2 Steps to Achieving Big Things (or why you need to imagine the elephant before you can eat it!)

Are you thinking big enough?

When you wake up in the morning, where do you start? I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, somewhere on the spectrum between making it through the day (or even through your first meeting!) to changing the world.

I really believe that where we spend the most of our time on that spectrum is critically important – it’s impacting our wellbeing, our productivity and the impact we make.

The Prison of Small Thinking

Last week I was speaking with my coach, who helped me to see that I have been thinking small recently. As I talked through some of the decisions I’d made and some of the plans I was making, he made me realise that I’d fallen into the trap of thinking small.

“You feel like your stuck on a hamster wheel again?”
That’s exactly what I felt like.
“And that’s frustrating?”
“The problem you’ve got, George, is that you know that there’s life beyond the hamster wheel. You can imagine it…”

As we talked this through, I realised that the thing that was causing me frustration – my ability to imagine something bigger – was exactly the thing that was going to provide me with the judo move I needed.

The first step to achieving big things is being able to dream them up in the first place.

When we set up the employment support services business at G4S, we had a really simple vision – to help more people into work than any of our competitors. That vision kept us going through difficult periods and drove us to be the highest performing organisation in our sector.

I’ve had some conversations recently about the opportunities in the Apprenticeship market, which is about to change out of all recognition. It’s waiting for organisations to make a big play. The question is, who is going to think big and how big are they going to think? How boldly people think is what will determine both how much of an impact on productivity, skills and growth the Apprenticeship Levy has and how much of a success their business makes out of it.

Vision eats strategy for breakfast

If you shoot low, you’ll no doubt hit lower. If you aim high, even if you fall short, chances are you’ll achieve something remarkable. That means starting with vision before strategy. You need to know where your destination is before you start planning your route to get there.

As Peter Drucker puts it: ‘Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.’

Until that conversation with my coach, I’d gone to strategy before vision and gotten stuck there. I’d been thinking about what I can do with the resources that I’ve got – not thinking about what I could do and the resources I’d need.

2 Steps to Achieving Big Things

1. You’ve got to imagine it. So, dream a little. Then dream a lot. What would great look like? For your business, your team – or your life? You need to start with the end in mind, with WHAT you want to achieve before you start to work out HOW you are going to do it. You need to be visionary before you are strategic. You’ve got to think big first.

2. You eat an elephant in bite-size chunks. So, once you’ve identified the big goal, then you need to work out the small steps you need to take to get there. What would need to happen for it to be true? What resources will you need? What actions do you need to take? What knowledge and skills will you need to gain or share?

Why it’s important

If – like me – you’re involved in businesses and organisations that are focused on social impact, we can’t afford to shoot low. If we don’t want something bigger and better, what’s the point? More broadly, if we only get one shot at life, what’s the point in playing for a no-score draw?

Are you thinking big enough?
What’s the one thing you could do today to think bigger?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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