6 Reasons Why Your Vision May be Failing (And What to Do About It)

by Chris Cloud

Since there are many excellent articles on Vision Casting out there, I have decided to come at this from a different angle. My question is: Where is a vision likely to fall off the rails? I’d argue that most individuals, and most organizations, are not guided by a clear vision.

I have been a part of a few organizations that nailed it, and a few that could have achieved so much more if they had a clear vision and steered towards it. I’ve also consulted with dozens of companies regarding their brand and strategy, and inevitably vision comes up as one of the most powerful elements of growth and impact.

Without a vision, the people perish. – Proverbs 29:18

Here are some simple observations on where a vision commonly goes off the rails, and what to do about it. Note: I believe a clear vision is just as transformative, and sadly, just as rare for an individual as it is for a group or organization. So even if you aren’t leading a company, this is for you.

Where do Visions Fail?

Lack of Clarity: “What exactly is our vision?” It’s either too complicated, or it’s too ambiguous. Keep it simple enough for a 4th grader to understand. Poor vision: “we’re going to be big and successful one day”. What does that even mean? Strong vision, “We’re going to put all of the world’s information online.” (Google’s vision). It’s clear. It’s stupid simple, though it’s not easy by any stretch. It’s ambitious, almost pretentious, but it’s compelling. It conjures up visceral imagery. The old explorers were great at this. For example, Ernest Shackleton’s vision was, “To accomplish the first crossing of the Antarctic continent.”  Read more

Spiritual Relationships, Courage and Your Next Big Business Decision

By Dave Kahle

I’m facing a big business decision – whether to invest a significant portion of my retirement funds into a new venture whose financial success is hardly assured. At the same time, last week I worked with a friend who is faced with a very similar decision, whether to invest a big portion of his wealth into a new venture.

Of course, I’m going to use all the analytical tools I have accumulated over the years. We’ll create a best and worst case proforma, do all the due diligence we can on the potential revenue and costs, attempt to identify the potential risks and put in place strategies to mitigate them. All this will make the decision a bit more clear and make us feel a bit better, or worse, about the decision. I’ll recommend my friend do the same.

Unfortunately, none of this worldly effort will uncover the answer to the ultimate question: Is this what God wants us to do? If the answer is a clear and unambiguous “YES,” then all the analytics and due diligence won’t matter. And, if the answer is a definite “NO,” then all the numbers we created will prove to be inconsequential.

Acquiring that “clear and unambiguous yes” is the first challenge. There are a number of excellent books written on the subject of discerning God’s will for your life, and for the big decisions within it. We’ll save a detailed exposition of that for a later post.

Probably the most important element of discerning God’s will in your life is your personal relationship with Him. If you have lived long enough and struggled mightily enough to have entered into something approaching a conversational relationship with Him, then you’ll be secure in the direction you get from Him. If he truly is the senior partner in your business, then you should know Him well enough not to have to guess at his direction.

In a very real and tangible sense, the closer your relationship with Him the more secure you can be in the direction he points you, and the decisions that you must make along the way. Building an ever-growing relationship with God is, then, a mature and wise business strategy.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #7: Personal Courage

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #7: Personal Courage

In this series, I have argued that the following character traits are important for a business leader:

An unquenchable work ethic

An ability and propensity to learn

A continuous quest for MORE

Unwavering self-control,

Rock-solid integrity, and

A Pervasive sense of humility.

To that list, I am adding the seventh and final: personal courage.

I don’t mean to imply that this is the full portrait of a successful business leader. There are dozens of other attributes that will enhance his or her’s ability to work with others and be successful. But, these seven traits mark the essence of a business leader’s character: Without a significant dose of each, his/her career will be somewhat stunted and fall short of the heights to which it could reach.

Understanding Courage

The Oxford Dictionary defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one. Wikipedia adds this:

Courage (also called bravery or valour) is the choice and willingness to confront agony pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. Physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss.

While few business leaders face threats that call for physical courage, they need moral courage to accomplish anything of substance.

Starting a business enterprise almost always requires the entrepreneur or leader to face personal loss. Typically, it is the income associated with the job they are leaving to start a business, and often they must use their homes as collateral to acquire that first business loan. The prospect of personal loss is very real, lingering just over the horizon.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #6: A Pervasive Sense of Humility

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #6: A Pervasive Sense of Humility

I have already argued for the following essential character traits for a business leader: an unquenchable work ethic, an ability and propensity to learn and a continuous quest for MOREunwavering self-control, and rock-solid integrity. To that list I’m adding a pervasive sense of humility.

On the surface, it seems like an unlikely candidate for a leader. However, once understood, it becomes a bedrock trait and a powerful asset in the psyche of an effective business leader.

First, let’s understand it

Humility is often defined as the quality of being humble. The dictionary defines ‘humble’ as “showing a modest estimate of one’s own importance.” Synonyms include ‘meek,’ ‘deferential,’ and ‘respectful’.

It is often confused with a sense of weakness and obsequiousness, which is overly self-deprecating. There is nothing weak about humility. In fact, it takes far more strength to exhibit humility than it does to default to its opposite: Pride.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #5: Rock-solid Integrity

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #5: Rock-solid Integrity

In my last few posts, I have argued for these character traits: an unquenchable work ethic, an ability and propensity to learn and a continuous quest for MORE, and unwavering self-control. To that list, I’m adding rock-solid integrity.

Understanding integrity

Integrity is often misunderstood. Many people consider it synonymous with honesty. While honesty is a component of integrity, it’s much narrower and finds its definition almost exclusively in communications with other people. One is honest with others and to other people. Integrity is larger and encompasses more of life.

Here’s the definition for the Oxford Dictionary: integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

While we all understand honesty, it is the ‘adherence to moral and ethical principles’ that draws our attention. You cannot claim to have integrity unless you have a set of moral and ethical principles to which you adhere. Notice that there are two parts to this. First, you must have a set of moral or ethical principles. Then, it’s not enough to have them, you must consistently act on them.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #4: An Unwavering Self-control

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #4: An Unwavering Self-control

Previously, I argued for these qualities: an unquenchable work ethic, an ability and propensity to learn and a continuous quest for MORE. To that list, I’m adding Unwavering self-control.

Specifically, that means that one exhibits the ability to control emotions, and to moderate words and actions. It has both a positive and a negative element to it. Let’s unpack this.

When it comes to controlling emotions, it means that you don’t let a flash of negative emotions erupt and produce negative results. For example, one of your customers may make a disparaging remark about your company, or one of your employees is late for the third time this week. Your natural tendency is to get irritated and defensive and let that emotion out in a way that may damage the relationship permanently. That’s a lack of self-control. On the other hand, if you catch yourself, take a deep breath, and choose your words and your reaction mind-fully, you are acting with self-control.

Not only do we need to control our negative emotions, but we need to proactively and intentionally spread positive emotions. The classic book, The One Minute Manager, builds the case for walking around, finding something that your employees are doing well, and praising them for it. In other words, intentionally and willfully developing the habit of praising specific actions and thereby spreading positive emotions.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #3: A Continuous Quest for More

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #3: A Continuous Quest for More

Here’s my nomination for a character trait that fuels business success: A continuous quest for MORE.

Let’s define MORE. I’m not talking about greed here, although money is a part of it.

MORE refers to the concept that, in every aspect of one’s life and business, there are greater heights to be experienced, greater accomplishments to achieve, greater impact to be had, greater knowledge to be obtained, greater wisdom to be acquired, greater good to be done, and, yes, more money to be made, more customers to acquire, more revenue to realize, more markets to penetrate, more employees to hire, more influence to extend.

Regardless of where you are at, there is always MORE.

For a person with this character trait, the status quo is never acceptable. The status quo is only today’s version, and this moment’s situation. It’s a temporary circumstance which can be made better. After all, there is always MORE.  Read more

Leadership Character Trait #2: The Ability and Propensity to Learn

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this following series of posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #2: The Ability and Propensity to Learn

Here’s my nomination for a character trait that fuels business success: The ability and propensity to learn.

I’m not talking strictly about acquiring knowledge in the sense that one learns in school. For the successful business person, this character trait is demonstrated by the habit of gathering ideas from a variety of sources, accurately evaluating a situation, and then combining the details of the situation with the ideas garnered to modify or make adjustments in his/her behavior, or the behavior of the organization.

I know that’s pretty complex. Let’s unpack it.

Gather ideas from a variety of sources.

Folks who have this character trait continually and proactively seek out good ideas. These are the people who get the audio books and listen to them as they drive. They have rules for themselves like: “Read one new business book every month.” Read more

Leadership Character Trait #1: An Unshakable Work Ethic

By Dave Kahle

In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this, and the next few posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.

Leadership Character Trait #1: An Unshakable Work Ethic

Unfortunately, not everyone has this trait. And, the distribution of it seems to be diminishing among us – it seems to be getting rarer and rarer. Folks who have this trait understand, deeply down in their psyche, that work is necessary for human beings to exist, and that it is necessary for their personal dignity and self-worth. But it’s not just an idea. It doesn’t proceed from an intellectual position. Rather, it’s a deep, inner drive. These people are compelled to find work and do work.

These are the people who show up 15 minutes early and stay a few minutes late. A day off, while appreciated, isn’t something to strive for. All in all, they would rather work than take excess days off.

On those occasions when they find themselves unemployed, they make work of finding the next position, and fill in with projects and part-time and temporary tasks, because It’s hard for them to be idle.

The concept of winning the lottery and retiring early is scary, not attractive. They can’t imagine themselves retiring to a life of leisure. They would go crazy getting up every day with no job to do. They can’t understand the 20-somethings that prefer a day of video games on the couch to a day of productive labor.  Read more

Finding the Right Business Model or Being the Right Business Leader?

By Dave Kahle

“Is there one business model that you would recommend to a budding entrepreneur?”

That was the question a young man asked me recently. I reflected for a moment over the past 25 years, and answered this way:

“No. I’ve worked with over 500 businesses, and in that pack there were lots of different business models. What I’ve seen is that the model is less important than the implementation on the part of the company’s leadership.”

Let me explain. It is, of course, possible to have a flawed business model. But, honestly, I have only seen one or two of those, where, no matter what the leadership does, the business is not going to survive. It’s just a bad idea.

These are usually the result of people who are passionate about a product or idea. Unfortunately, that passion displaces common sense, and they ride that idea until it has siphoned their resources and depleted their energy.

The world is not full of bad business models. On the other hand, it is crammed with models that can and do succeed, providing the leadership is effective.

The path toward success is rarely formed by the business model. Far more important are the skills and character of the leadership. Drop a highly skilled, high-character entrepreneur into any model, in any market, and watch as he/she leads that company to growth, prosperity and market leadership.

The ultimate path for business success is far more about improving yourself than it is about finding the right product, market or model. Read more