Focus on the Future: Tips for How CEOs Can Embrace a Forward-Thinking Mindset

By Craig Wiley

Well, here we are! You might have thought you’d never see it: the end of 2020. This year has tested your limits and will surely leave a lasting mark on your legacy as a CEO. You battled against change at a pace and scale few will ever comprehend. We hope you’ve taken the time to acknowledge the exceptional work you’ve done this year–you fought hard to get here, and you should be proud of your accomplishments.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has shone a light on every nook and cranny of your organization. You’ve had to face your strengths and limitations and take a hard look at the blind spots that may have proven to be costly oversights.

Even so, these hard-learned lessons have no doubt strengthened the core of your business. You’ve learned the power of people and collaboration, and like many other CEOs, you’ve certainly gained an appreciation for the role your talent and systems play in driving performance and profit.

As we head into the new year, you will be tasked with reimagining executive collaboration and how to drive engagement and performance with the added layer of complexity brought on by a remote environment. Your gut reaction may be to do less, but pushing long-term performance will require precisely the opposite.

Tackling the challenges of 2021 is doable, and you can be highly effective with the right mindset and tactics.

Transcend executive coaches work to help CEOs embrace a forward-thinking mindset that is locked in on the long haul. By staying focused on the future, executives stay grounded in their role as visionary leaders who rally others to achieve organizational goals.

A forward-thinking mindset is one that is invested in the future. CEOs who practice this level of strategic thinking can see the challenges ahead and lay the framework for how to overcome them. In fact, when you lead with your purpose grounded in the future, you inspire those around you to innovate and meet the challenges head-on.

The 3 ways CEOs can drive forward-thinking in their organization

1. Constantly push for operational excellence
Throughout the ever-shifting pandemic landscape, you’ve undoubtedly made changes to your systems and processes whether you wanted to or not. Now’s the time to harness the momentum of the effort you’ve put into your talent and systems, and continually drive them toward excellence.

The blessing (some might say curse) of being a forward thinker is never being fully satisfied with your processes. Forward thinkers know that everything can be improved upon, even systems that appear to be optimal. You should strive to establish a culture of excellence and hold your team accountable for continuously improving.

2. Seek and implement innovative leadership
As the fearless leader of your organization, your team looks to you for the vision that drives innovation. The weight of those expectations makes it far too easy to become mired in day-to-day tasks. You might be tempted to just “do it yourself” because it will be faster and easier. Forward thinking CEOs understand that their role as a leader is to align, inspire, and empower others to achieve company goals.

You should be working toward implementing innovative processes that put the power in the hands of your top talent so that they have the tools, inspiration, and strategies to execute tasks and work toward your vision for the future.

3. Create a thriving ecosystem of innovation
Innovation is the most flammable substance on Earth. OK, OK, not really. We’re just saying, if you saw a tanker truck of innovation on the highway, you might scootch over a lane or two to give it a wide berth…

The point is, innovation sets the standard for how we lead, resource, and engage the business. An evolving ecosystem of innovation is infectious. It catches fire and ignites passion and purpose. People at all levels of your organization, as well as your clients, have valuable ideas to share that spur innovation. Do you have the operating values, processes, and systems to harness their insights into competitive advantage?

When you establish an environment where everyone feels that their ideas are heard and valued, you inspire others to become a living, evolving entity of progress. As their leader, your role is to constantly push the boundaries of innovation so that everyone around you is challenged to grow.

How to anchor yourself in the forward-thinking mindset

You can start to see the value of forward thinking and how it permeates every level of your organization.

Like all investments, it requires a reprioritization of time.

Of course, time is a leaders’ most precious resource and is something you might have struggled with in your career. Yes, it’s true, you’ll have to intentionally set aside time to practice forward thinking, but it’s not as insurmountable you might think.

Forward thinking is, at its core, strategic thinking. It’s recognizing that not everything has to be done at once, but you must make time to start the process. Intentionally scheduling time blocks that put you thinking outside of real time needs is a huge first step in future focused leadership.

This doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for pondering all of the challenges ahead. It simply means you’re focused on examining the important questions in the months and year ahead. However elementary this strategy may seem, most successful executives miss this opportunity to elevate themselves and their business.

As you build on your ability to focus forward, you will find that each thought progresses to another. Your intention moves forward instead of inward, and the steps towards the future become clear enough to communicate through the organization. Those around you will be elated with the clarity and empowered to lead change.

Before long, future thinking becomes routine and it’s no longer a skill you practice…it’s simply the greatest tool in your executive arsenal.

Never waste a good crisis. Move forward with strength & resolve

In times of slowdown, leaders often shift focus to efficiency goals they’ve meant to tackle in years past. Now is the time to move those goals forward to capture internal value creation. Double down on your strengths and enter the pipeline of incoming growth with renewed optimism, speed, and resolve.

As you look ahead to next year, take a deep breath and understand that the race you’re running is a marathon, not a sprint. The challenges of 2020 are merely a phase. Be mindful of the steps you can take now that will reshape the company valuation in 5, 10, or even 15 years. A forward-thinking mindset will always be the best catalyst for capitalizing upon, and leading through, what is just out of sight.

If you care enough to read this piece you have likely done an incredible job of leading your business through the truly historical circumstances of 2020. Take a moment to recognize your wisdom, tenacity, and grace in the face of the unthinkable.

With a forward focused approach and mindset, we are certain the best is yet to come.

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Craig Wiley's profile picture.

Craig Wiley

CEO of Transcend

As the CEO and founder of Transcend, I’ve had the privilege of helping to transform thousands of C-Suite leaders and their businesses over the span of two decades. As an executive coaching expert and business strategy thought leader, I’m passionate about driving continual innovation through our proven suite of nine solutions to support the advancement of modern leadership.

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