Climbing the Corporate Ladder
From the moment I first read the passage in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits…” I embraced his observation that “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” I have often used this quote to explain to others the importance of strategic planning and vision.
The business world is full of similar analogies. Up is good. Going up fast is better. We are all told that our ultimate career goal is to ‘climb the corporate ladder’. That businesses need to climb to the top of the pile. Yet too often, business owners and managers aren’t really sure where “up” is for them. Just that they perceive it to be “up”. And again… ‘up is good’. Right?
So you can see why I liked Covey’s use of the ladder metaphor. He challenges us to stop climbing and first take a look at the top of the ladder; then ask ourselves some very basic questions. Is that where we want to go? Is this even the right wall?
Having a vision for where we want our companies and ourselves to be in the future is the first step to knowing how to get there. You have to – as Covey’s second habit says – “Begin with the End in Mind”. Know and understand where you want to go. Pick out that point on the top of the right wall, lean your ladder against it, and begin your climb. Strategic planning in its simplest form.
Ah, but then the economy turns sour. Customers retract and limit or change their buying. Government changes the rules. Employees change their attitudes. All of a sudden you realize that even if you have a vision for the future – even if you can see it clearly at the top of the right wall – a ladder may no longer be a valid metaphor for reaching that vision. You come to the realization that the path between where you are today and your ultimate goal may not be a straight line, or as simple as taking one step after another on a linear path.
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