Executives Are Nothing Without Their Dreams

Leslie Kossoff
Special to the San Francisco Examiner
©2000 All Rights Reserved

Organizations exist based on and because of the dream of their executive. That inexhaustible belief that they and their organization can do something different, something important--something never been seen before--is what makes executives and their organizations successful. It is the basis of their thinking process.

It doesn't matter whether the executive is at the senior level yet or if the organization yet exists. Executive thinking begins long before others see the measurable results and continues long after success is at hand. Executives are executives by design and action, not by chance.

But where does the dream come from? How do executives think and what actions do they take to create and maintain successful organizations?

Executives look at what is and see what can be. They take their experience, their observations of others' experiences, even their inexperience, and then look to themselves and their beliefs about what can be done. This is the basis of the dream.

Executives dream big dreams. Their dreams are not about product or service, per se. Instead, executives access their deepest, firmest beliefs about what can be offered and achieved--no matter what the field. That always growing and developing dream will fundamentally affect the organization, the industry, and, in some cases, society as a whole.

Executives, by nature, are also pragmatists. They see the obstacles to their dreams but are not deterred. They simply think all the harder to determine how to remove the obstacles from their path. The obstacles don't matter. It is the dream that persists.

A case in point: Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. When Jeff Bezos took his proverbial drive cross-country, building a business plan along the way, little did he know that he would be changing the way society looked at everything from technology to purchasing decisions. Bezos dreamed of creating an on-line bookstore--something never seen before. Ultimately, he created a new definition of commerce.

So, how can existing and aspiring executives and entrepreneurs further develop their executive thinking skills? The following are some initial steps to help you in your executive thinking.

• Access your dream.
Look at what you do, what you have experienced, how your organization works and think about how it could be. What would your organization look like if it was yours to design and build?

• Begin developing the Technicolor details.
How would your organization operate? How would it feel to work there? What kinds of products and services might it offer? How would those differ from anything ever been seen before?

• Be tenacious.
Everything you think and do should use your dream as its context. If you are going in a direction other than the dream, change course to get back on track.

• Expand your thinking by including the thinking of others.
At some point you take your dream public. By accessing the thoughts of others you gain greater understanding of your dream and begin making it their dream as well.

• Build alignment with your dream.
Speak to the dream in every possible situation. Do not think that everybody understands or accepts your dream just because you have explained it once. You will only know that alignment is being built when you see that all actions across the enterprise work toward the achievement of the dream.

• Be both tolerant and intolerant.
The dream is an ever-expanding, iterative entity that grows and develops based on its ongoing achievement. Any thoughts and actions in support of the dream are to be tolerated--even if they are not exactly how you would do it. However, any actions in known opposition to the dream and goals of the organization are not to be tolerated and mandate appropriate action.

• Celebrate and reward success each step along the way.
If others are involved in those successes, celebrate with them. Reward and recognize every contributor throughout the process so that everyone is in a constant state of achievement.

Executives and their dreams are tenacious. Nothing stands in their way. If the dream doesn't work this time, it will the next. But it will exist. That is the non-negotiable. Executives make sure that their dream exists.

Ultimately, executive thinking and its success come from your dreams and your vigilance in making those dreams come true. As you look toward your dream and what you believe can be accomplished, don't let anything get in your way. In creating your own success you will also be creating success for others.

Leslie L. Kossoff is principal of Kossoff Management Consulting.

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