There are several things that will “eat you alive” or put another way, cause you suffering as you lead your company and your life. One in particular is very much on my mind: Don’t make the mistake of racing someone else’s race.
When you have a significant goal that requires prioritizing time, manpower, capital, etc., to improve your position—whether that position is market share, profit, or your own career—we inevitably compare ourselves to others. This can provide useful competitive data for sharpening our own position—when we are in touch with our company’s or our own core strengths and values. But when we’re not in touch, these kinds of comparisons can wreak havoc on your health or the health of the business and the team.
Imagine the company so preoccupied with the competition that it cannot focus on the business at hand. It is always in a defensive, reactionary stance rather than proactively engaged in building upon and creating a strength-based competitive advantage. Pretty easy to see when we talk about a company, isn’t it?
But you can easily substitute “leader” for “company” and see the frenetic effort a leader or rising leader would spend if she or he were so overly focused on others’ performance. Always addressing deficits and weaknesses rather than building from inherent strengths turns building a competitive advantage into a Sisyphean task, one that will distract your people and you from where you can excel based on what makes you and your company unique.
I am not saying you ignore the competition. No, I think competition keeps it interesting and sharpens your game. My point is that it must be your game. Your goals. Your bottom-line. So how do you avoid engaging in a resource-depleting trap?
1. First, if your maximum objective is not already very well-defined, define it.
2. But what about your minimum objective? What is the pearl you will take away if the worst happens?
This is more than a risk analysis—it includes the tangible aspects of the worst-case scenario and the intangibles—your own well-being, or the well-being of the company, the division, or the leadership team. You better know this.
If you don’t, you are being irresponsible with what you’ve been entrusted to lead. Defining your minimum objective puts you directly in touch with the essence of your company, your team, or yourself. It’s a position that grounds you paradoxically in both the worst of all that constitutes your business and you, and the greatest possibilities.
No matter the form of the competition—market share, winning business, or the C-level position—when you compete from this place of knowing your maximum objective—the best of all worlds—and minimum objective—if the worst happens—you and your company appear solid and trustworthy to those who would buy your services or products, or hire you.
What’s more, when things at the operational level derail, as they do with big goals that take time to achieve, you will always have a touchstone for continuing to move forward as the setbacks are happening. It’s in this place where adaptability, resiliency, and yes, innovation, reside. Your well-being and that of your company will not only be intact; it will be strengthened. We have one precious life. Don’t waste a drop: go run your own best race.
U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240
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