Being a leader is hard work. Some days you have to deal with issues that no one else wants to deal with because they are complex or complicated. Other days everything about the future seems like a series of frustrating choices. And finally, there are days where you have to keep pushing forward through the endless meetings and paperwork, hoping that something good will come from all of the details. In short, being a leader can involve long days, short nights and lots of worrying, time, and energy.
Every week, I visit in person and over the phone with people in leadership positions. They share with me about their challenges and at times about their successes. During these conversations, we often talk about the importance of planned short term wins. Dan S. Cohen in his book, The Heart of Change Field Guide: Tools and Tactics for Leading Change in Your Organization (Harvard Business School Press, 2005) notes that an effective short-term win has the following characteristics. First, they are measurable, visible, and timely. They also are relevant to all stakeholders, relevant to the objectives in the strategic plan, and relevant to the external strategic landscape. Finally, they are relevant to the people who need to deal with organizational change resistors. In essence, short term wins builds confidence and momentum to keep moving through the long days and short nights.
But, upon reflection, I have noticed something else about great leaders that I have not seen in the literature. While they are planning and working to successfully achieve a series of short term wins, they also are working on their own personal goals outside of work. The achievement of these personal goals become milestones which help them have the energy and commitment to push through the work challenges before them. When these leaders share with me about achieving a personal goal, they are reenergized and eager again to deal with the complicated and the complex problems before them at work.
Over the years, I have listened to people share about running their first 5K race, a half marathon, or even a full marathon. I have listened to people talk about remodeling a kitchen, landscaping their back yard, or building a deck. I have listened to them share about exercising every day or participating in a choir. What I have figured out over time is that it is not about the size of the goal as much as how meaningful it is to the person who is achieving it. It is the pride, joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from the achievement of that goal that makes the differences and gives the individual the capacity to handle what ever surfaces at work.
This week, plan short term wins at work and work hard to achieve them. But, also this week, set some personal goals which make your life more meaningful and special. It is the combination of the two that separates the good leaders from the great ones.