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May 19, 1999

The Art of Cloud Walking

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On the other hand, many leaders seldom lack for ideas about the future and even have a whole closet full of yesterday’s ideas that never got anywhere. Thinking up something new is a no-brainer for many; the hard part is paying for what’s already on order—it’s doing Friday’s payroll.
Friday’s payroll represents all the things you have to do today that fulfill past commitments. It is the running list that captures all the obligations, agreements, and pledges you have made that require resources today to fulfill them. In its most elementary example, it is a worker and boss agreeing at the first of the week on work and payment. If the worker works all week along certain guidelines, the boss will pay him on that Friday for that week’s work. The boss has to make sure he has the resources to fulfill his Friday payroll promise. And by the way, most of the things on our daily to-do list are in this category.
How are you at delivering on yesterday’s promises? Being a visionary by itself won’t secure your future. Visionaries must tool themselves to follow through. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Wanna Be’s have tons of ideas. “The best plan,” as Drucker put it, “is only good intentions.” Those who succeed are those who know how to take an idea and actually make it happen.
Keeping payroll current is a discipline, and I’m not talking about cutting and mailing the checks. Those of us with our heads in the clouds have to schedule a regular descent to earth where we get dirty doing what it takes to make the future happen. The future happens today. If active implementation is not part of your today, then tomorrow never arrives.
If you don’t develop the discipline of follow-through, the people who are under you get frustrated and burn out. Soon you’ll discover you aren’t leading at all; you’ll turn around and realize you’re just going on a walk because no one is following you. They all quit because they got tired of picking up your dropped balls. People will stop trusting you. Ideas bank on the credibility of delivery. To the degree that you are known for making things happen, your ideas will find a greater listening.
So get out the bills, see what promises you owe—no matter how big or how small—and start writing checks.

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