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Business Strategy, Human Capital, Leadership Development

4 minute read

Got Goals? Start with the One Thing that Matters Most

Jan 21, 2022

Written by: Shawn Sweeney

There are countless attributes that can be used to define effective leadership, but when businesses are working toward ambitious growth goals, focus is critical. Throughout 2021, and particularly as our leadership team left the EntreLeadership conference in Dallas, this group has been focused on wrapping our arms around our One Thing: the singular habit or activity with the potential to drive the greatest impact. 

While the common thread in our One Thing exercise is driving organizational growth, we’re viewing this challenge on both a professional and personal level. Naturally, while this group works well together and is aligned to the same organizational goals, we’re all human, and so our One Thing isn’t the same.  What’s interesting, however, is that, because we’re all working toward the same end goal, that individual focus translates well to organizational success. 

How We Got to This Point

For several years, I’ve invited Spinnaker Consulting Group’s senior leaders to join me for the annual EntreLeadership conference. As nationally recognized leadership expert and founder Dave Ramsey describes the conference, it’s where “the passion of an entrepreneur meets the character of a leader.”

Learning and growing at a personal and corporate level has been part of the Spinnaker way from our founding days. And it’s not just window dressing. As an organization, we set ambitious business goals, which means we need to continue developing our leaders so that they feel empowered to guide us to where we want to be. We’ve discovered that EntreLeadership offers the experiences and speakers to harness our entrepreneurial vision and provides perspective on how to be better leaders or rethink systems to remove process shackles – all hallmarks of effective leaders.

And while it’s important to take that information in, taking the time to digest and then operationalize those insights is how our organization capitalizes on that investment. As a follow-up to the conference, I typically ask the team to identify their key takeaways, and then we dedicate time to discuss those insights. Not only does this exercise build alignment, but it also re-energizes us in our shared vision for what our organization is today and further informs the necessary steps we’ll need to take to get where we want to be. They key is that we’re doing this in lockstep: We’re adapting and augmenting our personal leadership styles and tactics to better support our people in their contributions to our firm’s goals.

How We Grow on a Personal Level

Within our team, getting a good night’s sleep, following a healthy diet and stepping away from the desk to get moving tend to be some of the most effective foundational leadership strategies, as those get us in the habit of self-discipline. Frankly, we can’t take care of our people if we don’t take care of ourselves and model smart self-care behaviors.

Our people follow our clues on what constitutes work-life balance, particularly when it comes to protecting what we deem most important and being present for the moments we refuse to sacrifice. This is all about establishing boundaries and planting our feet right where we want to be.

How Personal Growth Leads to Professional Development

When we go through the process of establishing personal goals that further wholistic improvement, we set the stage for our teams to mirror that behavior. In taking a pause from the work to attend this conference as a team, we send a top-down message about our aim to leverage each person’s talents and put them to work toward our shared goals.   

As we continue to pursue ambitious growth, these lessons can help us ensure we’re prepared to manage through this phase by asking ourselves the right questions: What’s no longer working? Is there a promise we need to unmake? Should we take that one risk we need – even if we’re afraid?

Other Key Takeaways from Our Team Members

As I mentioned earlier, your One Thing will be different from my One Thing, so I wanted to share a few more takeaways and what they mean in our day-to-day work:

  1. Leaders show up for their people.
    A few of us were surprised to discover that the quantity of time with our employees sometimes means more to them than the quality of those interactions. That’s not to say that we can discount or spend less time preparing for difficult conversations, but the takeaway for our team is that our people want to know that their leaders see and hear them, and you can’t do that from a distance. It requires putting the time in for regular check-ins – both on the work and the person doing the work. 

    In other words, be the buffalo that charges into a storm, recognizing that immediacy is more painful, but you’ll get to clearer skies all the more quickly.

  2. Nurture a culture that enables your people to be their best.
    Let’s start with an easy win for everyone: Meetings don’t have to be painful. Maybe you don’t even need them all. Figure out what matters and stop doing what doesn’t. Re-establish what’s on your calendar – and your employees’ calendars – so that it reflects only what matters: your One Thing. In the process, you’re setting priorities and driving the right executions.

    From there, identify what your people are good at and give them the tools and resources that allow them to be great. That goes a long way in changing their mindsets to believe they can move the mountains ahead of them.

  3. Set down your bricks. 
    We each carry a backpack of experiences – good and bad building blocks that can sometimes feel like bricks – that make up who we are. We’re human, so those backpacks tend to hold lots of bricks, and that can get heavy. The key to effective relationships is making sure we don’t add weight to other people’s backpacks.

    For us, that means making sure we don’t spend energy trying to rewrite what’s already happened. When we identify a problem, we focus on identifying and then prioritizing the steps to correct it for the future. Make sure your people know they’re working toward incremental improvement and that it’s OK to not solve all problems at the same time.

Recommended Reading and Listening

One other common thread through our learnings is that, as we look ahead five years, we each stand to be the same person we are today. But that comes with an important caveat: except for the books we read and people we meet, something renowned leadership author John C. Maxwell and Christy Wright, a personal growth expert at Ramsey Solutions, echoed across sessions. That’s why I wanted to close with some recommended reading and podcasts we discovered, including many titles written or suggested by conference leaders: