The Dalai Lama has 17 rules for living. One of them is that a person should travel to someplace they have never been before at least once per year. The more I pondered this; I felt that this was a bit limiting. I am fairly sure that he was focusing on the traditional view of this thought; traveling and experiencing a location that you have never been before. But, there is a more philosophical approach to this “rule.”
Look at this creek. It could be near your house, on your way to work, or off a mountain trail. You may see it every day. Is it the same? It changes moment to moment. Even how you look at it changes. Today it may be peaceful. During a storm, it may become deadly. One day gray, and blue the next. You can be standing at the exact same physical location, yet you have never exactly been there before. You have changed, and the place has changed. The key is being aware and recognizing the changes.
As a leader, a person must continue to grow. A leader must be able to see the changes around them, and interpret how those changes impact the situation. The creek may be calm and serene one day, and present hidden dangers the next. It is changing its environment, and as a result impacts the plants, animals, and people around it. Similarly, our daily actions can have the same impact.
Your mood, your reactions, your comments, and your actions, whether you are aware of them or not affect those around you. A smile can improve a person’s day, and you may never know. A laugh or a kind word with the cashier as you go through the lunch line may become contagious, and those that follow may see the afternoon in a positive light rather than a negative one. Snap at the toll agent as you go through the tollgate, and you may impact dozens of individuals later that day.
We are part of the whole. We don’t see ourselves as having an impact unless we do something “big.” Sometimes it is recognizing how the small things influence our growth and those around us. We tend to go from one project to the next, or one event to the next, and fail to see the wonder and life around us. We miss living while waiting to live.
Fish or cut bait. As leaders, we have probably used this phrase at some point. And, we seem to have an inherent understanding about the concept that it is describing, even if we aren’t active in a fishing culture. The four words succinctly describe a decision point where one has to assess the effectiveness of the current methodology or strategy versus the ultimate goal. Or simply, put is this strategy or activity the most effective use of time and/or resources.
As leaders, we need to focus on what is the most productive use of our skills, knowledge and resources. We have to make sure that the timing is appropriate, and that the right priorities are being met. Unfortunately, the leader may be too close to the situation or may be in a situation where the day-to-day demands are such that they can’t see that they have reached a point where they are ineffective. So, what is a leader to do when they find themselves in this situation?
Leaders need to PREP:
- Pause – Stop for a bit to gather and observe. What is the status quo?
- Re-asses – After having gathered the information, one needs to look at the resources and priorities.
- Evaluate – Here you have to look at the fit or “correctness” of the priorities, do the resources and priorities match? Are the skill sets correct?
- Prepare – Prepare a path to realign or to gain the appropriate resources that are needed.
As leaders, we forget how important it is to continually go through this cycle. We tend to get bogged down in the day-to-day activities and firefighting. We don’t take the time to work on the strategies or “tool sharpening” that we need to focus on, so that we can be more productive and efficient in the long run. We don’t take the time now; so it will ultimately take less time. We get stuck in the “have to do it this way now” to make it work mindset to meet the immediate need.
This ultimately puts us further behind and makes us more ineffective. It means that we continually hinder ourselves. So, for the past three months, I have been practicing what I want to preach – building the skills and the resources, such that the day-to-day tasks require less time. I have been searching for those new applications, resources, and ideas to make my daily work life more effective and productivity. I have been PREPping for this new journey.
Now it is time to take the first step, down this new branch of the road. Hopefully, you are willing to join me on this journey.