A New Year, A New Start

December 29, 2009 by
Filed under: Leadership, People 

A year ago, I wrote about dealing with difficult times as a means of driving appropriate change. A year later, unfortunately, the same message holds essentially unchanged. For many organizations (those that are still working to make it through these times), we are at a point where we get a second shot at starting the New Year on the right foot. Here’s another business perspective, but it isn’t aimed at your employer.

Back then, the message primarily focused on a deeper appreciation of value rather than just costs, through better oversight. At the time, the message seemed appropriate, and indeed, there are many organizations that could dramatically improve in this regard. Ask almost any corporate trainer about what has happened over the past year, and they will tell you (if they are open enough about self-disclosure) that it has been a challenging year, as many organizations have significantly squeezed their training budgets, if they haven’t shut them down altogether. Whether companies invest in training, though, is merely part of the story.

Something that should be considered in an ongoing basis, beyond whether you are spending your operational budget appropriately, is whether you are working on the right mix of product or service offerings.

In the corporate world, this involves reflection on whether your business is truly aligned with your vision, whether you have the appropriate mix of expertise to act on that vision, and whether the things you are doing will serve you well for driving in a reasonable strategic direction. All sorts of important stuff, discussed frequently at the business level, fodder for articles in Harvard Business Review almost every month. Not a great deal of news here.

What is becoming more important and relevant all the time, though, is the application of these principles on the “business of me”. Now more than ever, it is dangerous to assume that the company will look out for your well-being, and critical to take personal responsibility for sailing your ship in the right direction.

Whether you are employed by someone that gives you stuff to do in return for a paycheque or not, there is always value in consciously reviewing and adjusting the alignment between what you do and where you want to be. What do you see as your legacy: 5 years down the road, 25 years, 100 years? Are the things you do today contributing to that legacy? Is that important to you at all? Have you ever stepped back to consider these things?

What is the balance of importance between work and the rest of your life: is there a hard dividing line between the two, or is the line fuzzy? Do you work to a different set of standards between one and the other, and does it even make sense to do so? Should the line become fuzzier or firmer, and should the line move in one direction or the other?

What do you see as the most rewarding things that you do, and are you doing enough of them? How do you see rewards: are they monetary, appreciation from others, achievement of particular goals, or simply having survived another year? What can you do to move your reward system further up your personal needs hierarchy, and align your behaviours to achieve these rewards?

More importantly, what are the things that are consuming your time and effort these days that are not contributing to what is important to you, or even worse, things that are moving you further away from where you want to be? As with corporate efficiency, the same principles apply here. Ask yourself where you are spending your time, and whether that mix makes the most sense.

In most cases, there is likely no hard and fast answer. As with effective businesses, though, there is value in personal reflection to be sure that you are heading in the right direction (or indeed, that you have a direction that you are consciously heading towards at all). If you haven’t done this before, you are likely to start looking at everything you do in a different light. If this is already a standard part of your life, continuing to do so will allow you to take advantage of fresh insights to make those mid-course corrections and keep you on track.

In either case, maintaining this focus increases the odds that you will be at the helm of any major change in direction, rather than simply being at the mercy of the tides and winds driven by others. – JB


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