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If your thinking is limited to today’s lunch, next year they’ll be eating your lunch!

There’s nothing more important … or more challenging … than the need to balance short-term results with long-range plans.

H ow is your organization focused? Are you encouraging long-range thinking or only what happens this week?

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Do you have the Attention Span of a Mosquito?

How many times have we asked Are Distractions Destroying Your Brain?

Whatever happened to that blank sheet of paper you were going to use to THINK, you know, that old-fashioned approach to problem solving and the creative process?

Do you agree that Google is making us stupid?

These are but variations on a theme … our increasingly short-term focus.

We’re trying to do too much, keep track of a lot of stuff, fend off the intruders that keep pouring over the horizon … fighting today’s fires but missing the extraordinary value of a long-term perspective.

“Our Time Horizon is Forever”

I’ve written often about Warren Buffet’s shareholder letters. He’s well known for his long-term perspective, which infuses such homilies as,

At Berkshire, our time horizon is forever”, 

to finish first you must first finish”.

Who else will balance the Short Term vs. the Long Term?

The key is to balance the need for short-term performance with the long-term perspective that creates a lasting business.

In our discussions about leadership, we have often referred to what only the CEO can do to focus on those special things that ONLY YOU can do.

Both Peter Drucker in The American CEO (full article may require WSJ login), supplemented by A.G. Lafley, former CEO of P&G, have written about what only the CEO can do … and one of their key findings is the importance of the balance between short and long-term objectives. (Full article must be purchased from HBR. It’s well worth it.)

The most important thing you must do

This balance between short and long-term thinking is correctly identified as one of the most important roles that a CEO must fulfill … because no one else has the knowledge, both inside and outside of the organization, to provide that balanced perspective.

You’ve got to eat while you dream. You’ve got to deliver on short-range commitments, while you develop a long-range strategy and vision and implement it. The success of doing both. Walking and chewing gum if you will. Getting it done in the short-range, and delivering a long-range plan, and executing on that. ~ Jack Welch

Would you act differently?

What would you do differently as a leader (and in other aspects of your life) if your time horizon was truly long-term?

How would you make business decisions if you were thinking about what your business would look like in 5–10 years rather than next week?

Give it a try this week

My bet is your decisions would be quite different.

Try it this week.

When you’re wrangling with a vendor about the price on a particular product, stop and reflect on how it affects your long-term vision:

  • Are you trying to capture every last nickel every time?

  • Is this deal in the best interest of a mutually beneficial vendor relationship?

  • Does it promote the longer term customer relationship you’re seeking?

The difference between long-term relationships and short-term performance

You may be of thinking … “easy for you to say”.

“If we don’t get these next few sales this month, we may not be able to make payroll” … or some variation on that theme.

“We’ve got bills to pay, investments we need to make right now. We can’t ignore that for what we might be able to achieve down the road.”

You’ve got to be present to win

There’s no question that current performance is life-sustaining.

We can’t ignore it … but we can be mindful of our long-term goals and make sure that a quick buck in the short-term isn’t destroying our ability to build a lasting business.

The vendor example is but one poignant reminder of the conflict between doing the right thing and thinking only of today’s success.

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What is your perspective?

What are you doing to think long-term?

Are you encouraging your team to think long-term or is this month’s performance the only thing on every one’s mind?

Does it make any difference?

Maybe it’s time to lace that triple espresso with a long walk?

Question: What are you doing to make sure your team is thinking beyond today’s performance? Why not join the conversation and share your thoughts and comments? You can add your message easily by clicking the link to Facebook Page or @Exkalibur on Twitter. I visit them every day and look forward to discussing these ideas and concepts with you.

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