you have the itch to start your own company. In twelve months you want to be sitting in your new office in a building that bears your company name.
What’s your plan to make that happen?
You’re an accounting student in college; before five years pass you want to serve as a CPA in one of our nation’s top three accounting firms.
How will you get there?
By the way, before you go much further, hope is not a strategy. You need something a little more.
“Success is 20% skills and 80% strategy. You might know how to succeed, but more importantly, what’s your plan to succeed?” —Jim Rohn
You know where you are, where you’re going, and why you want to go there. Let me ask one more time: “What your plan to make that happen?”
5. Define what success will look like when you get there
I believe this step consists of two parts: goal-setting and visualization.
In other words, here is where we start installing the metrics of our journey. For example, when we get to where we’re going…
- What will our company revenue be?
- Where will I live?
- How many kids will we have?
- What kind of house will we live in?
- How many employees will our company have?
- What will our market share be?
- How much will I weigh?
- What will be the level of my salary?
- What will our product or service offerings look like?
Another way to ask the question: What is our target? One of my marketing mentors, David Newman, loves to say, “You can hit a target you can’t see.”
However, I recommend a certain amount of visualizing as well.
See yourself at the level for which you’re striving. See your company at its newfound level of success. See your happy and fulfilled staff and employees coming to work each day at a highly successful and productive organization.
“I think in order to accomplish anything in life, you have to visualize yourself there – accepting the award, hearing your song on the radio, whatever it is – or you lose the willpower and the drive.” —Daya
See yourself in that new position, your new company. Picture your new locale. Imagine yourself at that goal weight; see your business card with its new title.
However, don’t just visualize the end product. I’m coming to learn, from my study and my experience, it helps to imagine yourself doing what it takes to get to the next level. See yourself executing the plan you have put in place to get to your next level—whatever that may be.
So what? Now what?
It’s time for you to follow in the footsteps of those who ventured out to get where they wanted to go.
It’s time for you to figure out where you are and how you can get to where you want to be.
It’s time for you to push the boundaries.
It’s time for you to stretch out of your comfort zone.
It’s time for you to get to the next level.
Let me know how it is going. I would love to help in any way possible.
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