A leader’s own professional development often takes a back seat to the immediate needs of their organization and team. Yet to end up at the best possible version of yourself, or “future you,” a deliberate, doable commitment to learning and development is needed.
It starts with clarity about where you are heading and why. In a noisy, work-swamped world, a simple “mantra” serves as a GPS to help stay true to the best future you, one that you are either steering toward, or away from, every day.
What’s in a mantra?
For example, imagine a three-word mantra like: “Inspiration, Delegation, and Organization.” Let’s say that reminds a leader to continue: 1) inspiring their team, because it’s a needed change and a fulfilling role for them, 2) delegating more non-value-added work to enable them to maximize revenue and economics (both P&L, and their own earnings), and 3) hiring/structuring their organization to be more self-sufficient so they can take their best next professional step. While this is simply an example to help you know what it looks like, here’s how to develop your own “future you” mantra.
How to develop it?
As they say, “Begin with the end in mind.” To do that, I’d like you to imagine the best of your professional self one-year from now. Let’s say you and I sit down to check in on your progress toward your professional goals a year from today, and you’re feeling absolutely delighted with where you are. For that to be true, let’s say you stand at the intersection of three main roads, each needing a “mantra word.”
1. Doing what has purpose and heart for you: by one year from now you are working on purpose – that is, doing what fires you up so that you are happy and doing your best work most days. You are spending minimal time doing what gets you down, stresses you out, or runs afoul of your values. Whether you are making the world a better place, helping your team be their best, or simply putting food on your table, your day-to-day work life satisfies and fulfills you because it’s in sync with your sense of purpose. What’s needed for this to be true, that’s different than it is today? Develop one “mantra word” that will remind you day by day of that needed change to be more in sync with what has purpose and heart for you.
2. Making your economics work: by one year from today you are earning what you desire, and are able to organize your financial life accordingly – both in terms of business results, and your own earnings. You are feeling good about where you are financially, and not unduly concerned, worried or having doubts about money. What’s needed for this to be true, that’s different than it is today? Develop a second “mantra word” that will lead and remind you of the needed change to be on track toward the economics you want.
3. Developing your capabilities: by one year from now you are in a situation that’s allowing you either to grow new capabilities, or consolidating your understanding of existing capabilities. Regardless, you are neither stagnant nor coasting in terms of growing / developing yourself professionally. What’s needed for this to be true, that’s different than it is today? Develop a final “mantra word” that will lead and remind you of the needed change to develop your capabilities as the professional you most want to be.
Put your three words together – they don’t need to rhyme (as above), as long as the mantra is easily memorable to you. It can be ABC, 123, or something that makes sense to you. And it doesn’t need to be carved in stone – in fact it’s best if it evolves with what’s happening and changing in your world at work, so going through this process annually is a healthy way to keep it fresh and relevant.
How to use it effectively
Aside from building and evolving it annually, your mantra also needs to be used in a great way. Given the day-to-day demands of leadership, how do we do that?
Let’s call where you are today “Point A” and the one-year hence intersection of purpose, economics, and capabilities (with delight) “Point B.”
Day to day, week to week, check in with yourself: are you moving on a straight line from A to B? What needs to change for you to correct your course, and move more directly from A to B? What do you need to start doing, stop doing, or make sure you continue doing, to make a “B-Line” to Point B?
Ask yourself which (if any) barriers stand in the way from A to B, and what you can do to manage / remove them.
Finally, enlist the help you need to remain accountable to your outcomes in these three areas. Do you need a friend or colleague with whom to share your one-year vision, and check in from time to time during the year?
I know the idea of having a “future you” mantra is a bit unconventional. That said, it’s an innovative and individualized way to make sure you attain the goals most important to you, and to lead in the most effective way. I invite you to give it a try ...