Keeping Our Purpose Top of Mind

By now, you should have at least a foundation for Why You Do What You Do and a reasonable understanding of How Our Wiring Impacts How We Purpose Our Purpose… With those things in place, let’s build on that so we can be sure we’re always keeping our purpose top-of-mind!

I want you to think of some of the best known brands on the market, today or ever… While it’s likely been more than thirty years since I’ve seen the (Wendy’s) commercial, I can still hear that little old lady asking “Where’s the beef?” And I’m guessing that I could rattle off a handful of lines or slogans and you’d immediately connect it to the corresponding company; “I’m lovin’ it!” or “Just Do It!” anyone…? I’m not necessarily making a case for advertising ourselves or our organizations based on our purpose - at least not yet - here’s where I will begin challenging you to consider the steps you need to take so you can keep your own crystal-clear purpose in front of you ALL THE TIME!

As leaders, there’s never a shortage of demands on our time or issues flying at us. John Maxwell opens his 2010 book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by sharing that “According to experts, we are bombarded with thirty-five thousand messages a day,” which he pulled from a study done by Elway Research in 2008. With all the advances in technology in the fifteen-plus years since that initial study, how much do you think that number has increased? I’m sure it’s gone up quite a bit! And for those of us who have accepted the responsibility of leading, I’d expect the amount of messages coming our way is considerably more than the average Joe or Jane have to deal with…

I shared before how much achieving results feeds my purpose. I believe I also mentioned something about the amount of energy I have to expend to make sure all the fine details of any project, especially something related to compliance. While I gained a tremendous understanding of exactly how both of those things were tied to how I’m wired when I completed a scientifically validated DISC behavioral style assessment, the fact remains that there are times where I have to suck it up and make sure those damn details are taken care of, correctly! That’s where systems came into play for me.

If you’ve ever attempted to schedule anything with me directly, or even catch me on the phone for that matter, you’re probably very aware of just how much of a calendar nerd I really am. If I’m being honest, that’s not something that comes natural to me. I’d much rather run wide open every single day with no set agenda, just charging hell with a water pistol to get as much done as I possibly can. But that’s not reality and I do still have a bit of responsibility to comply with timelines that are not always my own. For me, blocking time on my calendar for each thing I need to accomplish (including the time for writing this) has been one of the most effective things I’ve ever done to allow me to churn out solid results while minimizing the time I have to spend keeping up with details; once it’s on my calendar, I’ve got reminders set to make sure the specifics are addressed as needed. And that, my friend, allows me to keep the majority of my thought process focused on the things that give me energy instead of staying bogged down too long in the things that drain it from me.

Don’t miss my point here, I’m not suggesting that my system is right for you. It’s probably not! I am, however, making a case for how important it is for each of us to create some sort of system to allow us to keep (most of) the distractions at bay so our purpose can remain in the forefront. Now, let’s look at some things we can consider for prioritizing our time, then we’ll wrap this piece up with how all this helps us keep our tanks full…

Prioritizing to Our Purpose

Once we’ve developed systems that tie back to how we’re wired and ensure we’re effective in keeping our purpose top of mind, there’s a high likelihood that we’ll still have to juggle more tasks than we can ever get done on a given day. And while that can often be said for anyone who’s remotely productive, it’s something we’ll be faced with daily once we accept the first bit of leadership responsibility - and it will increase (usually exponentially) as our scope of leadership grows. If we’re going to make sure, even with the best systems in place, that we’re working within that purpose that fulfills us and keeps our energy tank fed, we’ll need to get just as good at prioritizing the tasks we do as we are at building systems to support us through the process.

In chapter seventeen of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, The Law of Priorities, John Maxwell details his version of the three R’s. At first glance, I thought there was a chance I had learned something useful in elementary school but as I read on I realized he wasn’t referring to readin’, ritin’, & ‘rithmetic

As John explained the importance of determining what we’re actually Required to do personally, as opposed to all the things we’re required to make sure get done. From there, he tied the idea of Return to the Pareto Principle, suggesting that of all tasks we’re required to do - and cannot delegate to anyone else - the top twenty percent generally produce eighty percent of our overall results. His third R was Reward and he stressed how critical it is, especially for leaders, to work in areas that are fulfilling; one might even take that as working in areas of a clear purpose!

When we have clarity around our purpose and we’ve built systems that help keep that purpose in front of us, prioritizing the top twenty percent of those Required tasks will play a huge part in giving us the energy we’ll need to work through everything else. Here’s where we’ll need to exhibit some willpower though, because there will inevitably be a temptation to ditch the last eighty percent that only yields twenty percent of our results! Since everything truly does rise and fall on how we lead, this will not be a luxury we’ll be able to choose…

As long as we’re dialed in on each of the three R’s and we’ve tied it to our clear purpose for leading, it will be an easier battle to fight. Simply put, nearly every battle is easier to fight when our tank is full so let’s tie all this together by taking a quick look at that.

Purpose Keeps the Tank Full!

I’ve made a few references already in making a case for just how important it is for every leader to have a clear purpose that energizes them. Without having that in place, the challenges we face as we lead our teams can become more weight than we’re willing to carry, and I’ve seen countless examples showing that any financial advantages that come with leadership will rarely be enough to motivate anyone lead well over the long haul! Being able to prioritize our tasks so we capture our best possible Return is certainly a large piece of the puzzle, but there will be times where even that won’t give us all we need to keep our tanks full.

In two separate lessons of our Emerging Leader Development course, Cindy and I emphasize the power of building strong connections with the teams we lead but we caution participants to recognize that not everyone on their teams will enjoy the same things they do or get recharged in the same ways. We go on to share a few of our own experiences to paint a picture of how leaders will often need to adapt to the people around them to build strong connections, earn influence, and lead their teams to achieve great results. We’ll look at this more soon when we change gears and work through ways we can help our team members work to their own meaningful purpose. Quite honestly, this will rarely be something a leader can do without expending a lot of their own energy - and it won’t likely be something that keeps their own tank full…

However, being able to keep our own purpose top of mind through it all AND tying even the heaviest tasks back to it based on our own unique behavioral style can make our lift significantly easier. Whether we like it or not, we gave up the opportunity to enjoy everything we do when we said YES to leading others - and I’m sure anyone who has children can relate, at least a little bit, whether they’re leading a team or not… I’ve heard folks say things like “When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s CRAP! Even when we’ve got a clear purpose that drives us, we’ll still have our share of junk to push through. The key to keeping our own tank full, though, is in having the right ratio between the things we love and the things that suck but still have to be done. We’ll begin working through that next…