The Present Needs to be About Creating the Future
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

I am constantly reminded that today is all I really have to work with. As leaders, this realization is critical to our success and the success of our organizations. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not yet happened. What I do in the space between yesterday and tomorrow makes all the difference.

So, how should I use today? I really have two choices: I can do what I did yesterday and continue to let the past drive my behavior OR I can use today to create the future. I have never been more convinced that using today to create a much better future is the main task of every leader at every level. Are you doing this? If not, how can you start today?

I was recently asked a question about how to deal with regret. Regret is clearly a reflection on the past. So many things occur as we lead that it is almost certain we will have regrets (and so will others). What can we do with them? We must learn from them, forgive ourselves and others, and move quickly to the future. Lingering in past failures or missteps is only useful to learn lessons. Anything beyond that it is a waste of time. The past holds lessons while the future holds opportunities. Seek opportunities!

One area that leaders often come to regret is not seeking opportunities of growth and change. Time and time again I have witnessed missed opportunities organizations. This usually occurs when the future opportunities are not vigorously pursued. We can miss our window to take action and seize the future. Many opportunities are lost because, as leaders, we do not best use today to create the future. Today must be all about the future. If not, we will be living the past each day.

Every leader must determine how to judge success. Many of MACNY’s members, and MACNY, use scorecards to measure past and present performance. Production and service outcomes are recorded – and evaluated. This can be incredibly valuable. However, do we also keep score in how we are creating the future? Do we put as much effort into recording how we will operate as we do into how we performed yesterday and today? In my experience, organizations generally do not. Vital strategic initiatives often languish and are held hostage by what we must get done today. This fact can be not only harmful, but potentially fatal.

Let’s consider the case of Kodak. Kodak cameras and film are linked forever in the mind of the world. At the height of its existence, it employed 120,000 people worldwide. As late as 1976, Kodak commanded 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in the U.S. By 1973, Kodak had invented a simple digital camera. However, it did not rapidly develop and deploy this technology for fear it would cannibalize its billion-dollar worldwide profits in film. In 2011, Kodak declared bankruptcy. What happened? Kodak did not create its future. It dwelled in the past.

As leaders, it is our primary job to rapidly get our teams and organizations to the future. To do so, we must be relentless about creating the future each and every day. We must both produce results today and execute on our future opportunities. How are you creating your future at work? What do you ask of your team when it comes to creating the future? Is your team as focused on the future as they are on the past and present? If not, how would you change that?

As a leader, I will be judged primarily based upon what gets created in the future. I need to focus the majority of my time on doing just that.