Over the years, it has been noticed that different kinds of people treat and use the ‘future’ differently. We operate in a complex and emerging world where the future is uncertain and total knowledge is impossible. In this article, Mark McKergow explores the various ways in which managers and leaders view the future including the dreamer, the realist, the business planner and the host.
First things first, are you going to step forward, or step back?
As a leader or manager, it is likely that you find yourself sometimes stepping forward and being assertive, and sometimes stepping back to allow others to shine. Stepping forward means taking action. Stepping back means being aware, and preparing to step forward again at the right time. This outlook shows a fundamental basic truth: we don’t fully know what’s going to happen next.
In the financial world, projects are appraised using the system known as net present value. Money you get today is worth its face value, and money you are scheduled to get next month, year, or so on, is worth less, as there is a risk it won’t arrive. Accounting folk call this discounted cash flow, and there are frequent discussions about exactly how much less cash will be worth in a year’s time.
The same kind of reasoning applies to people’s plans, but with a twist. Our ideas about the future also become less reliable, less certain and less valuable as time goes on.
We have noticed over the years that different kinds of people treat and use the future differently. Let us look for a moment at three tempting but not altogether useful alternatives that you may, like us, recognise from your experience of life at work.
The Dreamer is the person who sees a wonderful future ahead where things will be better and the possibilities are endless. They give all their attention to expanding (and expounding) on the immense benefits and innate attraction of the better future.
That’s great, of course. However, the Dreamer seems unwilling or unable to put actual steps in place to build towards this future. Perhaps the whole task seems so big that any actual step is not worthy of the goal. Perhaps such a big future should seem to be matched by a big plan of action – which never actually gets off the ground. The dream remains just that, and meanwhile the Dreamer continues to fixate on it and get frustrated that nothing is happening and nobody shares the dream.
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