Leaders spend a good deal of time talking about what they or their organizations are going to do. At times more effort should be put on what they or their organizations are not going to do. Everyone listening will code and decode the messages and decide for themselves what the leader is saying. Without a concrete and credible declaration on what is not happening -- controlling the message is difficult.
Cortez Burned His Ships
When Cortez landed in Mexico his first order was to burn his own ships. He had long ago proclaimed they were going to Mexico to conquer it, his men already knew that. Without the ships it was pretty clear they were absolutely committed to winning the conquest. Do: Conquer. Not Going to Do: Retreat.
Palmisano Sold the PC Division
When Samuel Palmisano took over as Chairman and CEO of IBM in 2002 he engaged in a company wide debate over the values of the company. He then wrote an email to the entire company proclaiming their newly articulated values. Then in 2004 he sold the PC division. Sure IBM had many product lines before the PC. But for 20 years the PC had been a big part of IBM's image. For many years the PC was called the IBM PC -- just like copiers were called Xerox machines -- even when made by Ricoh. Do: Follow our Values. Not Going to Do: Exempt any part of the company.
When deciding what you or your organization is going to do, articulating what you are not going to do is just as important.