Are you being realistic as a CEO?

Leaders and entrepreneurs usually lean toward one of two mindsets – they are either realists who downplay the good, or they’re optimists who remain positive about all outcomes. Although there may be a strong link between success and optimism when running a business, it is important for leaders to learn how to balance both. Take your business plan, for example; being too optimistic can often lead to overestimating success, which can potentially cause setbacks and disappointment amongst employees or outside investors.

So, how do you ensure you maintain a good balance between realism and optimism when setting clear goals for your business?

Leading a company

When it comes to managing your company and employees, realism should dominate. Being realistic when creating your business plan will allow you to stay humble and make decisions based on the facts presented to you, rather than relying on aspirations or feelings. However, leaders won’t achieve their goals if they don’t take some risks, so it’s important to trust that all your hard work will pay off – which is where optimism will come into play.

Testing your product

Market analysis is a key element of any business plan, so when it comes to market testing a product, leaders need to remain realistic – don’t let your optimism about your product or service get in the way of critical thinking. You need to ask yourself whether your product or service really has an impact, looking for flaws and making changes accordingly. Leave optimism out of the equation if you want to successfully develop your business in line with your goals.

Managing employees

Similarly, organisation management is crucial for any business plan you create. Managing your employees requires a true balancing act. You need to keep your team enthused in order to unlock their greatest potential, but you also need to make sure issues and expectations are dealt with accordingly.

Your business plan will have set goals you will use to measure progress, including how your employees are performing. However, you need to remain realistic: do you have a higher than average staff turnover? Are absence rates increasing? Is there conflict between team members?

Dealing with finances

When setting up a business, you need to understand your finances. Be realistic about what you can achieve with the funds you have. If your business isn’t going to make any money, how will you make a profit? This is where you can use your business plan to your advantage too. When assessing your finances, be realistic about whether you’ll be able to secure investment and loans. It’s important to also take a step back and consider whether you’re overestimating your figures. When it comes to money, being too optimistic can have severe consequences for your company.

Ultimately, as a leader, you must take into account a number of factors to determine the right outlook for your business. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer and every organisation is different but striking a good balance between optimism and realism is often the best way forward.

Is your team ready for the future?

To be a leader capable of providing vision for an organisation, it is important to keep an eye firmly fixed on the future at all times. The famous former football manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who coached Manchester United to over 20 years of success, explained that the morning after his team had won a trophy, he immediately began planning for the next campaign.

But how do you engender the same forward thinking in your team? In this article, we look at some key considerations pertaining to long term vision.

Do they know where you want to be?

It is vital that you ring fence some time to map out your long term vision to your team. It won’t just take one presentation – this is something which you should be repeating in weekly and monthly meetings, and ideally record in a document which can be shared with all your team. You cannot over-communicate about your vision.

It’s good to talk

In both team meetings and one on ones, you have the chance to project what you see as the future to the members of your team. And it should be a two-way conversation; ask your team to challenge anything which they do not understand, and to offer their own input at appropriate junctures. It is accepted wisdom that ‘thoughts are things’ but a plan without action is just a dream, so make sure you are constantly communicating your long term vision to your team. There is nothing wrong with thinking out loud, getting and acting on the feedback!

Is that in line with where they see the future?

It is all very well having a long term vision as a CEO, but if this isn’t in tune with where your team sees its own future, you may end up with a disjointed strategy. For this reason, it makes sense to constantly gauge your team’s own ambitions and long term goals, so you can tap into what they really want. Once you know that, you can revisit your own vision and tweak it accordingly, ensuring it ‘hits the right note’.

So those are some tips regarding leadership, teams and long term visions – remember, communication is always key!

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Neil Burkett is a CEO with integrity, focus, courage and vision. All these abilities enable him to mobilise collaboration and work with his teams as a great leader.

His principles as a CEO already give you an idea of how you can follow in his footsteps. But here’s a closer look at how he has employed these in building and leading some of the UK’s largest companies.

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