Stealing from the future

It is part of our DNA to make the most of what is in front of us.  We can imagine that in millennia of our hunter gatherer past, gorging on meat after a successful hunt while it was still fresh made sense as meal times were unpredictable.

We still see remnants of  it in those binge moments when we give in to temptation and regret after.  We see it too when we run or cycle up a hill, where we go too fast at the bottom, run out of puff and spend the rest of the climb recovering.  This is the same psychological process.

If we are willing to learn, we realise that the sensible eating approach for today is balanced and moderate, equally the fastest and most comfortable way up the hill is a steady and sustainable rhythm.  If we are unable to suppress our more primitive side we diminish our overall wellbeing and effectiveness.

However much of the way we conduct business and even the way we run countries might suggest we have still not learned those lessons sufficiently.  When we see an opportunity or a solution all too often we grab it urgently without regard to the long term consequences.

This is the driver behind many business decisions, it is the cause of “boom and bust” business and economics.  It is the cause of climate change.  It is the cause of corruption scandals like VW’s emissions rigging. It is the cause of so many of our challenges.


This is stealing from the future.  When we compromise not only our children, but even our future selves, for the sake of apparent success today.

A global client that I am working with recently changed their chief executive from one with a steady approach to achieving long term vision, to another who has the reputation for cutting costs and driving the business hard.  The share price rose.  “The City” and “The Street” like CEOs who steal from the future.

To have a more positive future, we have to find the skills to overcome this.

Our first step is to recognise this trait in ourselves and to build up the self-discipline to control it.  This is a deeply ingrained habit and like changing any deeply ingrained habit, it is likely to take effort.  This is how we change habits:

  1. Conceptual recognition.
  2. Specific awareness after the event
  3. Bring awareness closer to the event
  4. Awareness and positive choice before the event

To bring sustained success into business and organisations as leaders we need the add the ability to inspire others with a long term vision of success and help them to form the habits and culture that lead to it.  An organisational culture is the collective behaviour and habits of it’s members.  Whatever results an organisation achieves it achieves it through the agency of it’s culture.

My experience is that the hardest sessions to get teams to work on are vision sessions.  We just find visioning difficult.  We find it hard to stay focussed on the “best possible outcome” rather than the “least bad outcome” and thinking about the future requires sustained cognitive effort.  So as a leader we must help our team to stay focussed, because the collective vision will always be more powerful than an individual one.

As leaders we must also work with our teams to define the “target culture” that we will need to achieve the vision.  Specifically defining what habits and behaviours will facilitate sustained success.

As leaders we must also inspire and encourage our teams through the frustrations and negativity of the “change curve” to the point where they are experimenting with the options and finding new ways to be and to work that are aligned with both the vision and the target culture.

Unlike the CEO in the example above, we must inspire all of the important stakeholders with the vision, including shareholders and traders, if necessary.  (For more on this see Include Inspire Lead post).  And we must hold people accountable for their behaviours in order for the target culture to be sustained.

If all of this seems challenging and not our usual way of operating, perhaps that is because it is.  There are only a small number of organisations in the world operating this way today, usually the most successful ones.  As Simon Sinek says, this is because most organisations are configured around “what” they do rather than “why” they do it.

Helping organisations to become sustainably successful through understanding the future , creating their vision for success and adjusting the culture and processes to make it happen is precisely what Holos does.

Holos has a vision to contribute to making holistic leadership ubiquitous in our society within 175 years. We want to see this kind of leadership taught in schools and deployed for the good of society in business, politics and the public sector.

Holos believes that “Change is Easy” or at least it can be when it is done well. Holos has the resources and the skill to help organisations of any size to flourish in the future.

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Neil Crofts
authentic business





About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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