My dad started a non-profit in 1989 and led the organization up until his retirement 28 years later. Even though there were many challenging times throughout the years, the organization was passed on to the next leader in an incredibly healthy state.
Many people have the courage to start new businesses or activate their ideas. But very few people have the ability to stand the test of time, maximize their strengths, and do the internal work needed to finish well. I’m thankful my dad was one of the few that did…and I’m also thankful I got to have a front-row seat to see what it took to last. When my dad retired, my family and I were able to attend a number of the events celebrating the work of the organization and my dad’s impact.
Here are a few lessons I learned on the art of finishing well:
Cultivate an accurate view of yourself.
Self-awareness has become a trendy buzzword, and a trend I fully support. However, it’s really hard for self-awareness to grow in a vacuum.
There are pros and cons to being a bald guy…one of the pros is that I can cut my own hair. But almost every time I do, I miss the same place on the back of my head (and sometimes I miss the few hairs I have on the front of my head when I’m concentrating on the back of my head!). My wife usually lets me know I’ve missed some places and then helps me fix the spots I’ve missed.
Here’s the lesson: It takes a variety of perspectives to get an accurate understanding of the work we’re doing.
I’ve created a tool to help businesses and non-profits get the information they need to understand their team’s health and establish benchmarks by which to measure for future growth. Gaining an accurate view of your team’s health is the beginning of lasting growth.
Surround yourself with people who compliment your strengths…and trust them.
Have you ever seen a country send one athlete to represent them in every event in the Olympics? I haven’t. Even if that athlete is good at every event, they would get left behind by sprinters who only specialize in the 200 meter or jumpers who only train in the triple-jump. The more I think about it, it’s ludicrous to think the same person could be world-class at curling and the ski jump. But we as leaders still believe we need to be great at everything…that’s why many of us end up doing the business (and life) version of this:
I believe every person is uniquely wired to win a gold medal in their areas of strength. The only way to get the gold is to stop trying to compete in other peoples’ arena of strength and focus on developing our own.
The best strategy for long-term success is to surround yourself with a team of people who have complementary and diverse strengths. Not only do they get to do the work they are best at, but you are free to focus on the work you do best. No matter how great a single athlete may be, they aren’t going to beat a team who specializes in their areas of strength.
My dad isn’t the prototypical CEO-type of leader, but he knew his strengths and often surrounded himself with complimentary leaders. At the end of his career, many of these leaders expressed gratitude for the trust my dad extended in their areas of strength. Together, they all won.
Be willing to adapt, but don’t compromise on your values.
Growth will bring change and you must adapt to change in order to keep momentum. There’s an art to managing change. As you grow, you will most likely need to adapt your behaviors, roles, or jobs. But be careful not to lose the spirit of who you are or compromise on you the values that built the momentum in the first place.
In our culture’s entrepreneurial environment, we need leaders and businesses who keep an eye on finishing well. So often, we get caught up in short-term growth (or survival) and don’t see the avoidable pitfalls just around the bend. The choice to spend time and resources on evaluation, understanding, and insight is a choice with lasting benefit to your team and business for 5, 10, or maybe even 28 years.