Have you ever noticed that moments of insight, or reminders, often come in the most unexpected of ways?
Last weekend my boys were home from college, so they had the opportunity to help out a bit as I started decorating for Christmas. I am, perhaps, a bit enthusiastic about this task. As my oldest son finished setting up the third tree he commented, “That’s the last one, right?” “Almost, there is one more little one for the porch.” To which my son replied, “Mom (insert eye roll here) . . . they will know we are Christians by our love, not by the number of Christmas trees we have . . .”
We both chuckled at his comment, but it echoed in my head all weekend. How often, as leaders, do we get so caught up in what we are doing . . . the meetings, the projects, the initiatives, the never-ending to-do lists . . . that it seems to overshadow the why? Sure we often need all those things to accomplish the why, but if we are not careful, over time, we can focus so much on the details of the new endeavor, overcoming the identified foe, reaching projections, that we forget why we were doing all of that in the first place. Is it to grow by X%, to capture more market share, to bolster our own ego?
I hope not. I hope that you started on the leadership odyssey because you believed in something . . . something that tugged on you in such a way that you could not sit on the sidelines . . .that you saw important work and knew you had the gifts and graces to move it forward. And I hope that mission still drives you, because that is what will keep you going among all the minutia that is required along the way. Sure, we all occasionally get consumed by the “stuff” of leadership, but when that happens I challenge you to ask yourself, “How will they know?”
How will your people know your “why”, the mission that compels you, and hopefully your entire organization, forward? Will they know it through your words and actions, or are they left to draw their own conclusions? Do you talk frequently and openly about the underlying purpose of why you are doing what you are doing? When your people see you keeping the “why” front and center, they will be encouraged to do the same. Not only that, but leading off discussions with the why also opens up possibilities that might not be considered if people are only focused on a task, rather than a larger mission.
Meeting performance indicators doesn’t tell people your “why” any more than a fourth tree does. If you are going to accomplish great things you, and your people, have to be clear on the why. So the question remains . . . how will they know?