Making a List

Santa Claus holding a quill pen whilst checking the naughty or nice list.

This season of “making a list and checking it twice” is a good time for leaders to reflect on whether their actions in the past year would land them on the good stewards/successful/”nice” list or some other list that has less appeal. Of course no one aspires to tip the scales in the other direction, but in the dizzying pace of trying to keep up with everything on your plate, leaders can easily and unconsciously slide toward the slippery slope that leads to “that other list.”

A few suggestions for staying on the nice list:

Don’t play the victim. Yep, times are tough, money is tight, and external regulations/competition/unseen variables are impacting your work. That’s the price of admission to this leadership gig. You can take a deep breath, search out the opportunity imbedded in the challenge, and lead your team confidently in a clearly identified strategic direction; or you can oh-poor-me and wallow with like-minded people who find it easier to commiserate with their buddies while blindly moving four spaces toward the other list.

Don’t ask for others’ opinion if you have already made up your mind. Trying to create the illusion of input only damages your credibility and decreases the chance that people will speak their mind when you really want them to. You are the leader. Some situations may call for you to make a decision without input. Okay, say so. In other cases, you may be leaning in a particular direction but want to make sure you have heard all sides of the issue. Okay, say so. By being up front, you are more likely to get people’s best thinking when you really need it. Pretending to ask for input in an attempt to get support for a foregone conclusion . . . move 8 spaces toward the other list.

Make a decision already! Yes, the stakes are high, and especially in non-profit organizations we tend to be risk averse. We only want to make a decision when success is guaranteed. But if success is guaranteed, does your organization really need a leader? Be willing to fail early and often. That’s how you learn what will work and find new opportunities that you would never have seen if you hadn’t taken that first step. Or, wait for your ship to come in . . . it’s located 6 spaces father down the path to the other list.

Recognize it’s not about you . . . really! You may be charged with setting a course, making critical decisions, and getting the right people on the bus, but the real work at hand is completed by those who choose to follow you. It is only through the diligent efforts of those you lead that outcomes are achieved. For those who dare to think otherwise . . . well, when I was growing up, that was called “getting too big for your britches” and there was no quicker way to get to the head of the other list.

So there you have it. You can be sure your board, staff and other stakeholders are making a list and checking it twice. Which list are you going to be on this year?

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