Over the last few weeks I have had my usually busy life curtailed by an injury.
I have had to have my leg elevated and take medication that has left me with a foggy brain.
The world has continued to turn, the social structure of the community has held together and all without me. This is a good thing, other people have had to step up and take control for some things and I have just had to step down from others.
This process has helped me re-evaluate certain priorities in my life and consider how much time I spend on projects. Yes I have watched a lot of TV in this time, but thankfully the London Olympics has been on and I have been inspired by the single focus and dedication of the athletes. These athletes have sacrificed much to attempt to achieve personal bests and Olympic glory.
If I am to achieve success in community development or for particular causes I need to prioritize involvement’s. This will mean I will have to relinquish some commitments. This does not mean I am not concerned with the causes I let go, it means that I am deciding to focus on areas that I can make the biggest difference.
I have always been a busy person, but my body is not keeping up with my mind. Perhaps my badly sprained ankle with torn ligaments and chipped bone has been a blessing and a warning. It has forced me to rest and to slow down. It has made me realise that I am no superman, I cannot be strong all the time and I need to focus more.
Sometimes it is right and proper to re-evaluate life and it priorities. To step down requires a determination to overcome ego and self-importance, to concentrate on what is important not what is urgent.
Sometimes the squeaky wheel needs to remain squeaky, sometimes things need to be done by other people.
By holding on tightly to leadership or other roles you actually hinder the cause you are trying to help and from others that need to take over and lead it to the next level.
So what next? Time to workout where to focus, to develop skills and talents that I can pass onto others.
I am moving up not moving out; I am focusing not getting busier; I am getting values and priorities in order not just being driven by “good” causes.
When was the last time you re-evaluated your priorities? Why not take a few moments and make sure you are on the right road and make some changes if you need to.
The role of a leader is to take people to a new destination whether that is literal or figurative. Planning is critical as to the success of the journey and can solve many problems before setting out.
Here are ten things that you need to know.
1. Know where you are now.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
This is a commonly used saying but it can be translated “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”
I prefer the alternative version as it emphasizes that we need to have an understanding about our current situation and circumstances. Taking stock of where you are and being self-aware and community-aware is a vital component to understand before launching on a new project or adventure.
2. Know where you are going.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
You need a map, or at least some navigation tools (and know how to use them). To have a goal to achieve or to have a destination to get to is important as you ca use it to measure progress.
3. Know why you are going.
The “why” is the thing that will keep people motivated when they lose sight of the goal. It creates purpose and buy-in. Sometimes the reason for a mountain to be climbed is just because it is there, but to achieve victory on a great journey you need to know why you are traveling. Columbus did not travel into a big blue ocean for no reason, his purpose was to find new trade routes to Asia, discovering the Americas along the way was a by-product.
4. Know how you will travel.
The method is important and how you start a journey may not be how you finish it. There will be times when you will have to adapt to new environments to get there.
5. Know who you will travel with.
The team is important, they are not just the workers or minions, they are vital in achieving great things. They may be (and should be) better than you, highly skilled, technically minded people, people who get things done. They may be stronger leaders than you. They may annoy you, question you, disagree with you; you need them to. “Yes-men” will allow you to fall into a chasm because they won’t challenge you.
Some people may not stay for the whole journey but they will be always part of the story.
6. Know when to rest.
The journey may be hard, long, wearying, and dangerous, so know when to stop and rest.
Enjoy the scenery as this has two effects… 1 you and your team can refresh and re-energize themselves. 2 It gives you an opportunity to assess the situation, take stock, and plan the next phase.
Rest is vital to avoid burnout. If you do not rest you will make mistakes that may mean you will not succeed to your destination.
7. Know when to change direction.
very rarely in life is the path from “A” to “B” a straight line. you will need to change direction and even travel in the apparently wrong direction to reach your destination. There are obstacles to avoid unnecessary dangers to steer around, the terrain may be too hard to travel in that direction.
You may have gone down a dead-end. The only choice as a leader is to swallow your pride, turn around and backtrack until you can move in a better direction.
It is essential at these time to hold on to the map and to reiterate the “why”.
Humility will need to triumph over ego in these circumstances.
8. Know what the dangers could be.
Constantly be aware of the changing world around you (environmental, political,social etc). Listen to your team, what are they saying, they may have seen something you haven’t. Investigate and take seriously any reports of danger and after investigation act accordingly. Know what is real and what is fear.
9. Know what you need to take.
Provisions, skills, equipment, expertise, the old scout motto is all important here “Be prepared”.
10. Know what to do when you get there.
Plan the celebration, learn to recognize and celebrate achievements on the way. Remember the team got you there they should all be recognized. Don’t rest at the summit that is not the end of the road. this chapter may be finished but there are more to be written.
At this point go back to my first point know where you stand then decide where you are going.
The only thing to know left after you have thought about all of this and have taken time to prepare is…
Know when to start.
Save Hillside Rally, a set on Flickr.
Rally to stop the proposed cut of 40 jobs at hillside engineering. Protect New Zealand’s Engineering sector and promote policy that ensures government procurement that favours local suppliers rather than overseas interests.
Having a negative thought is not wrong!
Being critical is essential.
Disagreement is necessary.
Ask yourself this the next time someone says you are being negative, “who has the problem?”.
A person who appears to be happy and cheerful, with a smile on their face and a song in their mouth may actually be deluded and blind to the current circumstances that exist around them.
I give you permission (not that I need to) to be negative. Acknowledgement of your current situation and a realistic reflection of your circumstances might just be the catalyst for change that you need or it may not. Not all situations are under your control and sometimes the situations are genuinely dire. No amount of smiling of false hope will ever change that.
“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Stockdale did not deny his circumstances, (prisoner of war, Vietnam, 1965 – 1973), he acknowledged them, he did not lose faith although I am sure it was tested. Where others did not last he did, not by being optimistic but by being a realist. (listen to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great talk about Stockdale here)
Being told to “not be so negative” and putting on a fake smile or positive outward demeanour is just like the emperor in the tale of “the emperors new clothes”. He was convinced by people that he was fully clothed but was in fact naked.
Denying your circumstances and failing to confront them is exactly the same, you may be wearing a smile but that is all you are wearing. Negativity could be highlighting an underlying issue that needs to be addressed, suppressing it could deny the opportunity to bring about a solution.
If you are going through a difficult time or there are situations that are hard and need changing, acknowledge it, speak up, speak out, be critical, be negative.
No change ever happened to improve a situation without someone first being critical, negative or rebellious.
Will people be offended?… Yes
Will leaders like it?… No
There are times where the best course of action is to remain silent, if you are able, these are the same situations that you need to walk away from. When your personal values need to be compromised just so you can fit it to a particular group you need to question whether that group is worth being part of.
Do not ever remain in a circumstance that is causing you harm.
Do not let peer pressure and social expectations force you to wear a mask that does not reflect who you are or what you are going through.
Some circumstances are not able to be, or are not easily, fixed, for example long-term chronic illness but you can do the following… Do hold on to hope, do have faith, do acknowledge your circumstances and act accordingly.
Do not live in denial, especially to please others.
If you are struggling and need help to deal with difficult circumstances seek immediate assistance. Talk to your health provider, doctor, counsellor, or one of the many services like Youthline or Depression help-lines or mental heath workers. Look in your local phone book or contact your local citizens advice bureau for details.
New Zealand contacts
Suicide Crisis Line on
0508 82 88 65,
Lifeline on 0800 543 345 or
Youthline on 0800 376633.