Forward-thinking leadership: the ability to engage your people in a journey towards a stronger future.

The demands of our day-to-day as sales leaders require time and attention, and often we are faced with situations that call for immediate action. Sometimes there is just no choice but to focus on what’s in front of us. But we cannot channel 100% of our energy on the present, or our organizations (and teams) will not achieve growth and success.

Forward-thinking leaders must make decisions and carry out present-day business tasks strategically while also focusing on success down the road. They must be in touch with their team, their organization, and the rapidly changing modern business landscape.

Here are five tips to help you guide your team toward lasting success:

  1. Unify your team around a single vision. Your team looks to you for the vision that drives innovation within the organization. Instill purpose and values into everything you say and do each day to create a strong culture, clear team goals, and a powerful vision of the future.
  2. Take risks and experiment. Carol Bartz, the former CEO of Yahoo, once said, “My motto is ‘fail fast forward.’ You can fail, just do it fast and move forward. I think people get better when they fail.” Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment with a new process, idea, or strategy for managing your team. It will show you areas for growth.
  3. Develop future leaders. Forward-thinking sales managers view people as crucial to the future success of the organization. In the book No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer write about talent density being the most critical piece of Netflix’s story and how it allows for a culture that values people over process. Hastings states, “Your number one goal as a leader is to develop a work environment consisting exclusively of stunning colleagues. Stunning colleagues accomplish significant amounts of important work and are exceptionally creative and passionate.” Seek to hire the very best, then value and develop your team members, as they are the key to your culture and the future of your business.
  4. Practice scenario planning. There’s no possible way to predict what the future will bring, but you can do your best to strategically forecast and make better choices. “Scenario planning is making assumptions on what the future is going to be and how your business environment will change overtime in light of that future,” business strategist Jeremie Mariton wrote. “More precisely, scenario planning is identifying a specific set of uncertainties, different ‘realities’ of what might happen in the future of your business.”
  5. Observe and explore trends, learn from other organizations. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your company, your stuff, your people. But looking outside your organization is a powerful tool to help expand your thinking and strengthen your muscle for innovation. Tap into insights and opportunities from outside firms, industry associations, thought leaders, or published works. Bring this knowledge back to your team and engage in forward-looking discussions that can make your business stronger.

Being a forward-thinker is not easy. Work is increasingly complex, our world changes rapidly, and yesterday’s rules don’t always apply today. This is a difficult combination for leaders as they try to set themselves (and their teams) up for success. Leaders must embrace what’s next and be open to new ideas, new technologies, and new trends while protecting the values of the company and developing their people.

Reflect on these tips and how they can help you lead with a clear vision of the future and inspire your team to innovate and meet challenges head-on.