As I sat in the coffee shop, pen in hand, notebook in front of me, I sighed to myself, "This is like peering through a dense fog at night wearing dark sunglasses smeared with mud."
I was supposed to be charting a a path forward for the organization I led. What I was actually doing was tapping my feet to the cool jazz playing in the background, eavesdropping on conversations near me, gazing out the rain-spattered window, and doodling on the page I should have been filling with exciting ideas.
The problem wasn't that I didn't have any ideas. I had too many ideas. There was no clear path forward because, in my mind, I had too many options. As a young leader, I hadn't been in quite this position before, and honestly wasn't sure what to do.
To find your clear path forward requires four sets of information: your current context, your desired destination, the top risks and barriers you'll face on your journey, and the possible outcomes of choices you could make in mitigating the risks and overcoming the barriers.
The larger challenge is this: few, if any, of us can analyze and diagnose our own situation objectively and make sage decisions about the future on our own. We, and our teams, are too close, too invested, and too partial to our own subjective viewpoints.
I needed help.
Luckily for me, my friend Jan had experience helping leaders with just this type of problem. She spent two days with my team. We identified strengths and weaknesses in our organization, including some that we'd never realized before.
She led us to analyze our broader context and we were able to discern several factors that were holding us back. We had felt the frustration of bumping up against these issues, but never really been able to put our finger on what was happening.
We discovered we had very different ideas of what our desired destination looked like. It took some time, and some very skillful facilitation on Jan's part, but eventually we all agreed on exactly where we were headed.
Throughout the process she gently but persistently pushed us to make decisions. "You can't do everything," she said. "You need to make choices about what you will do ... and what you won't do."
By the time we finished we not only had a clear path forward, we were confident that this path could get us to our desired destination.
To be honest, I was surprised at powerful the process was. We left with much more than a strategy. We were re-energized as a leadership team. We were more united than ever before. And we were committed to working together to get to our destination.
How about you? How will you ensure you can find your clear path forward?