— March 14, 2018
The ability to “see forward” separates the most admired executives — including executives in PR — from their peers. Business leaders with that much-admired ability can envision how emerging trends will impact their organization and articulate how their organization can take advantage of those trends to prosper five or 10 years into the future.
Ambitious executives – including those in PR and marketing — who develop an ability to see forward will better position themselves for promotion and top leadership roles.
More than ever, PR and marketing executives need to see forward to gauge how new communications tools and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality and data analytics will impact their organizations. They must also be able to envision how seemingly unrelated technologies such as autonomous cars might affect their industry. It’s essential to develop strategies for how their organizations can cope with those emerging technologies and communicate those visions to company employees, customers and investors.
Examples of Seeing Forward
In one example of seeing forward, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson outlined plans to transition the publication to digital subscriptions as print fades away. The newspaper’s printing presses may last about another 10 years, Thompson told CNBC.
Although he would like its print issue to survive as long as possible, economics will dictate its decision, he said. Meanwhile, the publisher is pivoting to digital subscriptions. It already has more digital than print subscribers and became the first publication to gain more than a million digital subscribers.
Domino’s Pizza President and CEO Patrick Doyle told Mad Money host Jim Cramer how the autonomous vehicles and personal assistants like Alexa may impact the company. Domino’s has partnered with Ford to test self-driving cars for pizza delivery and has invested in research in voice search. Alexa is now a significant source of its restaurant orders.
What Employees Want Most in Leaders
Employees believe the ability to look forward is the most admired leadership trait after honesty, say leadership professors Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes.
Out of thousands of people surveyed, 72 percent said they want leaders to be forward thinking, the pair wrote in Harvard Business Review. Only 27 percent of respondents want colleagues with the ability to look forward. Leaders who can envision exciting possibilities and motivate others to share their vision for the future inspire workers to willingly follow them. In other words, they admire leaders who can inspire followers to pursue a common goal.
Appreciation of forward-looking executives grows as professionals progress through their careers: 44 percent of students admire forward-looking executives, compared to 68 percent of middle managers and 88 percent of senior executives.
Key Steps to Developing the Ability to Look Forward
Since rising executives don’t feel pressure to hone the ability to envision the future, developing the capability can be challenging. Experts suggest these steps to develop the ability to look forward and become admired business leaders.
Find the time. Carve out time from managing current, seemingly pressing issues. Research indicates that typical business leaders dedicate only 3 percent of their time to envisioning the future and persuading others to share their vision. Stay abreast of trends and new technologies both inside and outside the company’s sector, and solicit input from others in your organization as well as outside experts.
Build a shared vision – not your own. Business leaders often rely too much on their own ideas – sometimes exclusively. To convince followers to share their vision for the future, it’s critical to develop a vision that reflects the followers’ own aspirations and explain how their hopes will be fulfilled. That requires carefully listening to followers and understanding their views.
Integrate disparate ideas. Innovation can be described as the reapplication of existing technology, says James Kerr, global chair of N2Growth. “The act of connecting disparate thoughts and theories together to produce new and ground-breaking solutions to today’s problems represents a type of innovative thinking that truly visionary leaders possess,” Kerr writes in Inc.
Communicate the vision. Communicating through multiple channels can help spread the message. Consider new technologies but don’t rule out old-style methods, advises the Center for Creative Leadership. Relaying the message in a story can give life to a vision. A story is easier to remember and repeat that a vision statement.
Bottom Line: The ability to envision how the company will adapt to new trends and technology can transform ordinary executives into venerated businesses leaders. It’s best if executive leaders craft a vision that supports views of the organization’s board and employees. Otherwise, their vision for the future will not convince employees and others to willingly follow them and work toward a common goal enthusiastically.
This article was first published on the Glean.info blog.