One of the great things about my involvement with Vistage over the last eighteen or so years has been the opportunity to hear some wonderful speakers from all over the world. One I remember with pleasure is Walt Sutton, a Canadian who had much business success in the USA and became a greatly lauded speaker on the Vistage circuit.
Walt's session was essentially about what makes an entrepreneur and, more's the point, what makes an entrepreneur successful.
One of the methods that he proposed was to take time out ,perhaps twice a year, to "take a day to walk on a beach" and to think about the business; no mobile phones, no notebooks, just quiet contemplation away from the day to day activity, and most importantly, on your own.
The clue to this bi-annual retreat is the fact that the leader, be he/she Chief Executive, Managing Director, Owner or whatever, is really the only person in the business who genuinely thinks about the business. That is not to say that the other members of the management team don't think about it; rather they think more about their own functional responsibilities such as sales, operations, finance and so on, whereas the leader needs to think about the business holistically.
It is all part of the development of a vision for the business which must be done holistically taking all aspects of the operations of the company into account, and there is really only one person in the business who can do that; the leader.
I recall one of my members having heard Walt's exposition, decided to have a day's contemplation of a particularly thorny issue which had been troubling him for some time. He also decided to take his retreat at home overlooking some attractive trees which seemed a good idea to me. I asked him how the day had been for him.
"Alright" he said: "I fell asleep a couple of times, and spent a lot of time thinking about the issue".
"So what happened?"
"Well, nothing immediate really" he said: "but a couple of days later - all sorts of ideas came popping out and I think that I have seen a way through the problem".
He brought the issue to the table at the next Vistage meeting and the group helped him tune and tweak it until it was in a condition to be implemented and, in the event, successfully.
The point about this story is that the leader needs thinking time about the business away from the hustle and bustle and demands of the working day, and that time spent just thinking can and should be very productive. Immediate results are rare but just let the mind go into sub-conscious mode and it will continue working on the problem.
Sam Snead, the golfer, used to say "You gotta take time out to smell the roses". Perhaps that should be rewritten for the leader: "You gotta take time out to work ON the business, not IN the business".
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