Empowering Workplace Leadership Every Other Step of the Way

“When the world is a monster
Bad to swallow you whole
Kick the clay that holds the teeth in
Throw your trolls out the door…”


Right after the early morning conference call, an instant message popped up on my laptop screen.

You all right? It read. It was from a colleague over 2,000 miles away, with the rest of our team almost another 1,000 miles away from him.

Three simple words: You all right?

They tumbled in my head like lottery ping pong balls, then lined up in different iterations:

All right you
You right all
Right you all

Another IM appeared. You seem a little edgy today.

I wrote back: Do I? Sorry, we’ve all got a lot going on and I’m a little frustrated today. Can’t stay ahead of the constant change sometimes and unclear of what we’re doing.

His answer was prompt. You and me both. No worries. We just like the ‘Mr. Upbeat, let’s make a better plan’ man. Sorry you’re edgy. We’ll get there.

I wrote back: Thanks, Brother. I’m good. I’ll get back to making better magic. I always do.

Do it, and be good. He wrote back.

Two hours later I hiked up a nearby hill for my cathartic morning workout listening to one of my favorite playlists. The R.E.M. song “Can’t Get There From Here” came on and added a few more lottery balls in my head:

(I’ve been there I know the way)
Can’t get there from here

I’ve been there, I know the way, but I do believe you can get there from anywhere, even here. Here and there both being my purpose, my vision, and my relentless pursuit of mindful presence and consistent personal leadership, to empower a better workplace.

The last part sounds like a hack product and/or service marketing message, but it’s true for me, with “workplace” being a broader metaphor for “being a better life,” and since work on many levels is a large part of life, why not make it better? I actually really believe it.

Our positive personal visions are what guide, compel and propel us. Combined, these collective building blocks can be formidable strongholds, leading to better families, communities, governments and businesses.

In the workplace, there are those storied business visions that have guided and propel and inspire, but today they seem to be few and far in between. Dr. Jesse Lyn Stoner, Founder of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership and co-author with Ken Blanchard of the bestseller Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision, shared with us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that her and Ken have interviewed thousands of people in organizations whose number one concern is lack of a shared vision.

Less than 10% of the organizations we’ve visited are led by managers who have a clear sense of where they are trying to lead people.

All right you. I’ve been there, I know the way.

According to Dr. Stoner, what’s important about vision is not only what it says, but how it’s created and how it’s lived. It’s a picture of a desirable future you intend to create that illuminates your underlying purpose and values.

And for a vision to be compelling and provide ongoing guidance, it must illuminate all three elements of a compelling (and propelling) vision:

  1. Purpose (or Mission)
  2. Values
  3. A Clear Picture of a Desirable Future

Developing sustainable business vision and strategy are difficult to execute. Most leaders default to actions steps and tactical plans and spend most of their time reacting to what needed addressing yesterday, even if they invest up front to create the vision.

For all of us moving at the mind-bending speeds today, caught in a continuous orbital loop where no one ever lands or strategically plans beyond today. Frustrated individual contributors and leaders alike must learn to break free from this heavy gravity for a desirable future, our collective futures.

Critics and cynics will say we’ll remain unhappy reactive tacticians and we’ll keep seeing the posts like “5 Reasons Your Boss Sucks” and “19 Ways Your Workplace Is Killing You,” for many of them, the self-fulfilling prophecy continues to ring true.

The workplace (and the world at large) remains a monster to many of us. Even for me – one day it’s riding on my shoulders like a playful child, and the next day it’s eating me up.

I don’t know if we need Chief Happiness Officers in the workplace, but we do need leaders around the globe who emulate the three elements above.

And that all starts with self. I know I’ll continue to be mindful of my guiding and compelling personal vision and values for a desirable future, to nurture positive can-do leadership with one realistic caveat about the monster: empowering a better workplace with leadership every other step of the way.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: What’s eating you? via photopin (license)