The Key to Making Good Investments


We implicitly or explicitly expect a return on every bit of energy, money, time and loyalty.  If we don’t get a commensurate material or psychological return, we stop giving.  Just like financial analysts who assess risk versus return and results versus expectations, we weigh the expected return for every type of investment we make.

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Our facilitator asked who among us would retire in less than seven years.  Half the room raised hands. We are equity owners in our global organization.  Half of us want growth and the other half wants income and an exit.  And that difference influences risk and expectations, which impacts each owner’s perspective on organizational strategy.  Most owners seeking income and exit limit their investments and willingness to change.  Most looking for growth limit their patience.  All are well-intentioned leaders responding to their investment horizon.  The key to collaboration is to understand each person’s priorities given their timetable.

Why does this matter for a leader?

1. Sacrifice makes more sense in context of payoff.  Dale Carnegie Training advocates a questioning framework to influence others that includes four types of questions: As-Is (current reality), Should-Be (desired future), Barriers (requisite changes to reach the desired future) and Payout (value in reaching desired future).  Each question builds the logical and emotional context for action.  The Payout questions establish the compelling reason to overcome Barriers to reach the Should Be.  Leading others requires an alignment of stakeholder payoff according to each person’s time horizon.  When everyone sees a payoff for a Should Be, stakeholders are more willing to adjust to a shared set of commitments.

2. Our future depends on today’s courage. Charles Hummel, in his booklet Tyranny of the Urgent, framed our investments of time into four quadrants on an “importance” and “urgency” axis.  He diagnosed the challenge of most people as being too busy.  We fill our calendars, accept distractions and react to issues.  Wise living and leading, he suggested, depends on the courage to resist the urgent and invest in the important.

3. Communication drives shared commitments.  It was awesome to see our group of owners build consensus over those two days.  Understanding drove trust.  Trust brought sacrifice.  From sacrifice came shared commitments.  These commitments will take us to the next level.  Our ability to collaborate and align was, is and will be based on our willingness to show up and communicate honestly.  As leaders, our first job is to foster and facilitate transparent communication about motives and expectations.

What’s your horizon?  How does it influence where you invest today?

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