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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Zooming Out to Lead


Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United for over 25 years, leading the club to 13 English Premier League Titles. 

In his book, Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United, Sir Alex tells a story about his own tipping point as a leader.  

Prior to his post at Manchester United, he managed Aberdeen, a Scottish Football Club. He learned about the importance of ZOOMING OUT to lead. My emphasis in bold…

Watching is (an) underrated (leadership) activity…it costs nothing. For me there are two forms of observation: the first is on the detail and the second is on the big picture. Until I was managing Aberdeen and hired Archie Knox as my assistant manager, I had not appreciated the difference between watching for the tiny particulars while also trying to understand the broader landscape. Shortly after he arrived at Aberdeen, Archie sat me down and asked me why I had hired him. The question perplexed me, until he explained that he had nothing to do since I insisted on doing everything. He was very insistent… Archie told me that I shouldn’t be conducting the training sessions but, instead, should be on the sidelines watching and supervising. I wasn’t sure that I should follow this advice because I thought it would hamper my control of the sessions. But when I told Archie I wanted to mull over his advice, he was insistent. So, somewhat reluctantly, I bowed to his wishes and, though it took me a bit of time to understand you can see a lot more when you are not in the thick of things, it was the most important decision I ever made about the way I managed and led. When you are a step removed from the fray, you see things that come as surprises– and it is important to allow yourself to be surprised. If you are in the middle of a training session with a whistle in your mouth, your entire focus is on the ball. When I stepped back and watched from the sidelines, my field of view was widened and I could absorb the whole session, as well as pick up on players’ moods, energy and habits. This was one of the most valuable lessons of my career and I’m glad that I received it more than 30 years ago. Archie’s observation was the making of me.

As a player I had tried to do both– paying attention to the ball at my feet whilst being aware of what was happening elsewhere on the field. But until Archie gave me a finger wagging, I had not really understood that, as a manager, I was in danger of losing myself to the details. It only took me a handful of days to understand the merit of Archie’s point, and from that moment I was always in a position to be able to zoom in to see the detail and zoom out to see the whole picture.

Stepping back to watch from the sidelines is not natural (at least not to me!) This story has powerful leadership insights and implications for all of us.

Ferguson, Alex; Moritz, Michael (2015-10-06). Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United (p. 18). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.

“Bankers Don’t Have Any Imagination, None At All”


In September of 1953, Walt Disney was sending his brother Roy to meet with bankers in New York. Roy was going to be seeking financing for a new concept: Disneyland. At the time, Disney had cartoons but no theme parks, which is hard to imagine in the present day.

As the story is told, Walt called in an imagineer named Herb Ryman and said, “You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all. You have to show them what you’re going to do.” He then asked Herb to help him create a mock-up of Disneyland on a large storyboard. It was a splendid painting that even included black light paint so that you could see what Disneyland would look like at night.

This story comes from Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind-the-Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real. The book includes pictures of the storyboard.

 

 

Part of our For Impact story has been the invention of THE ENGAGEMENT TOOL. This one-page presentation flow, at altitude, has become an absolutely indispensable part of our client and coaching success.

Always look for ways to SHOW what you’re going to do. Use Engagement Tools. Banker or not, there is a big difference between talking your way through something and showing your way through something. A Engagement Tool worked for Walt and Roy Disney and it will work for you.

The Entrepreneur’s Mantra: Think Big, Build Simple, Act Now


For Impact is a team of entrepreneurs. I sold my first company at the age of 20. Tom, a serial entrepreneur, has founded 19 different companies. Just about everyone else has experience in starting or building companies and scaling ideas.

What brings our team together is this experience plus a common passion to use this DNA for Impact. (And, there we have a nice little reference to our raison d’être.) Extracting this DNA — then putting it into words — it reads:

 

This mantra is so important to us, that we’ve also made it one of our 9 Guiding Principles.

THINK BIG.

  • Think Big with your VISION. How are you changing the world or your world?
  • Think Big with your ASKS. You can’t get $1M if you can’t communicate what you would do with $1M!
  • Think at a higher level. Get up out of the weeds and see the problem, opportunity, team and solution at 30,000’!

BUILD SIMPLE.

  • Get your MESSAGE on a napkin!
  • Simplify what you do using the Rule of 3.
  • Focus on 10 prospects who could TRANSFORM your funding … and TRANSFORM your organization.
  • ONLY do that which is productive in your funding plan (Stop doing special events that aren’t special and that don’t raise money.)

ACT NOW.

  • Stamp DRAFT on everything and go visit!
  • No committees. “Engage, then plan!”
  • Just Visit. Just ASK. Ten steps forward and two steps back is still eight steps forward.

Tom brings a more powerful voice to the ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT. Not only has he done the 19 companies, but he’s traveled the world visiting with and mentoring social entrepreneurs. Here is a one-pager on TB/BS/AN from Tom.