What Really Matters … Your Meaning

Have you ever been driving your car, following another and reading the bumper stickers? I found myself doing that one day and wondered what the message was that was trying to be sent…

For example, there was the crop of bumper stickers that had a common theme of “I’d rather be….” You fill in the blank. I saw one that said “I’d rather be fishing.” Another one read “I’d rather be flying.” When I was in Hawaii it was “I’d rather be surfing.”

The way my mind works causes me to ask, “Then why aren’t you?” If you’d rather be fishing, flying, or surfing, why aren’t you?

I know that way down inside me there are different things that move me…hobbies that excite me, urges that I wish I had more time to pursue, people I wish I could spend more time with. I believe that it is important to identify, focus on, and spend time on what matters to me.

Focusing on what truly matters, truly matters. OK. Fine. That makes sense. How do I do it then, and not just make it a thought exercise? Let’s start with the basic question:

1. What is my purpose? Start by taking 10 minutes out of your life to find some quiet space, and to close your eyes, and to think. Ask yourself: How do I want to be remembered? What do I want people to say about me at my funeral? Think about that for 10 minutes, then write down your answers. There may be a few different things, or 10, or just one.

2. Write your purpose down. This is your life mission. Put it somewhere you can see it every day. Remind yourself of it every day.

3. Answer: What excites me? Deep down we know what excites us. We know what gets our heart pumping, and what gets us excited to jump out of bed in the morning. I also know that sometimes we are fearful about admitting to ourselves what we really want to do, and who we really want to be because it’s not popular, or because it’s not as secure as the job we have.

4. What can I let slip? I am aware that there are never enough hours in the day to do everything that I have some interest in doing. However, there is enough time in the day to do everything that I am truly interested in, and that truly matters. Find what you can let slip -and then let it go.

5. Pick your top 2-3 principal tasks each day. These are the things that must happen no matter what. If you get these done your day is a success. Stick to no more than three, or better yet one. They must move you closer to your big goals. Here is a big by-the-way: checking email does not count.

6. Do your top 2-3 principal tasks first thing each day. The longer you wait, the more distractions will intrude. Nothing happens before these get done.

Step 7 on Thursday.


Our Fundamental Challenge

Our company, Executive Leadership Skills International, www.els1.com , International is a Leadership and Organization Development, Training, and Consulting firm. We have helped over 250 clients who represent a spectrum of organizations and industries including small businesses, Fortune 100 firms, schools, and professional organizations. Our work has taken us throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

We believe that leadership is one of the most powerful of all forces impacting an organization. We approach leadership as the act and art of creating shared meaning, eliciting purposeful action, and achieving desired results. We promote leadership that shapes a culture of high-involvement — where employees participate as partners and the capacity and desire to make meaningful contributions are acknowledged and supported. With effective leadership, individuals contribute, their best ideas take form, and organizations thrive. We also recognize that leadership is needed and should be encouraged.

One of our fundamental challenges in this domain is understanding how to teach and develop leadership in individuals and organizations. We know that the many theories of leadership (and there are many!) based on preferred results of leadership will help us understand what we want. However, they cannot help us understand how to use leadership to get what we want. For example, we understand that we want to influence people to achieve desired goals, but if we define leadership as influencing others, we are left to ask, “How this is done?”
Such a question may have many answers, some of which have nothing to do with leadership. We are left, then, to derive a definition which reveals an underlying process that is at the root of influence.

We know that leadership is usually defined in terms of the application of influence or the creation of motivation or both. I think it is important to see leadership in a different context: influence and motivation are not essential features of leadership at all; rather, influence and motivation result from the making of meaning. The same may be said for goals, direction, or structure. These are not essential features of leadership; they are some of the means through which meaning can be made. It is neither influence nor goals that are essential to leadership. It is meaning.

What happens, then, when I reframe the question from “How do I influence others?” to “How do I make meaning?” We now begin to address the underlying universal process (meaning making) and not the secondary, resulting process (influencing others).

So the question remains: “How do you make meaning?”


And so we begin…

When we decided to publish a blog our initial thoughts about the effort were normal, i.e. what topic, how frequent to publish, intended audience, etc.  Our experience and background is leadership and organization development so we wanted to maintain those areas as our theme.  Our intention is to talk about our experiences with leaders, leadership development, organization issues, and lessons learned, as well as providing a platform where readers can share their thoughts and ideas about relevant topics.

We’d like to make this a learning platform as well as a place for creative expression of thoughts and feelings of the subject areas, so we invite your participation and ideas.

Currently our intentions are to publish new material twice a week and allow for rumination, discussion, amplification of thoughts, etc.  We look forward to hearing from you all.

We chose the title of our blog “Leaderlines” to reflect our notion that there are many leaders out there, often without a place to discuss issues and topics close to their hearts.  This, then, is a forum for you to participate by sharing your experiences and learnings with the larger audience, hence learning as we go.

In our next entry we will talk about our background and begin to address the topic of leadership and how we see it.


Conversations about leadership and all that matters