Opportunity is Calling – Answer or Let it go to Voicemail?

The holiday season invariably leads to all kinds of resolutions for the coming year: lead a healthier lifestyle, go to church more often, spend money more wisely, lose weight and get in better shape, be a better parent, listen more to your partner/spouse, take some golf lessons, call Mom more often, etc., etc.  If you’re like most of us, these resolutions decay as the New Year moves on, and after a couple of months we don’t even remember what we resolved to do.  No surprise, then, that the resolutions never happen.

For this New Year, we recommend taking a new approach – resolve to answer the call from opportunity. As President Harry S. Truman, said, “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

Every challenge you and your organization is facing in 2015 represents an opportunity. You know exactly what those challenges are. Level Five aspiring leaders answer the call, and seize the opportunity each challenge represents.

As we’ve said before, business is change. As a leader, you have two options: 1. Lead change; or 2. Let change lead you. Level Five leaders won’t even consider the second option, because it invariably leads to failure. Yet, many corporate leaders actually choose option 2 – by default. They don’t answer the call from opportunity because they’ve been successful thus far. They follow the old adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

However, the option 2 leadership choice is deadly. It poisons the future of an organization. Most senior leaders would adamantly object to being called complacent; yet, most CEOs cite change as their biggest fear. Seizing opportunity is embracing change – but it also involves risk. It is much less risky to send the call from opportunity to voice mail…then, you never have to listen to it, much less return the call.  But at what cost?

We’ve seen senior leaders try alternatives to identifying and seizing opportunity, trying desperately to maintain the status quo and avoid risk. One method which seems all too pervasive is to micromanage, make every decision, demand information about every aspect of the business, all the time. These insecure leaders grind off their most talented people and discourage the rest – never answering the call from opportunity. Change leads them. And that’s a one way street to eventual failure.

We’re not suggesting you try to seize 50 opportunities; few of us can manage that many. But you can probably handle two or three very well – if you resolve to answer those calls to action. Now that you have some down time in the next several days, take the time to reflect on what your most promising challenges are going into the New Year, and prioritize them. Capture the 2 or 3 most critical ones and write them down on a piece of paper. Then sleep on it and go back and review them the next day. If they still look right, put them in your briefcase so you can have them on your desk when you get back to work. If they don’t look right, rewrite them and sleep on it again. Once you can wake up and still agree with your list, you’ll know these are the real opportunities. When you get back to work, immediately meet with your key leaders and discuss what you’ve come up with.  Engage in a serious discussion to refine and improve your ideas. Remember, two or more heads are always better than one. Get their buy-in, prioritize the work, develop a plan of action for each one, and “just get it done.”

Make your 2015 New Year resolution to choose option 1. Write down your most promising opportunities and commit to seizing them. Invest in developing a continuous improvement program of leader development, repetitive communication, and focused strategic planning to drive your organization to excellence by leading change. When you trust and empower your team, they will respond by doing the right things when no one is looking, achieving extraordinary results. As President Truman said, courageous leaders succeed by seizing opportunity and changing things for the better. Be that leader.