Progress is not about being perfect. Progress is made by being persistent. Yet, the prevailing myth at the New Year is this beginning of a new time period signals the opportunity to attempt perfection, once again. Leaders seek to drop all their bad habits, change how they lead team members, do different with some customers, and become better persons…all today, with no real room for error. Sounds silly doesn’t it? But, how often, whether on January 1, the first day of the quarter, or any given Monday of any month, are we lulled into the pursuit of attaining perfection? This week will be different. This time will be better. Well yes, if a leader, of others or even just yourself, is focused squarely on these three skills to create progress, versus perfection.
Worry not about the frog in biology class, this dissection hurts no one and is about goal review at a tad more granular level. Dissect each element of the goals you’ve chosen to claim and pursue. What are the many action items within each one and by when do each of the smaller steps need to be done? Dissecting a larger goal into smaller pieces leaves far more frequent room for the motivating sense of achievement. Rather than listing only large achievements that take hours of effort, people, and time, to make happen, break each pursuit down into much smaller parts. Accomplishing even small pieces of the larger project is progress. The act of making progress is energizing and motivating for “doers”. The small step breakdown maintains engagement for those non-big-picture thinkers. The sense of accomplishment that comes from dissection of a larger goal into smaller pieces, builds momentum with each act that reaches completion and each, even small step, of progress.
There is a question in goal setting circles that goes like this: How bad do you want it? No matter the answer, it’s obvious what one wants more than anything when you look at what shows up in their checkbook and calendar. We all make time for what is truly important. But, if the goals are work and team focused, as a leader, you may not have made them and may not have any passion around their achievement. Reexamine what is really important. Is staying a manager paramount? Is remaining securely or gainfully employed, important? Are you really looking for a way out, but don’t want to admit it? These are not easy questions, but they get easier upon reexamination of one’s priorities. Few leaders find their path at a very young age and never deviate from a constant journey of going in their impression of the exact right direction. There are deviations. There are times of uncertainty. Some freeze during those periods waiting for the perfect path to be illuminated before moving ahead. Others look at where they’ve been, what’s really important, what they are truly after, and seek to simply make progress in those areas, instead.
While a perhaps unexpected skill suggestion, staying playful and flexible may well be the most important. In the midst of mergers, acquisitions, reviews, team members, anniversaries, retirements, new clients and old ones, and the never- ending leader’s list of urgent and important (thought not always simultaneous!) items, a leader can become mired in the act of taking oneself far too seriously. Things happen. Things change. Companies grow and shrink. Team members quit and return. Life happens, and perfect plans simply don’t serve any long-term purpose. Those leaders who see the greatest success, make the most progress, and maintain their sanity the longest…are the one’s who remain a bit flexible, perhaps even playful. They flex when needed. They laugh at their own foibles and teach others to do something similar. They recognize a down week doesn’t put an end to the world spinning and terminating a team member may in fact, be the best thing they could do for them. They are not cavalier or nonchalant in their actions, but rather clear that in order to make progress, things are ALWAYS changing. It is the nature of forward movement and indicates a bit of flow is needed. Dodging and weaving gives one an edge in the game of life and leading. Staying rigid will cause one to break under the pressure and make no more progress.
Beyond all the talk of work and leadership at the office, let’s make this personal. Did you set a resolution to be thinner this year? Dissect the year into one day at a time for the first 7, then one week at a time for three of them. Celebrate achievement on each day and then at the end of each week and it will be February before you’ve had time to worry about being perfect. Have you written down weight loss every year for the last ten and can’t figure out why you’ve done little or nothing to make it happen? Upon reexamination, you may find that thin isn’t what you’re after, but love despite one size or another. And finally, on that weight loss goal or resolution, is it realistic to never eat chocolate cake again? Is it likely to help one make progress to eat like a bird in January and feast like a king from February to December? Perhaps a compromise is in order or some smaller adjustments one can get used to, much less live with, would be better. Are you willing to flex, in order to make progress? These skills will get you there, while ironically, the need to be perfect will usually hinder any goal achievement.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121.