Part 1: The Dream
Leslie Kossoff is a management consultant and author with an outstanding reputation as an invited speaker at professional and educational conferences. Her second management book, "Executive Thinking: The Dream, The Vision, The Mission Achieved", was selected as one of the Top Ten Books of 1999 by Tom Brown's Management General, the "New Ideas" Webzine.
Tom (MG) and I (MGT) spoke with Leslie (LK) about her book and how it can change your company, your outlook, and your life.
MGT Leslie, why this topic? What message did you want to get out?
LK As you may know, I started in the world of Total Quality - before it had that name. For all the successes - and failures - I saw, there always seemed to be something missing. Even when I worked and spoke with Deming, we were always looking for that secret key that somehow kept eluding everyone. Eventually, I realized that it was the executive thinking part of it.
Executives consciously use thinking skills that we all have but don't always use. More than that, they have so much more to contribute but stop themselves because they think that their dreams can only be dreams. The book was in part to explain what I had learned about their thinking process, to give them guidance, and to free them to do even more.
MGT What are those thinking skills we don't use enough?
LK It really starts with the dreaming process.
We have such beautiful pictures in our heads about what we believe could be. Unfortunately, the only time anyone hears those dreams is when we are complaining to one another. They usually show up as an "If I were in his or her shoes" sort of comment."
When we access those dreams and add the technicolor detail - and then begin building an organization in alignment with those dreams, everybody gets the chance to access into their thinking and dreaming skills as well. Ultimately, that truly creates the best use of the human capital housed in the organization.
MGT How does an exec know which dreams can be 'built in technicolor'?
LK It isn't a matter of one dream over another. The executive has a comprehensive picture in his or her head - usually without specific words to describe it. Also, the dream is iterative. As the executive learns and experiences more - and as aspects of the dream are manifest the dream becomes better and more clearly defined.
Some parts may end up not fitting in - or at least not at the moment - and others will be altogether new as more people work to achieve the dream and add their own thinking to the process.
MG Leslie, what first drew me to your book is that this point is, in many ways, THE dividing line between managers and leaders, no? Having a "dream" and having the passion to change the priorities to drive the dream?
LK Tom, you are right. That is the dividing line. Executives do things. They are leaders and trailblazers. Managers who just manage have the capability to do more but choose not to. They create their own limits. Executives - at all levels - don't believe in any limits at all.
MGT But not all dreams are do-able, right?
LK Not all dreams may be do-able at the particular moment, but true Executive Thinkers are so committed to their belief that it can be done that they continue to persevere to realize the dream in their head.
MGT Executives lead, managers limit themselves - that's pretty direct. What about executive thinking by managers?