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As the story goes, on the eve of his ill-fated and heroic third expedition to Antarctica in 1914, Ernest Shackleton posted the following advertisement in a London newspaper:
ad placed by Ernest Shackleton
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
Let’s hope most of you get to see sunlight on a regular basis, would characterize your wages as greater than “small,” and can reasonably count on making it home safely at the end of each day.
Even so, Shackleton’s experience is a reminder that there are precious few people in the world who actually set their minds to endeavor to achieve something uncommon – even something great.
After working to lead many organizations to Predictable Success over the past 25 years, one conclusion I’ve reached is that the challenging yet worthwhile journey through Whitewater and into Predictable Success is not for the common leadership team or organization.
It is for people and organizations that are looking to achieve something truly uncommon.
If you’re one of them, then follow these three steps to increase the likelihood of a successful voyage:
1. DECIDE: Which Kind of Organization Are You?
It seems to me that there are roughly two types of organizations in the world.
The first type is the roughly 90% of organizations, and their people, that tend to generally accept the way things are, placing considerable emphasis on “what is” today vs. what “could be” tomorrow.
If it’s not too much trouble, they might tinker around the edges from time to time to try to make something a little better.
These are the organizations with a lot of people who are very anxious to tell you why they can’t achieve something great – why something got in the way, how a person screwed something up, how a circumstance was just too much to overcome, how the planets didn’t align and it just wasn’t cosmically meant to be.
These are the organizations and people for whom good enough is…well…good enough.
Then there are the 10% of organizations and their people who habitually set their minds to achieving something great.
For these people, it would take a whole lot of scurvy and icebergs to keep them from achieving their ambitious goals. These 10% of organizations are committed to finding a way no matter what.
To be clear, the journey to Predictable Success is for the 10%.
As Shackleton says, it can at times be a hazardous journey, so one might as well hop on board with eyes wide open about the challenges ahead.
Because of the ambitious nature of this choice, I would recommend that you make the achievement of Predictable Success an explicitly stated goal for your organization.
In other words, decide very clearly that you will do it, and write it down for all to see.
"The journey to Predictable Success is for the 10%" - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success
2. PLAN: There’s a Reason Explorers Use Maps
Luckily, this is not a 1914 Antarctic expedition and there are plenty of precedents from which to learn key lessons (although it is true that Shackleton had learned from a previous expedition that sled dogs managed snow and extreme cold weather much better than ponies – this apparently wasn’t obvious to poor Robert Scott in 1910).
Study the free resources available to you, consult experts who can help you chart your course, and begin your journey with a well-thought-out plan.
Now that you have 1) a clear goal; and 2) a detailed plan, all you have to do is…
3. DO AND KEEP DOING: Endure the Bitter Cold, Complete Darkness, and Constant Danger
Okay, it isn’t that bad…but it is a challenge with many ups and downs along the way.
Sometimes it might feel like you’re not making the progress you’d like, but keep putting one foot in front of the other.
You should even be prepared to lose some of your best performers to-date in the transition.
It is important to remember that the organization that achieves Predictable Success is fundamentally different from the organization that entered Whitewater, and therefore has fundamentally different needs than before.
It’s difficult, but it’s also worthwhile.
Remember to stay focused on the long-term goal and stay committed to ruthlessly executing your plan as an organization – no matter what.
Do these things, and honour and recognition will surely be yours!