Who are you and what do you want to be?

Those are the two most important questions any business leader must answer when beginning a new business or job. And it is always important to review what you said when you started and renew your commitment to those answers at the beginning of each new year.

When you began this venture or job, you should have, as succinctly as possible, stated who you are and what you wanted to be. Your honesty in this question is vital. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else likes your answer. It matters that you do. And every January, when you come back to start a new year, you should look in the mirror and see where you are compared to what you said at the beginning. Perhaps the environment in which you work has somehow changed. Perhaps new technology has made a chance to your operations.  However, it is unlikely that any change in the environment, economy, or technology will change who you said you are and what you want to be.

Lets be honest…not everyone gets it right the first time. Most don’t. This is why an annual look in the mirror helps us recalibrate our initial answers to what we might really have intended, but couldn’t bring ourselves to admit, or to change our behavior to achieve what we said in our initial answers.  Those are really the only two possible outcomes if we find a variance between where we are and where we wanted to be.

I am always struck by how few senior leaders write down at the beginning of their tenure some succinct words about who they are or how they want to present themselves. Many of my clients and those of my colleagues find it very difficult to do this even years into their tenures. It is easy to come into work every day and just be part of the natural flow of the business.  Yet if that is the case, then the senior leader is not really leading, but going with the natural rhythm of the operation, wherever that takes him.

And just as unhelpful as not having anything written down is having too much. You should be able to answer the initial question in one or two sentences. When I receive page-long answers to the question, I have to ask the client to get to the core of and confront whatever insecurity is preventing them from making difficult decisions and prioritizing. One mentoree several years ago sent me what he intended to present as his list of priorities in his first year as leader of a large organization. It was 10 items long and extremely ambitious beyond one or two items.  His fundamental issue was a reticence to say what was most important to him as the head of the organization. Once he looked in the mirror, he gave his organization his top priority and kept one other in his back pocket to work on once things were rolling smoothly.

So…first things first. As succinctly as you can, state who you are and what is important to you. Be honest about it. Remember that  your job as the leader is to maintain your organization’s focus on what is important and protect it from whatever takes you off track. Renew your commitment today. You’ll be happy you did.

Keep Thinking…