Already my inbox is full of blog posts telling me what resolutions I need to make for 2018. Here’s the problem with resolutions: they’re often made, but seldom kept. Andy Stanley put it best: “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” Direction is a result of a decision.
Let me encourage you to make five decisions this week that will set the stage for a better 2018:
1. Build Your Core. Your core is what provides you with energy to lead. Maybe you’re great at taking care of your physical core. What about your spiritual core? Maybe you need to strengthen your spiritual self by deciding to pursue a new spiritual practice, like fasting.
How’s your emotional core? Every decision a leader makes contains an emotional element. If you don’t know your emotional self, or if it is in shambles, dive into your emotional core to do what needs to be done. Decide to see a counselor. Go to a twelve-step meeting.
The reason most leaders neglect their core is time. Face this reality: neglecting your core will lead to burn out. You are not the exception. Your body, or your soul, or your emotions will flame out.
Make the decision to take care of your core.
2. Care deeper. People want to know how much the leader cares before they care how much the leader knows. Tom Peters has tried to teach us: “Do Management by Wandering Around (MBWA).” Connect to the people you lead. Go into work and stop by someone’s desk who recently lost a parent. Ask: “How are you – really?” Listen. The ten minutes this stop takes will result in you being a better human being. You can’t be a better leader if you aren’t a better human being.
I understand the pressure is on to get results. I also know employees who know they matter are more productive. I also know customers want to know they matter to you. When is the last time you called a customer not to sell, but just to see how they are?
Face to face is best. Calls are good. Emails are marginal. But the worst expression of care is the one that is never given.
Make the decision to care deeper.
3. Coach wiser. John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, did not win his first NCAA championship for ten years. He led his team to the tournament five times before he won his first of ten titles. What made the difference? In his autobiography, They Call Me Coach, Coach Wooden shared how he analyzed his team’s performance over all their post season appearances. He realized at the end of the season, at tournament time, his team was making more mistakes and had less energy. Coach Wooden made a simple adjustment to his meticulous practice schedule, using scrimmages and drills that required less exertion. The next year, UCLA won the championship. He coached wiser.
Every leader coaches. This is the part of leadership that involves planning, strategy, and execution. Often young leaders (and new head coaches) will brag about not being outworked. It’s not how many hours you put in, but how you use those hours.
Decide to analyze your organization and your role in it. What do you need to stop doing? What do you need to start doing? If you were fired tomorrow, what would the new guy do? Why don’t you do it?
This requires time to work “On the business, not just in the business (Michael Gerber).” A senior leader once told me, “The hour I spend each day in my rocking chair thinking about our church is my most valuable contribution to the team.”
Make the decision to coach wiser.
4. Communicate Clearly. I’m a speaker and a writer. I must communicate clearly, right? Not according to my wife, my kids, my administrative assistant, my direct reports, my supervising board… You get the picture.
The reason leaders garble their communication is the same reason they don’t take care of their core: time. We dash off emails and letters and leave voicemails without thinking empathically. How will these words be received? Is this sentence clear? Do grammatical and spelling errors get in the way of what I’m trying to say?
Before you send, review. Before you leave the voicemail, plan what you will say and how your voice will sound. Don’t “wing it” when it comes to speeches. Be intentional. Every time you communicate, someone is encountering your voice for the first time.
Make the decision to communicate clearly.
5. Be Courageous. “Hope is not a strategy (Mark Miller).” We can hope the two employees in conflict can work it out. We can hope the dysfunction manager is just going through a phase. We can hope the strategic environment will get clearer. As important as hope is, it take courage to bring action.
Being courageous means facing reality. It means facing numbers that tell unpleasant truths. It means having the hard conversations that will never go perfect. It means you apologize when you realize there was a better way to handle something.
It takes courageous leadership for an organization to thrive. It is courage that claims new ground, that faces dysfunction, and that fights against the resistors.
Make the decision to be courageous.
Start 2018 off, not by making resolutions, but by making five key decisions:
1. Build your core.
2. Care deeper
3. Coach wiser
4. Communicate clearly
5. Be courageous.