I came across what I would call a “perplexing perspective” this weekend. Sometimes I need mindless activities, which may include scrolling through reels, shorts, and other video sources. As the algorithms have learned me, they produce a lot of content filled with thought provocation, emotion, and laughter. Three things I need.
In the face of terminal cancer, Coach Jimmy Valvano delivered one the most inspirational messages I have ever heard at the 1993 ESPY Awards. His acceptance of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was sobering. In challenging the audience, he said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
I don’t even recall the person who said it or the video I scrolled through, but the gentleman asked a profound question, “If I knew I wasn’t going to make it home, how would I spend my time differently?” It stirred two of the three emotions that Jimmy V encouraged.
So…how would I respond…how would you respond…to this perplexing perspective? It’s perplexing, because every ounce of us would want to head home immediately, but that isn’t an option under this scenario. How do we use this exercise to maximize each and every moment of our day as leaders?
Here are four thoughts this provoked in me:
We all have spheres of professional influence. Texts, emails, calls, and social media keep us artificially connected with large quantities of people, but who would notice our absence tomorrow? Whose life would be dramatically altered if we didn’t show back up tomorrow?
These people should receive prioritization before we leave the office. If you are short on time, your authentic and genuine relationships provide the greatest Return on Influence. Are others less important? Absolutely not, but these people have the greatest capability of maximizing influence on your behalf.
Prioritize those that will most greatly notice your absence tomorrow.
Make Them Feel Special
I use this quote frequently in my writing because it is so profound. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When we walk away from the office at the end of the day, we have said a lot and done a lot, but how did we make people feel?
Every act of a leader, intentional or not, leaves a lasting impression on those they lead. It’s really a simple concept when you think about it. Want to be a demanding, dominating, and demeaning leader? That is how they will remember you tomorrow when you are gone. Want to be an empathetic, encouraging, and engaging leader? That is how they will remember you when you are gone.
The point at which the words we say and what we do intersects is called Intentionality. Great leaders are intentional and make the people we lead feel special. People that feel special remember you tomorrow.
Be a Good Steward of the Seat
As leaders, we are responsible for the Stewardship of the Seats we occupy. Stewardship in leadership is taking good care of the organization and its people while we are serving in that capacity. Do not confuse it for ownership. Ownership is more permanent and possessive. We do not own the seat, we are simply stewards of it. It can be empty tomorrow.
A seat behind a desk can too often represent a position. While literally it does, figuratively it represents the purpose of the occupant. The purpose behind the person who occupies the seat is to love and care for those they lead. This requires a mindset shift from being a transactional leader to a transformational leader.
The better our stewardship of the seat today, the greater purpose we serve tomorrow.
Knowledge confined to a leader’s mind is useless. Too often leaders gain knowledge in their leadership journeys and cling to it at all costs. Holding it close creates a perceived personal value called insecurity. The greater our perceived value, the more likely we are to fall into the trap of believing people will need us more tomorrow.
The concept of teaching has been on my mind a lot lately. Myself included, too often I watch leaders get frustrated with their people for not knowing or understanding something. The question is, did we teach them? We may have had the conversation in our head ten times, but it has never been outwardly expressed through teaching.
When we teach, we transfer knowledge. It increases our value, not decrease our perceived value. The lessons we have learned are not rendered useless tomorrow if we teach today.
Life is precious. Even the best planned people have uncertain futures. Our worlds can drastically change in the blink of an eye.
This post was difficult to write, because as it should, family always comes first to mind. But, the way he posed the question, left me reflecting on how I could spend my time differently while at work, making a lasting impact.
In the midst of busyness, crisis, and turmoil, we can easily lose sight of the tremendous responsibility we have to lead others well. It should burden us daily to leave people better than we found them. When we leave them better at the end of the day, tomorrow is better for everyone.
We should all wrestle with this perplexing perspective. I will leave you with this, If you knew you weren’t going to make it home, how would spend your time at the office differently?