Difference Makers

As we draw near to the end of the year, it’s time to formally start evaluating our progress on our annual goals and objectives. Many of us will identify some things that have gone well and achievements noted. We will also likely identify some objectives that were not met to the extent that we would have wanted. This process will no doubt yield some varying results depending on the specific metric that we are measuring against and the level of performance achieved. As a leader, in whatever respect, I think we are all challenged to go beyond this process and really evaluate our year as a leader. This evaluation is not aimed at a performance rating or even an evaluation to be shared with anyone else. Rather, an honest, inward look at what we are really accomplishing in the area of leading and influencing other people. As a starting point, take a look at the following questions:

1. Are you really making a difference with the people you are leading? I had a high school coach tell me one time “Strickel, If they ain’t following, you ain’t leading”. The grammar was poor, but the message was outstanding. Are you really having an impact with your people? Leadership goes beyond just what’s on the scoreboard. Yes, we do need measurable results, but are we getting the results because we have solid, influential leadership that is driving sound systems and processes that are going to lead to sustained success OR did we just have favorable circumstances?

2. Is your work team better off because you’re their leader? When you look at the collective best interest of your group, are they benefiting from your leadership? The question is not are they happy. The question is not are they content. The real question is whether they are better off because you are their leader. You are the one clarifying the vision for what needs to be achieved, setting the plans in place to do what needs to be done to achieve, and directing the actions to ensure we do achieve. The achievement thus leading to the collective best interest of those you are leading. Maybe that’s a safe and financially secure work place.

3. How did you handle the crisis moments of the year? No doubt, we have all experienced some of these during the year. Those instances where we were significantly challenged in one or more areas. Maybe the crisis was self-induced or maybe a result of some uncontrollable incident. Regardless of origin, the crisis moment can be a defining time for a leader. Were you true to your principles and values in the heat of the crisis situation or did you find yourself compromising in the heat of battle? How did you treat those around you in the stressful situation? Were you consistent with your people to the extent that the focus on people and customers were still held in high regard? None of us are perfect, but crisis situations tell a lot about a leader. Maybe there’s something you can learn about yourself on this question.

4. Are you a better leader today than you were when the year began? If you aren’t growing and developing as a leader, you are doing your people a disservice. We can only challenge others in new, progressive ways if we are growing and expanding our leadership capabilities. Don’t wait for others to provide you these opportunities. Seek them out. Ask for help. You can read books/articles, spend time with other leaders, attend training sessions, take on special assignments, etc. There are many ways to expand leadership capabilities and knowledge, but it takes an investment of your time and a commitment to get better. If you want your team to get better, you need to get better.

I ask these four very pointed questions not to just help you reflect and evaluate, but to also prompt you going forward. We learn from the past to impact the future. Your future leadership impact is much more important than your past leadership impact. So, as you work through evaluating your progress on your various goals and objectives for the year (which will be very metric centered), also give some thought to the above. If we, as leaders, don’t take time to assess the influence we are having, we likely will just continue down the same path. Even if that path was the right direction in 2016, it might not be what we need in 2017. Leaders that will take the time to ask themselves hard questions and take the initiative to address what they find, will ultimately make a difference in the lives of others. They will be difference makers!

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