Archive for the ‘ Vision ’ Category


Clearly a buzz word today.  The definition really is the capacity to endure. We hear this term applied to environmental issues and business results, but what does it really mean and how do you achieve it?  In business, sustainability refers to our ability to be here tomorrow – and to be relevant tomorrow.  As a financial measure, we look at sustainability as meeting the financial objectives short, near and long term.

At the core of being relevant, successful and viable over the long-term companies must constantly re-evaluate mission, vision and values.  Employees should be rewarded for innovative thinking and for challenging the process.  This goes back to a skill we all learned at around two-years old, that many of us have forgotten:  Keep Asking Questions!   What?  Why? And How? are very powerful questions that can become a natural part of any corporate culture, which will, when used properly help ensure products stand up to the test of time, that new standards of service meet the needs of the future clients and that you can continue to innovate beyond today’s needs.

Authored by: Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting.  This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentionalcorporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Through Another’s Lens

I was visiting my father recently and we were catching up on recent events in our family. He described my younger brother’s visit just the week before, watching him play football in the yard with his sons. “Scott is so athletic, even at 45,” he said. (I secretly wished he was still talking about me in this same way.) Our discussion turned to my mother’s little-known athletic abilities while she was in her youth. He went to the basement to retrieve her high school yearbook, but returned instead with her old reading glasses.

“Do you want these?” he asked.

I picked up the worn, red-and-black vinyl case and was instantly flooded with a memory of seeing them on her bedside table while I was growing up. The little metal piece that looks like the Boy Scout insignia was still on the flap, but the snap beneath it had pulled out. A few splatters of white paint dotted the cover.

As I unfolded the straight arms of the brown, horn-rimmed glasses and put them on, I was surprised that the prescription seemed very similar to my own. Though scratched and covered with a fine layer of plastic dust from the inside of the case, the lenses instantly cleared up the fine print of the newspaper lying in front of me on the kitchen counter.

My mother died from breast cancer in 1976 when I was just 17. Over the many years since, I have often wondered what the world—her world—looked like through those lenses. Now, peering through them and just two years older than she was when she died, I wonder how different my world might look to her.

In our work, we are often referred clients for coaching who are “impossible”, “difficult”, “negative” or “critical”. Their behavior is having a harmful impact on their relationships with colleagues or customers, but their technical expertise or skill sets are valuable to the organization. “You’ve got to fix her!” exclaimed one manager, “Because I can’t afford to lose her.”

“Fixing” a problem employee most often begins with understanding him or her completely, and understanding requires empathy, or the ability to see the world through another’s lens. We tend to see and experience our lives only from our point of view first; if we disagree with another’s perspective or opinion, we often judge them to be “wrong”, so we can remain “right.”

Empathy allows us to be curious: What is this person’s experience? Why would he/she act in this way? What are the beliefs or values that this person holds dear? What is he/she afraid of? When we understand, we are in a much more strategic position to be able to offer help or support.

My mother’s glasses reminded me that our lives, while seemingly very different, are probably much more alike than I had previously allowed myself to see. “Seeing” people—what is important to them, what motivates them, what challenges them—is critical to helping them find their way out of negative behavioral patterns and contribute in more meaningful ways.

Following Others Lines

Well, I’m ‘back in the saddle’ again… I can’t tell you how many times I think about mountain biking and business now when I’m out on a ride. If only I could just upload right from my brain to WordPress…

A while back I mentioned the importance of finding your line. Today, I want to share the importance of both following another’s line AND the importance of not following another’s line.

When you’re close enough behind another rider, it can help you handle the terrain better if you go where they go. Many times this can help you avoid obstacles and increase your speed and comfort level. There are yet other times where following someone else’s line can be more dangerous than if you were going it alone. Because the other rider will partially block your view, it can be harder to see obstacles that they can adjust for, but you don’t have the time to. You also run the risk of running into that other rider.

I try to find a happy medium when I ride. I will stay close enough behind another biker to follow their line if I feel it is a good way to go, but also keep a safe distance to monitor terrain and speed.

This is also a wise way to look at running a business. You want to know what others are doing, what obstacles exist out there, and how to best handle your “terrain”, but you don’t want to blindly follow those in front of you. Having a strong vision and courage to wander from what others are doing are vital practices in success 21st century business.

Finding Your Line

In mountain biking, the term ‘line’ means your chosen path on the trail. Finding a line is important because it helps you plan ahead, even just a little bit. Even when trails are just a foot or two wide, there many ways to go, so you find a line that will take you over or around the obstacles. Finding the right line takes a lot of practice, but comes easy once you know yourself and your abilities.

The beauty of finding a line is that it helps you look further down the trail than if you were just riding with abandonment. Since a line is only a few inches wide, you can scan up and down the trail ahead of you to determine if you’re on the right path. It keeps you from being too distracted from things on the periphery. In optimal conditions, I plan my line about 15 feet in front of my front tire. Doing it this way helps me decide if that is the best course or if a change is in order.

Finding your line in business is just as important. Many folks that I work with know they want to be successful and have a general idea of where the want to go, but they don’t know what “line” to take that will get them there. If you know your abilities and equipment as well as the terrain, you can make some good judgements about what course is best for your business. Just as with riding on the trail, practice makes perfect. The more you choose your path, the better you’ll get at it.

Focus On Where To Go

Where you look when you mountain bike is one of the most vital and fundamental skills. It is human tendency to look at the obstacles that we don’t want to cross. Kind of the deer in the headlight syndrome. When you’re on a bike, if there is a rock, stump or ditch that you want to avoid, it is natural to just stare right at that obstacle. This is just plain dangerous.

When you’re out there on the trail, many times things are coming at you so fast, you don’t have time to look at every nook and cranny of the route. Instead it is vital to look where you want to go, not where you don’t. If you look at that rock you actually want to avoid, you’re likely to go over it. Your bike tends to go where you look.

The same it is with business. It is important to acknowledge obstacles, but to not focus on them. Just as in biking, if we focus on the things that may cause us crashing, pain and embarrassment, we are much more likely to actually  hit them. So, just don’t do it. Look for the path that is the best fit for your speed, abilities, equipment and goals. This is called sticking to your “line”. Of course there will be things that traverse the entire path (which is why mountain biking is so fun), but small obstacles that can through you off balance shouldn’t get in your way, because you are busy focusing on where you want to go and not where you don’t.

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