Are You Prepared to Lead the Way – or Has Fear Got Your Focus?

By Dana & Ellen Borowka

Recently, we have had a number of conversations with CEOs and key executives regarding what they are planning for their businesses for the new year. We have found two categories of individuals. Those that have a vision through listening to others in the market place, reaching out for support, gathering industry data, looking for trends and opportunities. The other group is totally focused on overhead reduction, darting around and focusing on the bad news in the world, taxes, health man buried in paperbills, and any information that they can grab onto to help justify why they are so scared.

Here is the Question for the Day

Which category do you fit into? Your answer will determine how your company is doing today and will be doing in the future. Those that think they know everything are closing themselves off from amazing opportunities.

Certainly all companies need to be constantly looking at overhead and keeping up with the news. However, when the focus is fear driven then our thoughts begin to justify our fears. That wastes time as it creates the continual loop of fear, depression, anxiety, etc.

The group that is forward thinking has a completely different outlook on life. That’s not to say that they don’t have concerns but rather they are using this time to plan ahead, remain clear headed and open to ideas. That is the key – to be still enough in order to listen. Then act on what we are seeing as immediate and future potential for new products and services, improvement in retention of current business as well as ideas for gaining additional market share.

Your focus will tell you immediately where you stand! First, we will explore leadership and how to deal with the fear. Then we’ll share what a group of business owners did that has separated them from many other companies.

How to Become a Vision-Focused Leader

The answer is leadership. It is time to become a vision-focused leader around whom issues can be raised and resolved productively. That’s the view of Suzanne and Dwight Frindt, the founders of 2130 Partners, a leadership development and education firm that facilitates focused vision, inspired teams, and sustained commitment for its clients and co-authors of Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World

Ask yourself these questions:

• Are your conversations with your team generating the results you want?
• Does your team successfully raise and resolve issues relevant to business success?
• Can you identify and deal with emotional upsets, in both yourself and others?

Exactly what is this leadership that is vision-focused? “We love Warren Bennis’ definition: ‘Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it,’” says Suzanne Frindt. “Our approach is the same whether we are working with individuals or with entire leadership teams. We believe the greatest opportunities are created by the development of people and action in a coordinated direction. We assert that the only sustainable strategies engage the heart and soul and are simultaneously grounded in sound business practices.”

Power of Shared Vision

In a 1996 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Building Your Company’s Vision,” Jim Collins and Jerry Porras said that companies that enjoy enduring success have a core purpose and core values that remain fixed while their strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. The rare ability to balance continuity and change—requiring a MC900297401[1]consciously practiced discipline—is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision.

“Without a vision, what is the point?” says Suzanne Frindt. “A Yonder Star unleashes the energy to galvanize yourself and your employees so you can achieve phenomenal things.”

When group members share a vision, it creates an opportunity for totally different conversations between a manager and members of their team. Focus on the shared vision creates alignment and provides a powerful context for creating mission, strategic initiatives, objectives, goals, roles, and finally all the way down through action plans.

Being a manager means making choices. At any moment in time you have a decision to make. Suzanne urges that when it comes time to make a decision being present in the moment, not on automatic pilot, is essential to the quality and relevance of the decision. You can then make the choice based on your Yonder Star, your shared vision of something to which you aspire, versus more of the same or your fear of some worst-case scenario.

“Worries are about envisioning a worst-case scenario, what you fear most,” says Suzanne Frindt. “Whatever we envision is affecting us right now. What we envision impacts us in this moment. There are consequences for managing based on fears that you may not want. Your Yonder Star is the shared vision you aspire to. The star is what you envision, and what you envision shapes both the present moment and the quality of your choices about your actions.”

Something else she recommends avoiding is being past-focused. This is when you make decisions based solely on what you have done in the past. Instead of having an inspiring vision for your team, all you are working for with a past based focus is attempting to minimize perceived risk and making incremental improvements.

“Many companies are past-focused when they do strategic planning,” says Suzanne Frindt. “What did the company do last year and then let’s add 10 percent or 20 percent. We are all tempted to try hard to make yesterday look like today. Or if we didn’t like yesterday, then we try to make it different or better.”

She adds that only by having a vision, a Yonder Star, can teams create breakthroughs to unprecedented results. Equally important is that it is a shared vision, one that is based on shared values and shared operating principles. This is how you create an environment for real collaboration.

Overcoming Emotional Barriers

“The ability to identify and clear upsets, in myself and others, is the single most significant key to productivity gains in our economy today,” says Dwight Frindt. “We have asked our executive-leadership clients a simple question: ‘What time could you go home if everyone in the company simply came to work, did their jobs, and went home?’ The answer used tomen with ladders and wall surprise us until it kept being repeated. On average, our clients say, ‘Between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.’”

That begs a second question. If so many executives claim they could go home before lunch if everyone just showed up and did their work, what’s taking so much of our leaders’ time? The Frindts’ clients tell them flat out: distress, commonly known as upsets. The most time-consuming part of their job is managing the distressed interactions within their teams so that those teams can actually get to the business at hand.

“Even if executives will never be able to consistently leave by noon, it is entirely reasonable for them to expect to save at least two hours of their time, every day. Alternatively they could increase their productivity 15–30%” says Dwight Frindt.

That’s nearly 500 extra hours a year leaders can devote to creative thinking, visioning, and strategizing rather than on repairing relationships and soothing bruised egos. At the opportunity cost of most executives’ time, that amounts to very substantial savings. Of course, the same can be said for everyone in the organization. An inordinate amount of productive time and payroll dollars and worse yet, opportunities, are lost daily, monthly and annually to the distraction caused by unresolved emotional distress.

Replacing that time, energy, and resource loss is of paramount importance. Doing so can create a culture that is both highly productive and emotionally resilient and rewarding. It requires a fundamental, transformative shift in two steps: 1) fewer emotionally driven issues in the workplace; and 2) leaders and their team members becoming self-sufficient in handling emotional distress issues when they occur.

“Let’s clarify what we mean by emotional distress,” says Dwight Frindt. “We’re using the term to summarize a wide range of reactions that temporarily disable people with regard to thoughtful and productive behavior. These reactions can vary from mild frustration to full-blown anger, and include embarrassment, sadness, impatience, agitation, worry, and fear. In each case the person is left in a condition where, whether realized or not, they are acting as if their very survival is threatened.”

The Causes of Emotional Distress

The Frindts’ studies and their clients’ experiences make it clear that the most common root causes of workplace emotional distress are 1) the perception that a promise has been broken (usually by leadership); 2) when positive intentions “fail”; and 3) when commitments seem thwarted. In addition to these three internal triggers, there are many times when personal distress is brought to the workplace from the rest of the person’s life. These other sources can be especially difficult to address, due to varying perspectives on what constitutes personal-professional boundaries.

The impact on the productivity and organizational effectiveness of people attempting to work while “stressed out” (or surrounded by others who are) is enormous. Yet it’s been the Frindts’ observation that most leaders overlook this as the place to start any efforts in business improvement. Most are far more comfortable with cost cutting, process development, process improvement, reorganizing, or some other business change that does not directly address the human dimension.

Long Term Vision & Working the Plan

Back in 2006/2007, a group of business owners saw the writing on the wall regarding the long term economic change. While some people thumbed their noses at the possibility and buried their heads in the sand… purely out of fear. The forward looking group sought feedback from others who had been through similar business cycles and discovered the following ideas:

  1. Create your vision: The goal is to have a long range vision for your on ladder peeling sky
  2. Think outside your box: What else can you provide? What other opportunities can you look at? What are some other possibilities that will help others to fulfill their vision?
  3. What is needed: Listen to the market place and offer valuable services.
  4. Know your numbers: Where are you and where are you going?
  5. Work the plan: Develop measurable marketing, sales, financial, internal operations plans then execute and don’t wait. This avoids waste and preserves valuable resources. Through proper planning the dollars can be used to gain market share while other organizations could be financially drained and in a constant state of fear! The forward business group took a three year outlook and developed various action plans and worked the plan.
  6. Be on the lookout for top “A” and “B” players for hiring top people who have vision.
  7. Team vision: Have clear goals and objectives for all staff members.
  8. For new hires at all levels do the most thorough interviewing based on 30-60-90-180-12 month goals.
  9. Do in-depth work style and personality assessment testing to get a clear picture of who you are about to bring aboard to best manage the individuals so they can be successful.
  10. Maintain a collaborative team environment where everyone can provide input to create internal efficiencies, all are listening to customer and market needs, and respond in a timely way so your company is always engaged as the business environment has needs.

This is the time to be moving forward by offering fresh ideas, solutions, and support that will add value to all those you come in contact with and in return your business will thrive!

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching.

In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them please visit

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

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