A Plan As An Act Of Optimism

It’s that time of year—to reflect on the old year and to start making plans for the new one. This year it seems harder somehow to think ahead. Times have been tough.

I read a column this morning about what we might dub the current decade (a la “the Roaring Twenties” or “the Fabulous Fifties”). The writer suggested the “Uh-Ohs.” Between 9/11, two difficult wars, Hurricane Katrina, a disputed election, a fractious body politic, and a deep recession, it might not be a decade to remember fondly.

As a result of these challenges, especially the business recession which only begins to show signs of loosening its grip, many of us have, I fear, hunkered down into the near future and stopped thinking with excitement about the long term.

In speaking with my clients about their strategic plans for 2010 and beyond, I notice a hesitation, as if our confidence has been shaken irreparably. I notice it too in myself—can I really set optimistic goals for 2010, or should I just stay “hunkered down” and try to survive another tough year with grace, and with a decidedly risk-averse mentality?

But I call for all of us leaders to awaken and plan for the future with hope and creativity. Without hope, motivation evaporates.  Without motivation, success is impossible.

We need to hear hopes and aspirations from our leaders, even if just to say that our businesses, which have in many cases become smaller, will nonetheless get better. We need our leaders to help us look and think over the horizon. 

This is perhaps the most important year ever for you and your business to be working from a good plan. But very few of my client companies do a good job of planning, and fewer still have a disciplined way of working their plan and staying on track.

Yes, things change. Sometimes our assumptions were wrong. But we need to plan nonetheless. It’s what leaders do and what the rest of us need. A plan for the future is, in and of itself, an indication of optimism. Your employees may be somewhat interested to know what’s in the plan, but it will mean the world to them to know that you have one.


YOUR PATH FORWARD: Even if it’s just one page long, and contains only a few objectives, put together a plan for your business, business unit, or department. It doesn’t have to be fancy or world-changing. It just needs to point towards the future with some level of hope.

About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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