Friday, September 8, 2023

"Eyes wide open"



Over the past few weeks, we have been finishing up our business plans for our fiscal 2024 and I have been reminded by a number of close business colleagues that we need to have our “eyes wide open” as we lock down our plans.  What seems like a common statement kept coming up in conversations, work session and even in board calls.  It’s “funny” that a statement/phrase you have heard and used for decades all of a sudden takes on a fresh new meaning.


Taking an extra moment, I dug into the “definition” of the phrase, and it posed some interesting new perspectives:


“Eyes Wide Open”:

Ø  Fully aware of what is happening…

Ø  Fully aware of what COULD happen…



This dual-sided definition is so important to consider, and it was what caught me in today’s moment. 


First, this idea of being “fully aware of what is happening” is a HUGE challenge!  In our dynamic, fast paced, and fast changing world, the idea of being fully aware of what IS happening is very tough… and in my business context I have a hard time imagining how to accomplish that leading an organization with thousands of employees, across multiple geographic locations.  While challenging, there are a few “tricks of the trade” that I find useful, and you might find helpful as well that can help us all be a bit more aware of what IS happening:


Ø  Who haven’t you heard from?

o   Sometimes its helpful to think about what you HAVEN’T been hearing about lately.  What team, department, function haven’t you seen an update from lately and proactively reachout to dig in a little.  Remember, no news is rarely good news and taking that proactive step might be very helpful.

Ø  Work on your questions?

o   I often see execs work on their presentation materials and practice their formal/informal speaking/pitch techniques.  Rarely do I see folks using that kind of time to home in on the depth and quality of their questions.  It’s through questions and dialogue that we learn and grow and the quality/depth/thoughtfulness of the questions makes a world of difference.

Ø  Pebble in the shoe

o   Often when things are going well, we take a deep breath and don’t dig to see how we can make good situations even better.  By keeping a “pebble in the shoe,” we remind ourselves as leaders to always be digging, good days or bad.


Second, the concept of being “fully aware of what COULD happen” is a mind boggler… such a huge challenge, but an important idea to work on.  Just yesterday, I was in a board meeting when I was asked a question about what MIGHT happen if a certain competitor did a certain thing.  While a bit of a wild theoretical, it was actually a good question and live in the board meeting we discussed a few different scenarios that really expanded our thinking…. expanded our awareness. 

 While certainly not a “trick”, one suggestion I have here is linked to a root cause problem solving technique that I have written about previously, see    In this essay, I talk about the technique of “ask why 5 times” as a way to get to the core of an issue.  In the context of being “fully aware of what COULD happen,” I suggest that we all push ourselves to “ask what-if” 5 times when working on plans, strategies, etc.  In this process, it may also be helpful to bring in a few atypical voices, with fresh eyes, and fresh “what-if” questions.  While it might feel slow, or frustrating, I am certain that these steps may help you have your eyes MORE wide open, and will ultimately lead to better thinking, better decisions, and better actions!