All is well that begins well. As world-class athletes playing for today’s top professional sports franchises will tell you, there is nothing more advantageous than a quick start out of the gates. The same holds true for executive leaders.
Maybe you’ve recently been hired as a Chief Financial Officer with a new company. Perhaps you’re switching divisions or taking on more direct reports. Every season of change in corporate America comes with major opportunities for us as leaders to cement ourselves as critical components of the business machine.
If you’ve been in leadership roles for long, you know that talent alone is never enough. It’s when initiative is put into place around your talent that it begins to expose and exploit your capabilities for everything they are worth.
This is when the big picture starts to come into focus. As executive leaders, there has to be a concept in our minds that frames our efforts as “bigger than just today.” The decisions you make in the next hour or week may seem urgent, but they can also have lasting impacts on your company and professional legacy.
My challenge to executives embarking on a new assignment is to hit the ground sprinting – and not by taking on every defunct project or launching a new business unit. Take a step back operationally and dive head-on into your relationships. Get to know the people you are leading. Pour your attention and focus into them.
This is a bona fide way to earn a reputation as an impactful executive leader. Here are three more:
1. Commit To Making A Difference Immediately.
There are many things I love about working for and with John C. Maxwell. One of them is the energy he radiates when he finishes writing his latest book. Many times now, I have heard him say, “Mark, this is the best book I have ever written.” And he means it.
John is committed to making a difference every time he delivers a new message into the world. He remains fresh, relevant and passionate to his craft through a boundless commitment to his followers.
When we start a new executive leadership role, we aren’t hoping it turns into just an average position for a mediocre organization. We want to thrive, lead and succeed. We want to establish ourselves as a primary piece of the puzzle. Someone who drives change, sure, but also someone who is respected for his or her commitment to the end goal.
I work with entrepreneurs who have given up six-figure jobs to start their own venture. Do you think they aim to enter the business ownership world with a thud? I hope we have commonality around this objective of committing to make a difference in our leadership journey. Without this incentive – without aggressively making our careers about the goal rather than the role – there is not much room for impact.
2. Recognize The Power Of Quitting.
You may have grown up in a home much like mine where quitting was not an option. While competitiveness certainly has its place across business and leadership, I argue that you have to give up to go up.
Let me explain.
Losers stop doing things that are good for them. Winners stop doing things that are not good for them. I’ve heard John talk a lot about the things he has quit during his leadership journey. As he became a world-renowned personal growth expert, there were relationships and and engagements that he needed to adjust. They simply didn’t align with his leadership track if he was going to take his talents to the heights he believed he could reach.
Here are five times when quitting counts and can actually be a positive decision:
• You quit something you don’t do well to start something you do well.
• You quit something you’re not passionate about to do something that fills you with passion.
• You quit something that doesn’t make a difference to do things that do make a difference.
• You quit something that’s not your dream to do something that is.
• You quit negative relationships and align with people who add value to your dream.
Are you doing things you dream about? Identify the activities you need to quit and recognize the power of doing it today.
3. Evaluate And Eliminate Tired Goals.
Get rid of them. Seriously. We all set goals that are, by nature, difficult to achieve. I’m not advocating that you “dream small.” I’m advocating that you “dream smart.” If you haven’t been successful in reaching a goal for the past three years, it’s time to let it go. Not reaching your goal is actually causing you harm because it’s creating a losing mindset that may be influencing other areas of your professional or personal life.
Our company has talked about looking back to get ahead. All too often, we become reliant on goals that limit our thinking and our creativity. They hold us captive and restrict us from seeing what’s really possible. Sometimes the challenge isn’t just eliminating these goals from our vision, it’s identifying they are problems in the first place.
Stephen Covey said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage —pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”
There is wisdom in this approach that will be applicable for many generations to come. So find the delete button and begin clearing your slate. Your true executive impact is waiting to be discovered.
Mark Cole is CEO of The John Maxwell Company, EQUIP, The John Maxwell Team and The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation. The enterprise’s fully custom offerings are built on the timeless principles of John C. Maxwell, a #1 New York Times best-selling author, coach and speaker who has sold more than 28 million books in 50 languages.