A proforma is a projection, commonly used in forecasting business or strategic plans. Why not create a proforma for your leadership? Career planning is strategic planning. Set your goals and commit to a full visualization. Project your leadership development!
In July 2011, Morolake Akinosun tweeted, “In 2016 I will be 22, graduated from a school I have not chosen yet, and going to the Olympics.” In July 2016, she retweeted the 2011 tweet with her ambitious plan and a follow-up note reading, “It’s 2016. I graduate from Texas in December. I’m going to the Olympics next week.” She represented the U.S. Track and Field Team in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Akinosun was rewarded with a gold medal as part of the winning 4X100-meter team.
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Morolake put it out there—that’s powerful. She said, ‘Boom! I’m going for this.’ I love that! Aim high, set goals, achieve goals. Make shit happen.
So, what does your leadership proforma look like? First, continually conduct a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Repeating your SWOT over and over is critical because we all get lazy. Keep focused on where it is that you want to be, and update frequently to shift the focus as you zig and zag.
Next, get your life together with a life plan for self-perspective. I had the honor of working with Marshall Goldsmith while writing my book, “The Strategic MVP.” Goldsmith espouses the importance of finding your mojo: The thing or things you are passionate about. You have to love your work. My co-author, Mark Thompson, and I had the opportunity to interview some incredible people, including Warren Buffet. His advice: “Putting off your passion is like saving up sex for old age. It’s just not a good idea.”
In other words, fine tune who you are early and often, and how that speaks to your leadership brand.
You have to know your limitations and understand them. There are ways to manage your limitations. You have to get people around you who are good in other areas.
Joseph Schroeder, the president and CEO of Ventura County Credit Union, a member-owned financial institution based in Ventura, Calif., with more than $700 million in assets and serving more than 70,000 members, said he was fortunate to have been born to “unbelievable” parents.
Joe said, parents can get in your way, but mine didn’t. They allowed me to fail. “My dad taught me it was okay to fall down, because that’s what is going to happen in life,” he said, “but then get up, dust your pants off, and what are you going to do about it?”
Joe also said he was lucky to go to Catholic school where the nuns were tough on students. You could not be intellectually lazy. They were going to push you to help you discover how good you could be at something. “That mixture of compassion, competitiveness and push really helped me throughout my whole life,” he explained.
Are young leaders today pushed enough? Meh.
Many people do not set one-year or five-year goals because they are afraid they aren’t going to reach them, according to Joe. When he went to California Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., as a walk-on for the basketball team, he came to an important realization. “I found out how good I wasn’t.”
“We all run into this realization athletically, and even in our careers. Warren Buffet freely admits he stayed out of all technology stocks because he didn’t get it,” Joe pointed out. “You have to know your limitations and understand them. There are ways to manage your limitations. You have to get people around you who are good at technology or good at other areas.” But you must first recognize you suck at some things, and that’s ok.
Personal accountability is everything to Joe. Unfortunately, he says, his generation raised kids who ‘won’ trophies for finishing fifth place. When they’re young, sure, but by six or seven that needs to stop. Kids must learn to accept their ranking and decide what they’re going to do about it.
As a CEO today, he acknowledged that he likes intensity. “I’m willing to give people a lot of room. They are going to make mistakes, or say things that they shouldn’t say, but that’s all right,” Schroeder said. “You are going to fall down, just keep marching forward.”
One of the most important skills an aspiring executive can have, according to Joe, is to be inquisitive. In each of the four times Joe has gone to a new credit union as CEO, he spent most of his first day sitting in the call center to discover why members call and what they complain about. His biggest mistakes came when he wasn’t inquisitive enough.
"Putting off your passion is like saving up sex for old age. It’s just not a good idea."
When Joe was 18, his father made him paint a neighbor’s house, a widow who was not very pleasant, and she micromanaged his paint job. She paid Joe only $240. Upon hearing the small amount of money Joe received, his father matched it. When Joe asked why he had to help someone who was not a close neighbor to the family his reply was, “It’s the right thing to do.” You have to be willing to give without expecting much in return.
Then, in January of 2016, Joe had a major wake-up call: A heart attack. Joe described his heart attack as a “great shot across my bow.” He got a chance to look at his entire life, which allowed him to realize he has done a lot of good things. It puts unbelievable perspective on your life, he recalled, and made him want to give back to the community more and treat his employees better.
To sum up: Be overly prepared, listen, and then be inquisitive. Keep asking questions.