The other day I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with other leaders, answering questions from a group of aspiring leaders. During this session the panel was asked how they prepare for the future. I was surprised by the answer of my dear friend and colleague who said, “I am lucky to see three months ahead. I run in crisis mode for the most part.” This got me to thinking… If we are so focused on the daily things of our jobs that we forget to make plans for the future, we rob ourselves of growth opportunities. I am reminded of the scene from Alice in Wonderland where Alice meets the Cheshire Cat at a fork in the road and ask the cat “Which road do I take?”. “Where do you want to go?”, the cat replies. “I don’t know”, Alice answers. “Then”, said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” If you don’t seek to give your team direction, then, like Alice, they wander. In this article, I want to share some advice that I have found to help set your sights on where the future is headed and make sure you’re ready for it.
The first thing that comes to mind when looking to the future is: what has happened in the past? By this I mean taking a look at your business to see if there are things that come up every year at a specific, recurring time. For example, my team works for a university and we have many things that we know will occur at about the same time every year. The start of every new term is a good example. For us, we make sure that we have different trainings and documentation available on topics such as, signing up for classes and purchasing a parking pass, prominently displayed and easy to find. Other times of the year, we make sure it is easy to find W2 information, or how to enter grades. Find the things that come around yearly or monthly and make sure you’re ready for them.
Another great tool for helping you see what the future can bring, is talking with your customers. I fear that all too often we think we know what our customers want or worse – that we know better than them. I like to remember that it’s my job to help them do their job better. And who knows their job? They do. So talk to them and see what their needs are. Then, see how you can best fill those needs. I can’t tell you how many great ideas I get from these customer meetings; things I had never even thought of.
More than ever before, we are connected to each other, and accessible way to accomplish this task is social media. This allows us to seek out and connect with industry leaders, and hear their ideas, and add your own thoughts to the discussion as well. This helps to learn about what trends and topics are being discussed, then help (or aid) your team to be ready for what’s coming up.
I want to end this article by saying that the future of learning is made by people. Would you like to have a say? Or are you content to do what others come up with? Whatever your answer is, I hope I have some sparked some ideas for you on ways to look more than three months into the future. Who knows – maybe one day you will change the way we all look at learning.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, New York:MacMillan. (1865)