Yes, the holidays are fast approaching, another year is drawing to a close, and chances are your to-do list has gone rogue, seemingly multiplying of its own accord . . . Stop. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. (Go ahead, I’ll wait). Now, when your brain feels quiet enough to think, consider this question: If you asked every person you lead “What is the star, the singular destination, that guides our organization?” how many answers would you get? Ten . . . twenty-seven . . . a slightly different one for each employee?
I’m not talking about whether your staff can recite your mission statement — although that is good, too. I am talking about a big, hairy, audacious goal that lights a fire under all your efforts. I am talking about something that is “put a man on the moon by the end of the decade” specific. . . a gleaming star of a destination that guides and permeates all of your actions. Yes, I realize that you have 14 programs, 8 funding sources, and a host of tedious external requirements that all seem to be pulling you in different directions. Besides, while it might sound good on paper, it feels too risky to lock yourself into a singular destination . . . better to hedge your bets, right?
How many staff members have you seen bring their A-game to hedging their bets? Trying to cover all the bases is what causes your to-do list to go rogue and suck you dry. It diffuses your energy and attention, and that of your people. By contrast, a powerful guiding star builds energy and excitement. Yes, you might still have 17 items on your to-do list, but when they are all moving you closer to a single gleaming destination, you gain momentum as you go, rather feeling like you are getting farther and farther behind.
Simplicity, clarity and focus are the three biggest challenges facing leaders today. Our world is complex, the options before us are endless, and attention spans are shorter than ever before. As a leader it is your job to chart a course through all the noise, to provide a beacon for those you lead that is clearer and brighter than all the shiny objects seeking to grab your attention and that of your people.
Don’t have a guiding star? The New Year is a great time to identify one. Yes, this may feel overwhelming and virtually impossible at first. There will be lots of people trying to get you to follow their star. There will be well-intended naysayers suggesting you should follow multiple stars at once (stop and think about how much progress you will really make by doing that . . .) But here’s the thing: it is totally worth the effort. Once you focus in on a clear destination, you actually have more options, not fewer. You (and your people) will have more excitement, more energy, and more bandwidth to accomplish amazing things.
Find your star.