The Three Eyes of Trajectory
Drift feels great when the sun is hot and the water calm. But, drifters always crash on the rocks.
Holding steady is drifting toward oblivion.
What is your current trajectory? If you aren’t sure, yell, “Danger!”
Organizations, like people, always have trajectory.
You know when you’re moving forward but ignore subtle drift. Deal with stagnation or drift before you hear crashing waves.
Successful leaders establish trajectory.
Trajectory is monitored by keeping one eye on the distant destination, the second eye on present location, and the third eye on current direction.
Is there enough forward movement to compensate for tides? Some areas move forward, a few back. Deal with negative trajectory when it chokes-off positive.
Backward pull, when ignored or tolerated, cools forward trajectory.
Some downturns are cyclical. Don’t think of them as dangerous. It’s foolish to fight the arrival of winter. But when winter hangs on, intervention is necessary.
7 ways to establish trajectory:
- We’ve been here before. A review of past experience indicates this downswing is normal. Prepare, compensate, but don’t panic.
- Pour energy into energy. Where is the hot spot in your organization? Fuel that fire.
- Evaluate the bad and the good. Don’t ignore losses, but don’t forget wins either. Are you putting too much weight on the dark side and forgetting progress?
- Heed the voice of prolonged frustration. Are the points of frustration new or familiar. Prolonged frustration calls for intervention. Begin by stopping what isn’t working.
- Listen to protracted dissatisfaction. Connect with smart, experienced people. Invite feedback to assess where you are and where you’re heading.
- Clarify destination and establish what progress looks like today.
- Hoist your sails and row like heck. Don’t give in to drift.
How can leaders determine trajectory?
Bonus: Facebook fans chime in on how to create or fuel momentum.
When winter hangs on too long, it can mean many things. In my own life, one of the causes is loss of critical support systems. They don’t get ‘found’ and rebuilt over night. New connections take time to initiate and grow. Trust can be a challenge.
The most humbling experience of all is in recognizing no one can do it entirely ‘alone’ yet without stable connections, drift can remain.
There MUST be genuine connection or distance advice is little more then the din stemming from multiple voices. It needs to be relevant. Applicable. And people need to genuinely care.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how much advice was spewed out if it came from people who didn’t care enough to reach out and help when drift goes on too long.
That’s the ‘personal’ view.
Organizationally…culturally….nationally…..we can’t do much of anything unless we do it together.
Thanks Samantha. Your comment resonates with me. Additionally, I often hear leaders struggling with the absence of support in their lives.
Connections take time. They don’t come easy. Those ideas bring a sense of normalcy to a challenging topic. Just make sure to work on it.
I agree this something many leaders struggle with, being self-aware of stagnation and expressing it without being a doomsayer. Too often leaders feel like admitting there are problems means it’s a reflection of their poor leadership. But that’s the arrogance of thinking they control all the variables, when usually they’re lucky to have strong influence over even a minority of shifting tides, winds or boat conditions. Am I taking this metaphor too far?
I would say if you aren’t in tune with who on the team can speak truth to power, then you don’t know the real trajectory of the team.
Thanks James. I find it difficult to talk about problems because, as you indicate, I don’t want to bring people down. But, people often rise up if talking about what isn’t working is followed by here’s where we’re going. Glad you stopped in.
Very true, someone has to turn the rudder for guidance. Item#1 “don’t panic” is critical we tend to go overboard in that case. #4 “stop what isn’t working” this is mission critical, correct the wrongs and proceed with the rights. #6 “clarity” is great for direction, What is the intent for progress is a good position to show the group! Past experiences aid in determining Trajectory but not always a true picture as plans change although similar may not be truly show the same results! Mistakes happen out of pour planning and surly your steps will get anyone on a better course!
Thanks Tim. “correct the wrongs and proceed with the rights” … dang that has ring to it. 🙂
I appreciate your idea about looking position where one is, and observing direction and looking forward to achieve your goal. It is really useful and important to observe the trend in the organisation. Yes, I agree that organisations have trajectory. Sometimes, they are different with individual trajectory. Sometimes, they are similar to individual trajectory. But it is also true that like people, organisations too have its own limitations. And it is utmost important to understand those limitations. Many times, we either do not realize or realize late. The sooner one realizes the limitation, the better will be the future path.
Leaders can determine trajectory of organizations keeping in view the growth of people working for it and with it. Any trajectory that focuses on individual dimension is actually not a trajectory. But the core issue is who determines the trajectory. If it is based on people growth and make people centric, I am sure, people will make great organisational trajectory.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. The introduction of the term, “trend” to the conversation is so helpful.
Trajectory that’s connected to people growth is powerful. You’ve given us a long-term destination – people development. Now we can pull back and see where we currently are and where we are going.
Organizational trajectory is about people first. We can’t ignore the wins along the way. But, it’s the people who bring about the wins.
Dan, just publish your book already!
I love the short description of the ‘Three Eyes’! Simple yet profound.
Trajectory as you have said Dan needs to be tracked constantly by a Leader lest he drifts to no where along with his team. This requires enormous amount of involvement, direction and guidance as well as the ability to call a spade a spade.
Seven very clear steps to assess and adjust your team’s direction. From a two-levels up position, you may find that a leadership change can also positively affect drift by removing entrenched leaders.