Building the Long-Term Orientation

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by John L. Ward

In a previous blog I wrote of recent research by Professors Lupkin and Brigham that offered clues to what Long-Term Orientation (LTO) means and how to see it in key prospective hires. Their three ingredients to LTO are:

I have aspirations for others. (Futurity)
I have respect for the lessons of tradition. (Continuity)
I believe sacrifice is rewarded. (Perseverance)

I now go on with my interpretations of their counsel on how to foster the LTO.

They propose three ways to facilitate an organization to think long-term rather than take a decision that only maximizes short-term economic gains.

1.         Emphasize attractive, vivid, compelling, non-economic outcomes for the benefit of other stakeholders. (Framing)

- “Let’s look forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary in
2020.”
-  “Successful succession is the final test of greatness.”
-  “This decision will really make a difference for our
community.”

2.         Develop self-control – avoiding the natural emotional temptations of instant gratification. (Self-Control)

-  Establish accountability systems – boards, councils, frequent reporting.
-  Be public with commitments.

3.         Provide positive reinforcement on the journey to the long-term goal. (Anticipation)

-  “We’re doing something special” (rather than “Somehow this will all work out”).
-  “Let’s celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far!” (rather than highlight the unfortunate negative surprises).
-  “The journey is great for us” (rather than “we’re unresolved on some of the tactics”).

Human nature is to seek instant gratification and to avoid the anxiety of uncertainty. Maintaining the commitment to long-term aspirations, continuing the legacy, and “doing the right thing” requires conscious leadership attention. Otherwise the short-term will win out.

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