Recognize Opportunity and Anticipate the Future

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Opportunity is the second part of the C.O.A.T. formula introduced in Page I. What do we mean by opportunity with regard to leadership? It means that the effective leader is one who not only has a vision to the future direction of the organization but also “anticipates future consequences and trends accurately,” as Gorman (2009) says, “and uses broad knowledge and perspective to create competitive and breakthrough strategies and plans for future sustainability and success” (para. 5).

Effective leaders research trends before leaping on a bandwagon. They want to learn if those trends represent true opportunities for the organization, and, if they do, leaders take strategic steps, aligning the talent of their followers and the resources of their organization to take advantage of the trends in a productive way. Obviously, then, learning how to anticipate the future is important (Gorman, 2009). But minus a crystal ball, how does one do that?

You can learn to spot opportunities by following these simple tips:

Subscribe to and stay up-to-date with professional journals or blogs that you respect.
Speak to others in your industry.
Listen attentively at meetings.
The Internet is rife with various easy-to-use tools that can help you track trends in specific subjects of interest to you. Sites such as Tumblr, Reddit, Google Alerts, Digg or Twitter, for example, can be scripted to send to you on a regular basis news about a topic, person, place, or thing.

Trend- and opportunity-spotting is something you can put to use in any role you occupy, be it first-time job seeker or head of a household. Click here to view some of the key elements to consider prior to conducting research.


Anticipating the future is only part of the equation you need to succeed as a good leader, however. Once you spot trends and opportunities that your research shows could benefit your organization, you then need a strategic plan that shows how you’ll capture and take advantage of those opportunities. It explains to your team how to achieve success.


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Your strategic plan, such as the one in the image, includes the specifics of how you will accomplish the tasks necessary to achieve the trends you’ve researched. You’ll need a timeline for the completion of these tasks as well as measurements or metrics that will help you discern whether the task is going to work for your organization or team and help you know when the goal has been achieved. Click here to read the American Marketing Association’s take on the importance of metrics.

Many companies develop strategic plans, but a plan is only as good as the leader, meaning it’s up to the leader to ensure that the organization is held accountable for the tasks, goals, objectives, and strategies in the plan.

Take a look at these resources regarding strategic plans.

Using the topic of diversity training as an example of trend spotting, let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve done the research and believe this represents a solid opportunity for your organization, as it has for many other companies. You’ve questioned colleagues about their knowledge of or expertise in diversity training; you’ve researched best practices in diversity training using the library’s databases; and now you and your team assemble a strategic plan to develop diversity-training courses based on your findings. You make sure that your strategic plan has the following:

Instructions: Click on each of the entries to reveal more information about implementation of the parts of a plan.

An important goal is to develop or to improve employees’ cultural awareness and sensitivity. This goal can result in better working relationships by reducing potential conflicts based on lack of information/sensitivity about race, ethnicity, class, gender, age, religion, and other characteristics by which people self-identify.
An objective might be to create diversity and cultural awareness training for all employees.
You plan to offer four sessions a year led by speakers known in the field of diversity and cultural awareness. Working with the marketing department, you’ll advertise sessions to all employees.
The sessions will be offered to employees by April 1, 20XX.
You know what you want to measure and how. Your goal is to have all employees attend a diversity session, and this will be measured this by taking attendance at each session.

The above are all necessary elements, but something is missing in this strategic plan. Take another look at the metric chosen. Do you think it accurately measures the attainment of cultural awareness? Actually, it doesn’t. The measurement isn’t very meaningful because attendance at a training session does not automatically improve one’s cultural awareness. How could we make this measurement more accurate and meaningful? Consider the options below.

Instructions: What metric would work for this diversity training? Think about your answer before you flip the card.

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